Beethoven’s Fourth

Wednesday 28th September, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Wagner Tannhäuser: Overture and Venusberg Music , 24′
  • Sibelius Violin Concerto , 31′
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 4, 32′

Jack Liebeck’s encore – Francisco Tarrega – Memories of the Alhambra
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At the court of the goddess Venus a young poet enjoys pleasures beyond his wildest imaginings. Finland’s greatest composer relives his childhood dreams of being a great violinist. And Beethoven cuts loose in the brightest, lightest symphony he ever wrote. It’s all about the stories: and violinist Jack Liebeck and former Opera North music director Richard Farnes know exactly how to make them spring, tingling, into life.

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

 …     “Once conductor Richard Farnes unleashed the fortissimo chords that send the movement roaring on its way there was a vast improvement. Basses ground away gruffly, the upper strings soared and suddenly the music began to resemble the composer Robert Simpson’s description of its “compact supple movement” and “dangerous lithe economy.”

The danger lurked just below the slow movement’s seemingly placid surface while on top Oliver Janes’ lovely clarinet sang mournfully. The scherzo’s manic energy was infectious while Farnes and the players clearly relished the finale’s Haydnesque high jinks. Similarly, the performance of the Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser impressed most in the extrovert passages where the percussion section excelled – castanets in Wagner!

It’s the fashion now for many soloists, seeking to make an instant impact during their entry in Sibelius’s violin concerto, to play it barely audibly in an attempt at making it ethereal.

Jack Liebeck played it straight and mezzo-forte just as the composer requested and this set the pattern for a strong, sinewy performance which didn’t try to make the work more “poetic” than it is. ”     …

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Review by Richard Ely, Bachtrack:

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…     “By contrast, Farnes’ stately canter through Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony almost did. This was a winning performance with the right kind of attention paid to balance and dynamics and the orchestra, for the first and only time this evening not seeming hemmed in by the sense of properness that had afflicted the earlier items. Described by Robert Schumann as a “slender Greek maiden” (between the Nordic giants of the Third and Fifth symphonies), this is a work that can struggle to make an impact because it lacks the assertive character of its immediate neighbours. Farnes didn’t seek to make apologies for the Fourth’s ‘small scale’ character in a reading that balanced the darker elements that hang over the opening moments with the lighter ones that overtake them as the work progresses. The acceleration into the Allegro vivace of the first movement was expertly handled and there was a glowing account of the Adagio as well as an ideally contrasted repetition of the Trio section in the Scherzo.  ”     …

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Baiba Skride: Schumann

Thursday 5th November, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Wagner  Lohengrin – Prelude to Act 1, 10′
  • Schumann  Violin Concerto, 30′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 1, 45′

Brahms’s first symphony begins with the pounding of a broken heart, and ends with the kind of melody that comes once in a lifetime. It’s a gripping way for rising star Omer Meir Wellber to make his Birmingham debut. First though, he raises the curtain with Wagner’s magical, mystical Prelude to Lohengrin, and introduces artist in residence Baiba Skride in the dark poetry of Schumann’s only Violin Concerto.

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Support the CBSO

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“If anyone needed converting to Schumann’s enigmatic Violin Concerto, this was the performance to do it, with soloist Baibe Skride so persuasive in her advocacy.

This CBSO Artist in Residence made light of the work’s awesome technical difficulties, multiple-stopping despatched with ease, and instead drew all our attention to the music’s tortured poetry, written at a time when the composer was so poignantly close to insanity.

Her Stradivarius, on loan from another great champion of the work, Gidon Kremer, sang with a dark, wiry tone, confiding hushed intimacies and communicating as in chamber music with the CBSO’s pastel strings. Winds, too, made memorable contributions, not least horns in the finale, which, truth to tell, had begun heavily-footedly under Omer Meir Wellber’s generally empathetic direction. And Wellber should never again cross in front of the soloist to congratulate the concertmaster during the applause.”     …

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Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…   “The Lohengrin Prelude had felt a little too much like an exercise in static, if sweet-toned, phrase-making – the long line was missing. But here it was, at the opening of Brahms’s First Symphony: back with a vengeance. If the impression so far had been of a meticulous, thoughtful conductor with a hyperactive podium style, from the first bars of the symphony it was clear that Wellber had some seriously large-scale musical ideas – and the power to realise them.

