Italian Symphony

Wednesday 8th June, 2016, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra



  • Dvořák  Othello, 15′
  • Bruch  Scottish Fantasy , 30′
  • Dvořák  Romance , 13′
  • Mendelssohn  Symphony No. 4 (Italian), 26′

The tumult of Dvorak’s Othello Overture, the enchanting colours of his Romance, a treasure-trove of delightful folk melodies in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and, of course, Mendelssohn’s sparkling Italian Symphony. This is music bursting at the seams with passion: join us as Laurence Jackson and the CBSO bring it to life.

.In Memory of Walter Weller (30th November 1939 – 14th June 2015) 

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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“What a joy to hear Laurence Jackson again. Barely six months after the CBSO’s former concertmaster moved to Australia he was back on his old stamping ground as the soloist in a concert planned long before he left. He may not have the swaggering glitter of some violinists (he’s too sensitive a musician to engage in vulgar histrionics), but his sweetness of tone and effortless technique are qualities many would die for.

Rather than a full-blown concerto we had to be content with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, a demanding enough substitute technically, if somewhat blighted by its mundane thematic material. No matter: given the intelligence and beauty of Jackson’s playing – and the nuanced handling of the orchestral score under CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan – most of the work’s mawkish sentimentality was avoided (the duet passage between Jackson and flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic was particularly delightful) while the sparkling scherzo and decorative conclusion held several charms.

And Jackson’s account of Dvořák’s Romance in F minor was delivered with even greater subtlety, matched by a felicitous accompaniment full of scrumptious detail.”     …


Review by Robert Gainer, BachTrack:

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…     “Chauhan interpreted these brilliantly, allowing the brass and woodwind to suggest the unfolding story while the strings set tone and atmosphere. In doing so he maintained emotive interest from the brooding start to the heroic yet tragic climax.  

Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Op,46 came next, featuring the concert’s soloist, Laurence Jackson. I was instantly won over by his warm and velvety tone. His phrasing achieved both comfort and tension, and his interpretation was simultaneously intellectual and heartfelt, without the excessive sentimentality too often associated with works such as this. He made his technique look effortless, particularly his fluttering bird-song trills. Importantly, he did not feel the need to thrash the more rhythmical motif of the scherzo, nor force the pomp of the strident warlike motif of the Finale: Allegro Guerriero. His unity with the orchestra was tangible throughout, but two highlights stood out for me. First were some delightfully echoed and paired phrases with the flute. Second was in the finale where I was so transfixed that he was half-way through a cadenza before I became conscious that the orchestra had stopped playing. Chauhan brought them back in with a breath-like string pianissimo before the return to the militaristic motif brought an extremely enjoyable first half to an end.

Dvořák’s Romance in F Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op.11, was the second work in the programme from the Czech composer. In some ways it felt like an encore piece that could have been squeezed into the first half. It was played with a smaller orchestra and had a more intimate feel than the Bruch. It gave Laurence Jackson another opportunity to indulge us, and for that alone I was grateful.”     …


Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

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…     “Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony (1832) has never left the repertoire since its revival soon after its composer’s death, but it is still a work whose innovation can easily be overlooked. Chauhan certainly had the measure of the Allegro’s unbridled élan, the exposition repeat – with its seamless formal transition – duly (and rightly) observed, and with a tensile energy as carried through the development then on to a coda as clinched the formal design with telling resolve. The Andante’s stark processional was evocatively conveyed at a swift yet never rushed tempo, with the ensuing intermezzo was characterised by heartfelt string playing and deft horns. The Finale then had the necessary contrast, its alternating of saltarello and tarantella rhythms effecting a powerful rhythmic charge that held good to the forceful close.

An engaging concert, then, and an auspicious one for Chauhan, who is evidently a conductor going places (he makes his debut with the LSO in January). This CBSO concert originally to have been directed by Walter Weller, whose death last June robbed the wider musical world of a conductor of unfailing insight across the repertoire. His cycles of Beethoven Symphonies and Piano Concertos (the latter with John Lill) with the CBSO bear witness to his traditional yet never hidebound approach, and this concert was appropriately dedicated to his memory.”

Weller Conducts Strauss and Brahms

Thursday 30th October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Walter Weller  conductor
Eduardo Vassallo  cello
Christopher Yates  viola

Strauss: Don Quixote 40′
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 45′
Listen on Spotify

We are very sorry to announce that Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw at very short notice from this week’s concerts, Nelsons conducts Strauss and Brahms, due to unforeseen personal circumstances. We are very grateful to Walter Weller who has agreed to take his place.

Battling windmills, flying horses and a very angry herd of sheep… Richard Strauss’s warm-hearted take on the tale of Don Quixote is one of music’s all-time comic masterpieces. Brahms’s First Symphony is made of sterner stuff – but it still tells an epic story of tragedy and hope, crowned by one of the noblest tunes ever written.

The annual Patrons’ Reception takes place afetr this concert. For information, contact Claire Watts on 0121 616 6533.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Spirit of 1945, Wednesday 19th November
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March & Saturday 28th March
Schubert, Strauss and Dvorak, Thursday 11th June



Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

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…     “The orchestra played handsomely for him and the opening of Strauss’ tone poem showed off many of their fine qualities: creamy, deft woodwind playing and sumptuous-toned strings. This was a measured opening, building slowly to the introduction’s dissonant climax at the moment when Don Quixote “loses his sanity after reading novels about knights, and decides to become a kinght-errant”. From this point in the music, Cervantes’ metamorphosed protagonist is represented by a solo cello.

