Henry V

Thursday 7th January, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Strauss  Macbeth, 18′
  • Vaughan Williams  Three Shakespeare Songs, 8′
  • Verdi  Macbeth – ballet music, 12′
  • Walton  Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario (arr. Christopher Palmer), 60′

“O for a Muse of fire…” Shakespeare’s Henry V crammed the Battle of Agincourt into a tiny wooden theatre. Four centuries later, William Walton matched that vision with music that redefined British cinema, and this lavish concert version weaves all the play’s greatest speeches and Walton’s score into a compelling musical drama. Edward Gardner launches our year of Shakespeare celebrations with passionate Shakespearean masterpieces by Verdi and Richard Strauss.

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Available on BBC Radio 3 iPlayer here for 28 days


Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The CBSO Chorus, prepared by Julian Wilkins, performed Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs and excelled in the charmingly delicate Full Fathom Five.

They ended the concert in full cry with the stirring Deo gratias conclusion to Walton’s music for Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film of Henry V.

Christopher Palmer weaved the film cues, some other Walton filler material and the play’s great speeches into a convincing and moving hour-long Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario.

The narrator Samuel West played the King, the Chorus (and more) switching between swagger and sobriety with ease and delivering a St Crispin’s Day speech that would have made even a pacifist feel like taking up arms.

Gardner elicited playing of equal ardour from the orchestra. Splendid!”


Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

As the orchestra closest to Shakespeare country, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra naturally has a role to play in this year’s anniversary celebrations of the Bard. But there is nothing dutiful about its approach to Shakespeare 400: this start of the CBSO’s “Our Shakespeare” season showed it not only getting in ahead of other British bands with its Shakespearean programming, but doing something more interesting than most.

Edward Gardner opened the concert by conducting a great rarity, Richard Strauss’s early tone poem Macbeth. This work’s neglect is not hard to fathom, for it lacks big tunes, but as a study in darkness it is fascinating. Sounding a little as if the midsummer light of Wagner’s Meistersinger had been switched to midwinter, with touches of Tchaikovsky at his gloomiest, this music blows in stormily and seldom lets up. Icy shivers accompany Lady Macbeth’s entry, and the textures run deep. Gardner drew a taut, brilliantly energised performance that showcased the orchestra at its surging best.

Balancing this was the ballet music from Verdi’s Macbeth, an obligatory addition when the composer revised his opera for Paris. Verdi’s sophisticated scoring, evoking supernatural elements, inspired the orchestra to play with colour and bite.”     …


Review by Sam Chipman, TheReviewsHub:

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…     “Walton’s score was written for the 1944 Henry V film, starring Laurence Olivier – at one of the darkest periods in Britain’s history the film was a propaganda effort commissioned by the government to buoy the national spirit during the onslaught of World War II. From the court in England to Falstaff’s death and the send-off of the troops to the battlefields of France, Walton’s score tells the story vividly, making no attempt to hide in the background, and complements the famous words of Shakespeare. The brass and percussion come into their own during this section of the concert, adding the much needed triumphant feel that rings around the magnificent Symphony Hall, a jubilant performance from all involved. Falstaff’s death features an exquisitely played lower string melody which much resembles a theme from Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, and a rustic bassoon melody adds a real English courtly feel. Seasoned Shakespearian actor, Samuel West masterfully weaves his way through Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, a performance of real stature and variation. He is compelling throughout, and his St Crispin’s Day speech is a stand out moment, truly rousing. The CBSO make an enormously full sound, leading to a powerful and climactic end befitting of the evening and Shakespeare’s magic.

“In sweet music is such art…” Shakespeare’s work lends itself incredibly well to the musical world, and the imaginations of those that inspired such musical feats – when the words and the music come together a higher emotional plane is reached.”


Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Under Gardner, the orchestra and its chorus made it a vivid enough experience, though, and there was a nicely judged virtuoso performance from Samuel West as the narrator, who took on a variety of roles, from the Chorus to the king, via Falstaff, Pistol and the Duke of Burgundy.

The concert had begun with another rarely heard work, Macbeth – one of the least known of Richard Strauss’s symphonic poems. It’s a dark, turbulent piece, without too many memorable moments, though Gardner made its fierce climax impressive enough. There was more Macbeth-inspired music in the shape of a taut, rhythmically snappy account of the ballet from Verdi’s opera, while in between came Vaughan Williams’s Three Shakespeare Songs, insubstantial, but a chance for the CBSO Chorus to shine without the orchestra getting in the way.”


Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The Olivier film of Henry V had started as a piece of propaganda in 1943 and thankfully co-producer Dallas Bower convinced the actor that William Walton was the best man to provide the backing score. This combination, together with the later arrangement by Christopher Palmer, lives on in the concert hall and its enactment proved to be the ideal platform from which to launch CBSO’s commemorations to Shakespeare: vibrant music from the conductor and orchestra, patriotic delivery from the narrator. Gardner induced a sense of period colour and mysticism before sheer grandness took over in the Prologue, a royal sensation reinforced by trumpet fanfares (the trumpet section crisply led throughout by Jonathan Holland) and a flamboyant crescendo of the choir. The scene was set, as in the play by the commentator ‘Chorus’, actor Samuel West dramatically entering stage left for ‘O for a Muse of fire’. Elizabethan merry-making and enthusiastic drum rolls (the CBSO percussion section had a busy night) gave way for the bassoon and brass to introduce the corpulent Falstaff, jug in hand, At the Boar’s Head. But the flatulent jester is dead, his heart broken by the king, having been rebuffed by Hal’s ‘I know thee not, old man’ at the end of Henry IV Part Two, the solemn tone of West and the orchestral accompaniment knitting together impeccably. This eventually gives way to the jubilant familiar Waltonesque strains of Embarkation and a resolute ‘No king of England, if not king of France’ from West. The leave Pistol takes from Mistress Quickly in Touch her sweet lips and part seems an Interlude somewhat out of place to me, not being from Shakespearean text. By contrast Harfleur was dominated by the iconic ‘Once more into the breech’ and although no Olivier (who is?) West oozed inspiration and patriotism, fortified by the ranks of the CBSO willing to follow him. After Chorus describes the early skirmishes, Gardner brought a tension to Walton’s swirling dark music in The Night Watch as West portrayed a ‘little touch of Harry in the night’, the lowering of the hall lights and subsequent total extinguishment, adding to the atmosphere. West was at his best for the philosophical and prayer-like Upon the King, verse so appropriate on the eve of such an historical day in 1415, an execution worthy of the stage of Stratford’s Memorial Theatre or London’s Globe. Agincourt and the St Crispian address to the ‘rememberèd…. band of brothers’, the first ‘few’ to whom so much is owed, saw West begin in conversational mood, gradually building up the fervour in his voice to match the exciting loin-girdling score. Mid-battle King Henry has another word with his maker ‘to dispose the day…. how He pleaseth’ and as the battle raged Gardner seemed to squeeze that extra ounce from the strings (well by Zoë Beyers) fiercer than ever amid the Spirit–of-England theme on the brass, leading to an excruciating musical climax. Against the odds Henry is rewarded – West’s ‘The day is ours’ poignantly heard across the hushed auditorium before praising God. The choir gleefully rejoiced with the Agincourt Song, continuing this mood into At the French Court, where the Duke of Burgundy acts as mediator with more beautiful Shakespearian lines; this sentiment made more contextual by the orchestra’s pastoral back-drop that dissolves into a snatch of Cantaloube’s Baïlèro, hauntingly played by the oboe of Rainer Gibbons. In the Epilogue, the French King offers his daughter Kate to seal the truce. Now with something to genuinely celebrate, Gardner and the CBSO let it rip, revisiting earlier Walton themes. Chorus resumes his story-telling role with ‘Thus far…’ relating how for Henry V ‘Fortune made his sword’, the Agincourt Song and ‘Deo gratias Anglia’ wholeheartedly rounding it all off.

A five star send-off to Our Shakespeare.”



Storify by Jennifer, of Twitter comments:

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Winners of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition

BICS 2015/16 –

Valery Gergiev conducts the Winners of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,
SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 and Competitions highlights

Wednesday 28th October

Symphony Hall

Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev conductor
Lucas Debargue piano
Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar baritone
Clara-Jumi Kang violin
George Li piano
Yulia Matochkina mezzo soprano
Alexander Ramm cello

Debussy Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune 10’
Tchaikovsky Variations on a Roccoco Theme 18’
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor 28’
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 (2nd Movement)
Verdi Overture to La forza del Destino 8’
Tchaikovsky Joan’s aria from Maid of Orleans 7’
Tchaikovsky Yeletsky’s aria from Queen of Spades 6’
Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 in E flat major 19’


Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra are bywords for energy, passion and the kind of red-blooded, life-or-death commitment that only Russian artists can deliver. And in Tchaikovsky’s anniversary year, the Competition named after him is still probably the world’s most prestigious music contest.