On the strength of this performance, Wellber conceives the symphony as one huge, single-movement span – from expansive opening right through to a finish which, judging from the savage splendour of his brass-torn final bars, it’s doubtful that he sees as any sort of resolution. The conflicts of the first movement lumbered angrily up from the bass line of the second, and this must have been one of the least relaxed performances imaginable of Brahms’s third movement intermezzo. The finale followed almost without a break: the drive and bite with which Wellber lashed into the string figuration of Brahms’s introduction – so often played purely for romantic atmosphere – felt like the tail-end of a development section that still had everything to fight for.

Throughout it all, Wellber unlocked the full, lustrous sonic depth of the CBSO string section – a rare achievement since Nelsons’s departure. If there remained something claustrophobic about his vision (and it was particularly frustrating to hear leader Laurence Jackson and principal horn Elspeth Dutch’s solos locked rigidly into tempo) it was unquestionably compelling. The audience responded with cheers, and the orchestra remained seated when Wellber gestured it to stand, handing all the credit to the young Israeli. It’s been an open secret in Birmingham for some weeks that there is already a clear front-runner for the CBSO’s music directorship. Last night, that contest got a lot more interesting.”

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Review by Stephen Pritchard, The Observer:

Click here for full review

…     “Wellber plainly loves this piece. From the first bar he was a man possessed, mercilessly driving the bleak majesty of the pounding first movement and drawing some wonderfully incisive playing from the strings. Conducting without a score, he pounced on every nuance, highlighting the smallest detail in woodwind and brass, and always, always pushing onward that insistent, doom-laden rhythm.

He allowed the sun to break through briefly when the woodwind sang their warm chorale at the start of the third movement but there was much heart-searching to do before we finally reached the broad landscape of the “joy” theme, Brahms’s conscious tribute to Beethoven and a seizing of his laurels, taking the symphonic form in a new direction.

Wellber worked the orchestra intensely hard in this finale and they responded magnificently; I’ve not heard Brahms played as well as this in years. The CBSO is searching for a replacement for the revered Andris Nelsons. Wellber might just be their man.”

*****

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Panufnik Centenary

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Wednesday 24 September 2014 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor
Peter Donohoe  piano

Stravinsky: Greeting Prelude 1′
Beethoven: Overture, Leonora No. 3 14′
Panufnik: Piano Concerto 24′
Listen on Spotify

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde 18′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Panufnik: Symphony No.2 (Sinfonia Elegiaca) 24′
Listen on Spotify

When Andrzej Panufnik escaped from communist Poland, Britain offered him a home – and so it was that one of Europe’s greatest post-war composers became principal conductor of the CBSO. Tonight, on what would have been his 100th birthday, we celebrate with some of the music Panufnik conducted in Birmingham, and two of his own finest works: as fresh and communicative today as when he conducted them here himself.

Supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of Polska Music programme Polska Music

If you like this concert, you might also like:
War and Peace, Thursday 6th November
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March 2015 & Saturday 28 March 2015
Parsifal, Sunday 17th May 2015

 

Pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
Panufnik Centenary
Composer Roxanna Panufnik talks about her father Andrzej, in conversation with Jessica Duchen.

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Interview with Roxanna Panufnik, by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

“With possibly the neatest scheduling ever, the CBSO’s concert at Symphony Hall on September 24 celebrates the centenary to the day of the birth of one of its previous principal conductors, Andrzej Panufnik.