Soloist, Eduardo Vassallo’s portrayal of Don Quixote was everything it should be: noble and earnest in character. Vassallo was soon joined on his journey by solo violist, Christopher Yates, taking on the character of Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s witless neighbour who agrees to be his squire along the way. Yates’ playing was very fine indeed and it seems a shame to me that the solo violist tends to remain tucked away in the tutti viola section while the cello soloist occupies the chair of a concerto soloist. There is no doubting, however, that the cellist has much the greater part to play in this piece. There was always a strong sense of collaboration between the two players, despite their geographical separation.

There were fine solos from leader Laurence Jackson and Rainer Gibbons, principal oboist, too.”     …



Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “The CBSO helpfully print in their programmes their performing history of some of the works they play and it was evident from the information about Don Quixote that they’ve quite often performed the work using their principals in the solo roles rather than importing a star cellist. Bravo for that: it’s what Strauss intended. So this evening we had the CBSO’s principal cellist and violist centre stage; indeed, I noted that the last time the orchestra played the work – in 2008 – Eduardo Vassallo and Christopher Yates were the soloists, as they were tonight. Both impressed me. Yates was the principal, though not sole, voice of Sancho Panza. His is not as prominent a role as that of the Don but his contributions were characterful, not least in Variation III, the ‘Conversation between the knight and his squire’.

 The cellist is much more to the fore, though often Strauss’s writing requires him to be more of a primus inter pares within the opulent orchestral textures.  Vassallo played very well indeed. I especially admired his eloquent ruminations in the fifth variation, ‘The knight’s vigil’, where he displayed lovely tone and fine feeling. In the finale Strauss portrays the final regretful musings of his hero, followed by his death. Here Vassalo played the quintessential Straussian melody at the start most expressively and as the work drew to its close he managed the Don’s demise excellently.

 If Vassallo and Yates garnered the main plaudits it should be said also that a good number of their CBSO colleagues grasped most effectively the opportunity for characterful solos and none more so than leader, Laurence Jackson.”     …

Bruch’s Violin Concerto

Thursday 27 September 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Walter Weller conductor
Yossif Ivanov violin

Weber: Euryanthe – Overture 9′
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 26′ Listen on Spotify
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 50′

Tchaikovsky always wore his heart on his sleeve, and no question – in his Fifth Symphony, you can hear it. Deep sorrow, exuberant joy and pure, uninhibited passion…they’re all there, poured out in some of the most glorious tunes Tchaikovsky ever wrote. Conductor Walter Weller shares a lifetime’s experience, and introduces an extraordinary new star. Bruch’s First might be the world’s favourite violin concerto – but just wait until you hear it played by Yossif Ivanov!


Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “Prefaced by softly rumbling timpani and gentle woodwind, the violin enters with a spellbinding long note on the open G string. This opening Allegro moderato movement evokes an atmosphere of improvisation, and it was captivating to witness Ivanov’s variations in tempo after a tantalisingly slow introduction. While the solo violin made a thorough exploration of anything and everything to do with G minor, the orchestra quietly supported in the background, then they were given their moment in the spotlight and responded with joyful vigour. The precision of the brass was electrifying as they heralded the reintroduction of the soloist for the Adagio. Once again, I was smitten by Ivanov’s control of the long notes, which materialised apparently from nowhere and threatened to go way beyond what the length of a bow would legitimately allow. Then came the wonderfully contrasting Finale, with the dancing Hungarian sprung rhythms and double-stopped chords, during which one couldn’t help but smile.”     …



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony was appropriately crepuscular in colour, sonorities built bass-upwards, upper strings only allowed to let rip in passages such as the finale’s excitingly-propelled motor-rhythms. Despite a few fluffs, wind solos were effectively eloquent, Jonathan Barrett’s delivery of the andante’s famous horn solo gloriously expansive, Gretha Tuls’ bassoon alert with personality.”     …

The Great C Major

Tuesday 24 May 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Walter Weller conductor
Dejan Lazic piano

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 42′
Schubert: Symphony No. 9 (The Great) 57′

Dejan Lazic’s encore – Schumann –

The greatest symphony Brahms never wrote – and the Great symphony Schubert nearly didn’t! Both composers step beyond the stereotype in this blockbuster programme. Forget about Brahms the grumpy old man; his First Piano Concerto is the work of a young genius in (unrequited) love, driven by an almost volcanic passion. And if you think Schubert only did songs, think again: his Great C major Symphony is a huge, gloriously sunny celebration of life, so ambitious in scale that for years after his death, orchestras couldn’t even get to the end of it. No worries on that score today. Veteran Viennese maestro Walter Weller has loved this music all his life – and the young Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic is fast acquiring a reputation to match.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…     “And that relationship was renewed in a magisterial account of Schubert’s Symphony no.9, strings digging in deeply and happy to endure the ridiculous motoristic demands of the finale, woodwind gurgling away joyously in the scherzo, trombones contributing their sonority with a fetching lightness of touch.”     …