XV International Tchaikovsky Competition winners
The six winners that will be performing were announced in July 2015 from each of the following categories: piano, violin, cello, male voice, female voice and are as follows:

Exclusive:The artist Norman Perryman, whose paintings of conductors and soloists (including Valery Gergiev) are displayed throughout Symphony Hall, has a new book, which is currently on sale at the Symphony Hall shop. Norman will be signing copies as well as prints from the shop before and after this concert. For more on this click here.


Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “French pianist Lucas Debargue only managed 4th prize, but seized everyone’s attention at the competition, and his sensational performance here of Scarbo from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit showed why. He portrayed the sinister apparitions of the magic dwarf Scarbo with a fevered intensity that made one’s skin prickle.

Just as impressive in a different way was Clara-Jumi Kang, a German violinist of Korean parentage. Like Debargue she won only 4th prize, a decision which seems even more mystifying in the light of her performance last night of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. To capture this work’s impetuous energy and undercurrent of sadness, all within a tone of relaxed seraphic grace is a feat very few violinists can manage, but she is certainly one of them.

To see the final rounds of this year’s Tchaikovsky Competition, visit tch15.medici.tv/en

Pappano Conducts the Verdi Requiem

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14 Concert Package, SoundBite and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Friday 16th May

Symphony Hall

Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Sir Antonio Pappano conductor
Hibla Gerzmaya soprano
Sylvie Brunet Grupposo mezzo soprano
Joseph Calleja tenor
Carlo Colombara bass

Verdi Requiem 90’

Verdi’s Requiem has been described as an opera in all but name, and tonight Sir Antonio Pappano has assembled a cast worthy of one of the world’s great opera houses, including Joseph Calleja: the astonishing Maltese tenor who’s been attracting comparisons with the young Pavarotti. Pappano’s magnificent Italian orchestra and chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia complete an unmissable line-up: expect Italian passions to run high.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

A blockbuster of a work, Verdi’s Requiem is often described as the best opera he never wrote. Lavish, dramatic and downright scary, this piece will pin you back in your seat. Prepare for a whirlwind of a performance from Antonio Pappano, the Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and a stellar line-up of soloists.

Wednesday 14 May: Unfortunately mezzo soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk is unable to perform due to illness, however, we are pleased to announce that Sylvie Brunet Grupposo will replace her.



Review by TPR Central, PublicReviews:

Click here for full review

…     “This some hundred strong orchestra with almost as many choral voices begin the requiem with a sublime sotto sequence which in a lesser space than the Birmingham Symphony hall might be lost. One of the wonders of this work is the tremendous dynamic range of energies and volume. From this oh so delicate opening to the apocalyptic, destructive roar of the ‘Dies irae’ this work is a roller coaster ride of sound and emotion and we can see every molecule of this passion and emotion in Sir Anthony’s being as he conducts. To say he conducts is to understate. Rather he coaxes and wills the performance from his ensemble with multiple hand gestures right down to subtle butterfly movements of his fingertips. His facial expressions must be something to behold judging by the movement in the muscles of his jaw and neck. He seems particularly focused on the body of the magnificent Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Sant Cecilia, whose voices are so crystal clear in this wonderful venue. Such beautiful diction and accuracy.

Of the soloists, bass singer Carlo Colombra has one of the clearest and best enunciated voices I’ve heard in a bass. Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo stands in for the programmed mezzo soprano who has been taken ill. Grupposo perhaps appears a little anxious but gives the great performance you would expect from one of her calibre and is visibly happy at the completion of the task. Soprano Hibla Gerzmava’s clear voice soars and blends beautifully with the chorus. The three of them along with tenor Joseph Calleja do Verdi’s work absolute justice.