Born in Warsaw into a highly musical family, and with a mother of British origins, Panufnik studied composition and conducting during the years preceding the Second World War. The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 saw the destruction of his works (he reconstructed some later), and after a post-war period conducting orchestras in Warsaw and Krakow Panufnik decided to devote himself to composition.

Hugely patriotic, he loathed the Stalinist regime then prevailing in his native country, and in 1954, whilst in Switzerland conducting recordings of his own music, he and his British-born first wife managed to escape to the West.

In 1956 it was announced that principal conductor Rudolf Schwarz would be leaving the CBSO at the end of the season to succeed Sir Malcolm Sargent at the helm of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the hunt was on for Schwarz’ replacement. Rather similar to the process going on now at the CBSO, as they seek a successor to Andris Nelsons, guest conductors were invited to give “audition” concerts, and Panufnik was among them.”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Nor was Donohoe fazed by the uncoiled aggression of the Molto agitato finale, which fuses elements from its predecessors (powered by some visceral work from the percussion) as well as building to a bracing apotheosis via an accompanied cadenza such as ranks with the composer’s most thrilling passages. A timely revival of an impressive work.

Following the interval, the ‘Prelude and Liebestod’ from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1859) further opened out the concert’s expressive remit – Seal keeping the former’s distanced ambiguity in focus on the way to a fervent culmination and fatalistic close, while ensuring that the ‘Liebestod’ brought the requisite transcendence during its radiant closing pages. Not music one might readily associate with Panufnik, yet it was an overt presence in that of Szymanowski – in turn an early (and an obliquely enduring) influence on his Polish successor.

Transcendence of a different kind is evinced in Sinfonia elegiaca – the second of Panufnik’s ten Symphonies, completed in 1957 on the basis of material from his discarded Symphony of Peace of six years earlier. Shorn of its propagandist choral component, the piece stands as a finely achieved statement at a time of personal and political turmoil – whose three continuous movements move from a Molto andante that alternates between pensive woodwind chorale and ravishing string cantilena, via a Molto allegro whose barbarity is (just) held in check by its formal subtlety, to another Molto andante such as utilises earlier ideas along with a new string threnody before it ethereally recollects the work’s opening. A committed response from the CBSO was ably controlled by Seal to the evident appreciation of the audience.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Various composers were brought to mind here: bustling Prokofiev, night-music Bartok, stark Ives, rippling Ravel, but all of them assimilated into an urgently communicative personality all Panufnik’s own.

Even more urgent is Panufnik’s Symphony no.2, the “Sinfonia Elegiaca”, an anti-war protest against violence and aggression, and given its British première here in 1958.

Tellingly scored, generously melodic, and unflinching dramatic (such blaring horns in the central section’s mad display of violence), this is a work of immense emotional and musical strength, and deserves a whole raft of hearings, not least in these times where we remember and where we dread.

The CBSO responded with grateful enthusiasm.

For the rest, we heard Stravinsky’s wittily precise Greeting Prelude, a Beethoven Leonore no.3 Overture in which Seal drew a huge sound from the CBSO which only Symphony Hall could comfortably accommodate (portentous offstage trumpet, too), and a Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde phrased and shaped with a well-judged feel for the music’s harmonic pacing.”

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “……And profundity. For if this memorable concert, which included a massive tranche of Wagner’s Tristan and for some the most satisfying of Beethoven’s overtures to Fidelio, the almost symphonic Leonore no. 3, both in handsome performances from all the orchestral sections (duly congratulated at the end) under Seal’s sensibly judged leadership, stirred the depths of emotion – that of the love-lorn Leonora and love-torn Isolde – it was in Panufnik’s second symphony (the second of ten), the Sinfonia Elegiaca (Panufnik, a year younger than Britten, liked such titles: Sacra, Rustica, Mystica, Votiva), a profound lament for war and its victims of all kind (the composer lived through the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, and the fatal 1944 uprising encouraged by Russia and crushed by the Nazis, but he widens his vision to a worldwide conspectus of suffering), with its a slow-fast-slow (ie double-andante, almost double-adagio layout) that from its almost Vaughan Williams-like, nervously serene opening generates a grieving one might look for in, say, Shostakovich 7, Tchaikovsky 6 or the aching tragedy of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s 1939 Concerto Funèbre.

Panufnik’s determination to work with tiny cells – major-minor thirds, or elsewhere seconds – reflects a Beethovenian precision and a Haydnesque incisiveness. It worked better here, in this elegy, than in his Piano Concerto, despite Peter Donohoe’s valiant efforts, looking a bit like a peak-scaling John Ogdon, to make multiple decoration work. Such toccata-like writing put one in mind of Malcolm Williamson’s similar propensity in Hyperion’s magnificent new recording of all Williamson’s piano concerti, CDA 68011/2. But it did not impact in the way this magnificent and moving symphony, punctuated by massive CBSO brass ostinati did, an opening cor anglais elegy, and strange feelings from string harmonics at both the start and chiasmic close that sounded almost bewilderingly like that rarely-used French instrument, the theremin, which generates such eerie terror in the film noir scores of Miklós Rózsa. If one had to compare Panufnik’s strange brand of modalism to another, it might just be to near-neighbour Kodály at his height.”     …

 

Wagner and Elgar

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Monday 25 August 2014 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Klaus Florian Vogt  tenor

Wagner: Parsifal –
Good Friday Music 11’
Act 2 Soliloquy 7’
Act 3: Nur eine Waffe taugt 6’
Wagner: Lohengrin –
Prelude to Act 3 4’
Lohengrin’s Soliloquy and Grail Narration 9’

Elgar: Symphony No. 2 54’

“Here, time becomes space…” Wagner’s Parsifal is like no other opera, and today Andris Nelsons and the CBSO make their first journey into its enchanted world; a realm of sublime passion, transcendent grandeur and music that glows from within. This should be very special indeed, and it’s a ravishing upbeat to Elgar’s mighty Second Symphony; music of epic vision, secret sorrow and beauty that’ll break your heart.

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Vogt will sing Lohengrin for two more years at Bayreuth before taking the title role in a new production of Parsifal in 2018 and we got a foretaste of his Parsifal this evening. That was after Nelsons had led a spacious and lustrous account of the Good Friday music in which I was particularly impressed by the breadth of the CBSO’s phrasing and the sensitive way in which the quiet passages were played. Vogt joined them and immediately his big, ringing tone, effortlessly produced, was apparent in ‘Amfortas! Die Wunde!’ His account of this solo was intense and often impassioned yet in achieving intensity he never sacrificed beauty of tone. His top notes rang thrillingly around Symphony Hall. The performance of ‘Nur eine Waffe taugt’ was no less impressive and I especially relished the conviction with which he delivered the line ‘Den heil’gen Speer – ich bring’ ihn euch zurück’.     […]

[…]     The second movement was shaped with care and great feeling by Nelsons and the CBSO responded with wonderful playing that was both sensitive and, when required, burnished. The interpretation was marked by intensity and great concentration – it was noticeable that at the end Nelsons ‘held the moment’ for several seconds before allowing everyone to relax. The reading was very passionate at times but always the ardour, when it came, was appropriate. The reappearance, shortly before the conclusion, of the motif from the first movement associated with the ‘Spirit of Delight’ was movingly done. I thought this performance was highly persuasive. The third movement was packed full of brilliance and bravura. There was also considerable power when some material from the first movement reappears with increasing menace. The dazzling end, where Elgar’s imagination and skill as an orchestrator runs riot to a degree perhaps unparalleled elsewhere in his output, was brought off superbly.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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...     “Though it seemed as if Nelsons was coming to Elgar through Wagner – a perfectly valid approach after all, for Wagner’s influence on Elgar extended well beyond the obvious link between Parsifal and The Dream of Gerontius – the details of his performance of the symphony, superlatively well played by the CBSO, pointed up more connections with Richard Strauss than anyone else. But it was a reading that for all its vividness and energy had begun with slight uncertainty, with the opening movement a series of brilliantly lit episodes rather than a single, sweeping arc, while elements of the Larghetto weren’t quite as effective or tragic as some conductors make them. But the final pair of movements was irresistible, and with refined pianissimo playing from the Birmingham strings, the closing bars were as magical as they should be.”     … 