The other star of this show worth mentioning is the Birmingham Symphony Hall itself.”     …




Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The Dies Irae thundered out aided by a wonderfully vehement timpanist, obviously moonlighting from his day job beating time for the galley slaves in Ben Hur. There was terror and magnificence but consolation too, as in the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia’s warm and burnished string playing (violins properly divided left and right) for the hushed opening bars. The Academy’s chorus was strong in all registers from the basses in Rex tremendae, to a soprano section replete with fresh young voices.

The vocal quartet blended well as a team and their solo contributions were outstanding. Whatever sins tenor Joseph Calleja may have committed, all he’ll have to do is sing Ingemisco and the Hostias as he did here and St Peter will fling open the pearly gates for him. Carlo Colombara was a rock-solid bass, sounding rightly awed and stunned in Mors stupebit, while soprano Hibla Gerzmaya encompassed the demanding Libera me without strain.”     …






Review by Colin Anderson, ClassicalSource (for the same programme / cast but in London)

Click here for full review


Review by Colin Clarke, MusicWeb, SeenandHard (for the same programme / cast but in London)

Click here for full review

Andris and Kristine in Concert


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Thursday 15 August 2013 at 7.30pm

Town Hall, Birmingham 0121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Kristine Opolais  soprano

Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 38′

Verdi: The Force of Destiny – Overture 7′

Verdi: Otello – Ave Maria • Willow Song 10′

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin – Polonaise and Letter Scene 18′

Strauss II: Waltzes and Polkas 12′

Summer sunshine at the Town Hall! Symphonies just don’t get any happier than Dvorák’s Eighth, and it’s inspired Andris Nelsons to create a really joyous evening of music making. There’ll be folk dances, birdsong and village fiddles – and that’s before he even gets on to irresistible melodies of the Strauss family. And then he joins his wife, star soprano Kristine Opolais, for two big, heartfelt helpings of operatic passion. Feel the magic for yourself, as the CBSO returns to Birmingham’s most beautiful historic concert hall.



Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

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…     “Which made Opolais’ spine-tingling performance of Desdemona’s Willow Song and Ave Maria all the more impressive. 

Without costumes, set or fellow actors, Opolais seemed to become Desdemona, clinging to her last moments of life, struggling between faith in and fear of the husband who is about to murder her. Her stunning voice and heart-felt characterisation took us from Town Hall into her bedroom as she prepared to die. Hands held up in prayer, we really did feel she was begging for some form of salvation.

Opolais then turned her attention to the famous Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, again immediately capturing the essence of the uncertain Tatyana as she vacillates between declaring or silencing her sudden rapture for Onegin. Swinging between hope of a happy future and fear of shaming herself, she verbally paces back and forth in indecision.

She was given more than sterling support by the orchestra under the baton of Nelsons…”     ….




Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian

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…     “Apparently, Nelsons is still recovering from the concussion he suffered three weeks ago in Bayreuth, where he was conducting Lohengrin, but no one would have guessed it from the way he launched into things here. The Eighth is usually regarded as Dvořák’s most genial symphony, but Nelsons’ account of it was thrilling – not a word I usually associate with the Czech composer. Fiercely dramatic in the opening movement, mysteriously veiled and remote in the second, and increasingly unbuttoned in the final two, it was teeming with vivid detail and distinctive ideas, such as the trumpet counter-melody underpinning the flute solo in the finale.

With Nelsons’ wife, the soprano Kristine Opolais, as the soloist, the second half wasn’t just a sequence of lollipops either. Her treatment of Willow Song and Ave Maria from the last act of Verdi’s Otello – slightly cool, contained and limpidly beautiful – was the perfect foil for a passionate account of the Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which was more than enough to show how compelling Opolais’s Tatyana would be on stage, especially with Nelsons conjuring ever more colours and inflections from the orchestra.”     …




Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “It was one of those occasions when everything seemed to gel. Andris Nelsons brought to Dvorak’s Symphony No.8 clarity, dynamic shading and a command of instrumental textures that resulted in a deliciously fluent, cogently shaped reading.