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Review by “Admin”, Lark Reviews:

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…     “No such problems after the interval where we heard Elgar’s Second Symphony. The opening movement had great urgency with the music coming to us in warm waves of sound which made the quieter sections all the more poignant. Throughout, Andris Nelsons drew attention to the militaristic under-pinning of so much of the score, with its hints of violence and destruction beneath the potential for celebration. The second movement took this in its stride with a sense of both nobility and loss, looking backwards rather than dare to look ahead. However the future stares us in the face in the driven fury of the Rondo where odd moments of calm don’t last and the military percussion is ever present. The final movement brought some relief but often seemed on a knife-edge as if everything could still go wrong at any moment. A fascinating reading which made much of the wide dynamic range of the hall.”     …

Wagner’s Ring: Götterdämmerung

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

Saturday 21st June

Symphony Hall

Alwyn Mellor Brünnhilde
Mati Turi Siegfried
Mats Almgren Hagen
Orla Boylan Gutrune
Eric Greene Gunther
Jo Pohlheim Alberich
Susan Bickley Waltraute
Katherine Broderick Woglinde
Madeleine Shaw Wellgunde
Sarah Castle Flosshilde

Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North
Richard Farnes conductor
Peter Mumford staging and design, lighting and projection design
Dame Anne Evans vocal consultant

Wagner Götterdämmerung 270’

This performance has a running time of c 6 hours including
two intervals of 30 and 75 minutes.

Act I 3.30pm – 5.45pm
Interval 75mins
Act II 7pm – 8.10pm
Interval 30 mins
Act III 8.40pm – 10pm

Opera North’s visually-stunning concert production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle has been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in recent British opera. ‘If the cycle continues at this level’ said The Spectator’s Michael Tanner of Das Rheingold ‘it will rank as one of the greatest ever’.

Today, in Götterdämmerung the final tragedy unfolds, as Siegfried falls amongst enemies, Brünnhilde’s love is betrayed and the gods themselves confront the end of a world.

An epically tremendous achievement
The Daily Telegraph ****

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine explains why he has recommended today’s concert:

The final opera in Wagner’s magnificent Ring Cycle doesn’t go out with a whimper. As the Ring gets returned to the Rhine, Wagner conjures up, with awesome power, Valhalla’s and the gods’ fiery destruction. But not before one of Wagner’s most dramatic and overwhelming scenes – Siegfried’s death and funeral march.

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.

2.15pm Free pre-performance talk: Opera North’s Head of Music Martin Pickard in conversation with Stuart Leeks about the final installment of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle. The talk takes place in the auditorium and is free to all ticket-holders for the performance. Opera North’s pre-performance talks are made possible by the generous support of the Friends of Opera North.

A collaboration with Opera North, Symphony Hall, Birmingham and The Sage, Gateshead.

Financially supported by the Opera North Future Fund and The Ring Fellowship.

http://www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “All of the cast are wonderful. Alwyn Mellor is a mighty Brunnhilde. She is gentle and endearing in love and mourning but gloriously terrifying when on the path of vengeance. You wouldn’t want to get in this Valkyrie’s way!

Also impressive is Mats Almgren as the scheming Hagen. Evil enough to sacrifice his half-brother and half-sister to his machinations, he is yet so believable they all fall for his flattery. But we also see his own vulnerability when he is forced to face his even more monstrous father Alberich (Jo Pohlheim), the Nibelung dwarf who stole the Rhinegold and then saw it stolen in his turn.

Mati Turi plays Siegfried as a bit of a simpleton. He may be a great hero of Germanic tradition but he does fall prey to Hagen’s tricks and bring about Brunnhilde’s revenge. And when the Rhinemaidens warn that the ring is cursed and beg him to return it, he simply shrugs off ‘women’s wiles’ and heads off for a drink instead. It takes death and Brunnhilde’s eulogy to reinstate him as the great hero.

And so, at the end, we also see the destruction of the Gibichung siblings Gunther (Eric Greene) and Gutrune (Orla Boylan) who gave in to the temptation offered by Hagen but could not foresee its terrible results.

As the fires burn on Siegfried’s funeral pyre and at the hall of the Gods, Valhalla, the screens are filled with red flames and the orchestra finally becomes silent.

In Birmingham the applause and standing ovations were tremendous – and richly deserved. This really has been an epic journey.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Everything, of course, is built upon the orchestra, teemingly textured with Leitmotiven we have learned to assimilate during the 14-plus hours of the tetralogy, and under the well-paced baton of Richard Farnes the Orchestra of Opera North provided a wonderfully warm, sonorous, detailed and subtle cushion for the uniformly brilliant soloists.

Many of the singers had come with the valuable experience of singing in Longborough Festival Opera’s Ring cycle: Alwyn Mellor the most touching Brunnhilde I have ever heard, subtle right to the end of her world-denouncing Immolation; Mati Turi a much more genial Siegfried than we usually suffer, and capable of disguising his voice in the horrid betrayal scene; and Lee Bisset was one of a trio of Norns with unexpected personality.

Of the other soloists, Eric Greene was a thoughtful, self-doubting Gunther, Orla Boylan a Gutrune much more three-dimensional than this normally wan cipher, and as their villainous half-brother Hagen Mats Almgren sang chillingly and had the look of one of the nastiest of Eastenders.  Susan Bickley’s Waltraute, so grippingly delivered,”     …

*****

 

 

 

 

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Review by Alfred Hickling, Guardian (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review

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Review by Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review

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Review by Graham Rickson, TheArtsDesk (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review

 

 

Nelsons Conducts Brahms’ Third

Thursday 5 December 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Isabelle Faust  violin

Wagner: Siegfried Idyll 20′

Britten: Violin Concerto 32′

Brahms: Symphony No. 3 37′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Isabelle Faust’s encore – Bach – Sarabande D minor Partita

Two   chords ring out, the orchestra gathers its strength – and with the force of   a summer storm, Brahms’s Third Symphony crashes upon you. “Free but happy” was   Brahms’s motto for this music, and there’s a whole lifetime of tenderness and   wonderful Isabelle Faust contemplates one of Britten’s finest works – and which   opens with the most beautiful gift any composer ever gave to his beloved?

c9.45pm: Post-concert chat Stay on for a post-concert conversation with Andris Nelsons and Stephen   Maddock.

Due to the popularity of the Birmingham Christmas Market please allow ample time for your journey to Symphony Hall.

A taste of the CBSO’s celebrations of Britten in his centenary year

Britten 100

Part of Birmingham’s celebrations of Britten’s centenary year: www.birminghambritten.co.uk

If you like this concert, you might also like:

CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday   23rd February

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Thursday   1st May

Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, Thursday   8th May

www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “This was the Violin Concerto, a substantial, searching composition which drew an urgently communicative reading from soloist Isabelle Faust.

There was no “listen to me” element in her performance (though we did have to get past the pink liquorice-allsort outfit in which she presented herself).

Tone was painfully sweet where appropriate, attack was proudly articulate (what fantastic strength of bowing), and the music’s disturbed lyricism (Prokofiev was often evoked) always engaged with such an impact.

Andris Nelsons and his orchestra collaborated with so much empathy (the poised, swaying strings at the first movement’s recapitulation live in the memory), and telling instrumental colour, flute, trumpets among others.

The silence within the hall at the conclusion was so eloquent.