Orchestrally it was hard to beat, from the finely controlled string playing (especially in some teasingly quiet pianissimos), woodwind solos as pellucid as mountain air (no surprise that Nelsons just stood back to let flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic have her moment in the Scherzo trio), to the glowingly well-tempered brass.”     …





Review by Douglas Cooksey, ClassicalSource (for this programme at the Proms concert on 17th August):

Click here for full review

…     “Impressive though the Dvořák had been, things moved up a notch with the arrival of Kristīne Opolais. The long introduction for woodwinds alone to Desdemona’s ‘Willow Song’ from Otello is a severe test of intonation. The quality of the CBSO winds, notably Rachael Pankhurst’s plangent cor anglais solo and her subsequent duet with oboist Jennifer Galloway perfectly set the scene for Opolais’s entry. This was securely pitched with lovely floated high notes. Opolais does not have the most powerful of voices but it is unfailingly grateful on the ear, pure velvet, and she sang with security and intelligence; there was eruptive drama too at the close of the ‘Willow Song’ and her farewell to her maid was utterly heartrending, whilst the succeeding ‘Ave Maria’ opened with the most veiled half-tone and had a quite exceptional tenderness. There was profound and prolonged silence at the close, no-one daring to break the spell.”     …



“Opera’s double act: Kristine Opolais and Andris Nelsons”

Bryn Terfel

Friday 7th June

Symphony Hall

Manchester Concert Orchestra

Bryn Terfel bass-baritone

Gwawr Edwards soprano

Caryl Hughes mezzo-soprano


Mozart            Don Giovanni:  Overture

Madamina il catalogo è questo

Donizetti        Linda di Chamounix: O luce di quest’ anima

Mozart             Le nozze di Figaro: Overture

Bizet               Carmen: Toreador Song

Offenbach      Les Contes d’Hoffman: Allez! Pour te livrer combat…scintilla, diamant

Gounod          Faust: Faites lui mes aveux

Delibes           Lakmé: Sous le dome épais (Flower Duet)

Verdi               Falstaff: Ehi! Paggio! … L’onore!

Verdi               Nabucco: Overture

Verdi               Don Carlo: Ella giammai m’amo

Wagner           Tannhäuser: O du mein holder Abendstern

Rossini           La Cenerentola: Non piu mesta

Gounod          Roméo et Juliette: Je veux vivre

Mozart             Don Giovanni: Fin ch’han dal vino (Champagne aria)

Lerner and Loewe     Camelot: How to Handle a Woman

Loewe and Lerner     My Fair Lady: I Could Have Danced All Night

D’Hardelot     Because

Bock and Harnick     Fiddler on the Roof: If I Were a Rich Man

Richards        Cymru Fach (Dearest Wales)


Rossini           Duetto buffo di due gatti (Meow Song)

Hughes (Welsh lyrics)    Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night)

A commanding presence in the international music world, the acclaimed and award winning operatic powerhouse
Bryn Terfel performs specially chosen arias by  Mozart, Rossini and Gounod. www.thsh.co.uk




Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “More Verdi for “Ella giammai m’amo” from Don Carlo, in which Terfel’s heartfelt outpourings were matched by laments on the principal cello, rightly acknowledged during the applause.  Following several helpings of Italian and French, the evening’s one German offering was “O du mein holder Abendstern” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Terfel masterfully inhabiting the role of Wolfram while atmospheric strings shimmered like a shroud over the land.

A foray into the world of musical theatre gave us a few songs in English, including a fabulous “If I were a rich man” from Fiddler on the Roof, although Terfel claimed to have only sung it in Welsh before!  Lilting Welsh folksong Cymru Fach rounded off the official programme, Terfel, Edwards and Hughes joining together in exquisite harmony, evoking hills, valleys, emotion and pride.  Dearest Wales indeed.”     …



Review by David Harte, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “And he’s a very fine singer, even when shouting top notes, as he did in Leporello’s Catalogue aria (Don Giovanni) and the Toreador’s Song from Carmen. The Diamond aria from Les Contes d’Hoffman and Falstaff’s tirade to Bardolph and Pistol, however, were more subtly moulded to Terfel’s ebullient delivery, and he threw off Don Giovanni’s tongue-twisting Champagne aria with terrific precision.