Framing this jewel were Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Brahms’ Third Symphony.

String cushioning in the Wagner gem was velvety and subtly-nourished, Nelsons’ patient, often suspenseful pacing evoking gorgeous Alpine landscapes.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Before the symphony, Nelsons had given a final nod to a couple of this year’s important anniversaries. He’d begun with a beautifully paced account of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, which managed to be convincingly intimate, with exquisite pianissimos, despite using the majority of the CBSO’s strings, before moving on to what turned out to be the evening’s highlight. No doubt there have been many performances of Britten’s Violin Concerto this year, but few, I imagine, can have been as searching and startlingly fresh as Isabelle Faust‘s, with its savage, selfless precision, rasping double stopping and sense of always knowing exactly what the destination of this disquieting musical journey really was. Nelsons and the orchestra aided and abetted her every step of the way. Faust’s encore, the Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Partita, effortlessly poetic and conversational, was an extra treat.”

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “This is surely radical music in a way that Wagner simply could or would not appreciate. Brahms, perceived by the older composer to be straitjacketed by form, in fact transcended it by freeing himself of the traditional constraints of barlines and somehow making them imperceptible to the listener.

Such mastery was on full display in this performance by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under their music director Andris Nelsons. This compositional genius inspired the musicians to give of their very best. The strings played with immense warmth; there was not a rough edge to be found. Nelsons moulded the exposition into one long arc. The opening exclamatory chords were fired off without any broadening and sounded almost ecstatic when they were repeated.

The inner movements had the warm glow they should have, and the secret to Nelsons’ winning way with this piece became ever more apparent: Brahms’ music needs to flow without being inpeded, and that is exactly what was allowed to happen in this performance. Nelsons has not always allowed his Brahms to flow in this way before, having tended to massage this phrase and that on previous occasions. In the orchestra, all departments were on tremendous form, but the woodwind players, displaying a creamy tone and huge reserves of unforced expressiveness, really came into their own in these movements.

The epic final movement was pitched at just the right tempo: flowing but with a solid foundation, underpinned by a powerful double bass section that was rightly encouraged throughout.”     …

Nelsons Conducts Brahms’ Fourth

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Wednesday 6 November 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Valeriy Sokolov  violin

Wagner: Lohengrin – Prelude to Act 1 9′

Sibelius: Violin Concerto 31′ Listen on Spotify
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 40′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Valeriy Sokolov’s encore – Bach:  Sarabande – Partita No 2 in D Minor

Brahms’s   Fourth Symphony begins with a sigh – and ends with a tempest. It might have   been his last symphony, but Brahms wasn’t going gently into the night, and Andris   Nelsons will bring everything he has to a musical tragedy of Shakespearean power.   It’s a long journey from the serene beauty of Wagner’s Lohengrin Prelude,   but with Valeriy Sokolov as the soloist in Sibelius’s lyrical Violin Concerto,   there’ll be no shortage of drama along the way. www.cbso.co.uk

“Valeriy Sokolov’s debut performance with the CBSO was  really special – don’t miss his return for Sibelius!” (Amy Fawcett, Viola)

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Nelsons conducts Brahms’s Third, Thursday 5thDecember

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Andris Nelsons was judicious to near-perfection. The strings had earlier shown they were on top form in a wondrously rapt Prelude to Act 1 of Wagner’s Lohengrin. In the Brahms finale they surged and carolled threatening to overwhelm the formal constraints but were held back by a hairsbreadth.

Nelsons is adept at the big sweeping moments but quieter details like Marie-Christine Zupancic’s ethereal flute lines were never allowed to be obscured. Pacing was excellent with a tender andante which never sagged and a high-stepping volatile scherzo: from first to last a really memorable performance.

The young Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov excelled in the first and last movements of Sibelius’s concerto. Warm rich playing, notes pinged in the middle, rapid double stopping that really sounded like two instruments and all the rest of the virtuoso armoury was on display.”     …