The evening’s high spots were undoubtedly ‘Ella giammai m’amo’ from Verdi’s Don Carlo (with a gorgeous cello solo) and ‘O du mein holder Abendstern’ (Tannhäuser), sung with poker face integrity and demonstrating just how sensitive Terfel can be when not striving for effect.”     …

Friday Night Classics: A Night at the Opera

Friday 29 April 2011 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Stuart Stratford conductor
Susana Gaspar soprano
Ji Hyun Kim tenor
Daniel Grice baritone

Mozart: The Marriage of FigaroOverture

Bizet: CarmenPrelude and Aragonaise from Suite No.1 ;    Les Toréadors;    Micaëla’s Aria

Bizet: The Pearl FishersAu fond du temple saint

Wagner: LohengrinPrelude to Act III

Dvořák: RusalkaSong to the Moon

Tchaikovsky: Eugene OneginLensky’s Aria

Mozart: Don GiovanniLà ci darem la mano


Rossini: The Barber of SevilleOverture

Rossini: La CenerentolaCome un’ape

Donizetti: L’elisir d’amoreUna furtiva lagrima

Gounod: Roméo et JulietteJuliette’s Waltz Song

Verdi: AidaTriumphal March

Puccini: La BohèmeAct IV duet;    Quando me’n vo

Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo

Rachmaninov: AlekoAleko’s Cavatina

Verdi: La TraviataBrindisi

(Sung in original languages with English surtitles)

This evening’s fabulous array of opera-house favourites has it all: love, magic, flirtatious ladies, ‘gentlemen’ with one too many conquests to their name, and a fair few characters meeting rather unpleasant endings – some more well-deserved than others. The world of opera is not one known for understatement, so expect passions to run high as the CBSO and three world-class soloists treat you to a programme packed with great music. And following the announcement of the Royal Wedding taking place earlier on this very day, the CBSO joins in the celebrations with Mozart’s effervescent Marriage of Figaro Overture as the curtain-raiser.

Please note Ana James has withdrawn from the concert on Friday 29 April. We are grateful to Susana Gaspar who has kindly agreed to take her place at short notice.

The schedule and programme remains unchanged. www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Paul Marston, BehindtheArras:


…     “Three world class soloists – Portuguese soprano Susana Gasper, Korean tenor Ji Hyun Kim and British baritone Daniel Grice – turned on the style with some of those much loved arias, and the orchestra impressed with the Trumphal March from Verdi’s Aida.

Gaspar, who replaced Ana James at short notice, excelled in Dvorak’s Rusalka – Song to the Moon, while Kim and Grice thrilled the audience with the beautiful duet, Au Fond du Temple Saint, from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.”     …

Pappano Conducts Mahler 1

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Sat 19 Mar 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome
Antonio Pappano conductor
Boris Berezovsky piano

Verdi Aida Sinfonia 12’
Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 20’
Mahler Symphony No 1 53’

Finmeccanica is the main sponsor of Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome.

Encores – Berezovsky with orchestra – Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 finale

Orchestra – Rossini, Puccini,

One of Italy’s most celebrated orchestras contributes the First Symphony to Birmingham’s Mahler Cycle under the inspiring baton of its Music Director Antonio Pappano (also renowned as Music Director of the Royal Opera House). Joyous and optimistic, opening with an evocation of dawn, it closes with a roof-raising finale. And, to open the concert, there is a rarity: the orchestral Sinfonia that Verdi made from his ever-popular Aida – music that is in the very blood of these players.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert:
“Who better than the fiercely talented Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to tease the sunshine out of these exciting masterpieces? And who better, too, to bring the passion to Liszt’s mighty First Piano Concerto than the fiery Russian virtuoso Boris Berezovsky?”

‘Anyone who still believes that the words “Italian orchestra” and “technical precision” do not belong in the same sentence should have heard the performance of Guillaume Tell. Santa Cecilia Orchestra is fleet and wonderfully together, with crunch, buoyancy, a keen sense of collective phrasing and its own very distinctive sound.’ Financial Times

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:


“There was much to admire in this Italian orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s First Symphony, especially the final blazing peroration.

The horns and brass section stood up to play the thunderous final bars: not as a piece of crude showmanship to get the audience cheering, although it succeeded in doing that, but in strict adherence to the composer’s wishes.

It was an indication of conductor Antonio Pappano’s unfailing attention to detail.

He ensured that we heard genuine pianissimos and triple fortes.”   …..

Review by Christopher Thomas, MusicWeb:


…   “It’s a quote that could equally be applied to Anglo-Italian Antonio Pappano, whose magnificently colourful account of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in the second half of this concert drew an inspired response from the orchestra and brought a proportion of the audience to its feet in Symphony Hall.
  Pappano’s mere presence in front of the orchestra seemed to ignite its Italian passion, drawing a sound that was uniquely theirs as its bloom and hues of burnished gold called to mind the Roman sun that has been an ever present part of the orchestra’s existence since its inception in 1885.    […]

[…] Berezovsky plays with an almost complete absence of gestural histrionics, his body rarely moving as he powered his way with magnificent weight and purpose through the outer movements. Yet as a result the stark contrast of the Quasi Adagio proved to be all the more impressive, with the pianist’s sensitivity and nuance of colour and shade marking his playing out as a shining example of textural control and contrast.

Pappano’s “Titan” cleansed the soul like a breath of fresh alpine air; invigorating, bitter-sweet, joyous and ultimately life affirming, the beauty of the sound Pappano drew from his forces was a thing of wonder, directed with understated yet always compelling gestures in the third movement and clear, intensely focused precision and communicative clarity in the stormy Finale. ”   …

 Review for same programme, different venue, by Edward Seckerson, Independent:


…   “Those strings sang the second subject of the finale like a bel canto aria and I liked Pappano’s volatile way with the big tempo contrasts. It was bold, big-hearted, a little rash, thoroughly Mahlerian.”

Review for same programme, different venue, by Colin Anderson, ClassicalSource:


…   “Thus the dawning and distance (trumpets ideally far-away) that breathes Mahler 1 into life were palpably atmospheric, the listener drawn in to a performance that was deliciously buoyant, delicately traced, shimmering, unforced in climaxes (but with no lack of heft) and earthy, bucolic and macabre as required – full marks for having a solo double bass at the beginning of the third movement (the use of tutti basses, a fairly recent Mahlerian tweak, now discredited). The finale erupted as it should, but was always generated from within, the slower music then teased by Pappano and played ravishingly by the strings (violins ideally antiphonal), but no mere interludes.”   …

Friday Night Classics: You Call the Tunes

Friday 21 May 2010 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

Michael Seal  conductor
Simon Bates  presenter
Michael Wade Lee   tenor
Mark Holland   baritone

Tonight the CBSO plays the peoples’ favourites in a concert packed with Midlanders’ most-loved classical and operatic music.

Voting for the concert programme closed on 31 March, programme includes:
Holst: The Planets – Mars and Jupiter
Grieg: Peer Gynt – Morning and In the Hall of the Mountain King
Verdi: Rigoletto – La Donna è mobile
Bizet: Carmen – Les Toréadors
Pachelbel: Canon in D
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Rossini: The Barber of Seville – Largo al Factotum
Puccini: Turandot – Nessun Dorma
Bizet: The Pearlfishers – Au fond du temple saint
Ravel: Boléro

It’s a tantalising programme of opera house favourites, luminously indulgent works to relax to and revel in, and rousing pieces using the immense sound of the full Orchestra to mammoth effect.

* We’re very sorry to announce that Sue Perkins has become unable to appear in this concert due to filming commitments which could not be moved. We’re delighted that Simon Bates, popular Classic FM presenter, will now present this concert.  www.cbso.co.uk

Force of Destiny

Saturday 10th October 2009 at 7pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Dmitri Slobodeniouk conductor
Kristine Opolais soprano

Verdi La forza del destino – Overture 8’
Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin – Letter Scene, Entr’acte & Waltz 22’
Verdi Otello – Salice and Ave Maria 10’
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 44’

With its grand emotions and tempestuous drama, there’s no symphony more operatic than Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. So it’s the perfect finish to this night of passion – after Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais (star of last season’s tear-jerking La Bohème) sings two of the all-time great romantic opera scenes by Tchaikovsky and his idol Verdi.

After his thrilling surprise debut with the CBSO last season, expect guest conductor Dmitri Slobodeniouk to give it his all. Forget the Stella Artois advert – Verdi shared Tchaikovsky’s obsession with Fate, so his melodramatic Force of Destiny overture makes the perfect curtain-raiser.  www.cbso.co.uk


Review by Julian Seva, Birmingham Post:


“And when she came to the magical final bars, with a pianissimo to die for, the emotional effect was totally overwhelming.” …..

“By allowing drama to emerge naturally as the music progressed, the climaxes of the first movement and much of the finale had tremendous veracity and power, while the dazzling sectional contrasts in the scherzo demonstrated just how well co-ordinated and disciplined these players are.”