City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

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Rubbra: Violin Concerto & Sinfonia Concertante

Rubbra: Violin Concerto & Sinfonia Concertante


Rubbra:

Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 38

Edmund Rubbra (piano)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Hugo Rignold

Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Cyril Scott, Op. 69

Edmund Rubbra (piano)

Violin Concerto, Op. 103

Endré Wolf (violin)

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Rudolf Schwarz

Scott, C:

Consolation (1918) [W80]

Edmund Rubbra (piano)


The Sinfonia Concertante for piano and orchestra, Op.38, was written in 1934-1936 and revised and rescored in 1942-1943. The composer himself was the soloist in the premiere which took place in a Promenade concert with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult on 10 August 1943. Rubbra also performed it with the London

Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Malcolm Sargent on 4 July 1946 at the second Cheltenham Music Festival. The Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Cyril Scott for piano, Op.69, was composed in honour of Scott’s seventieth birthday in September 1949 and premiered by Margaret Good on 5 June 1950 in a BBC broadcast. It is based on three bars from the slow movement of Scott’s Piano Sonata no.1, Op.66. As part of the Northampton concert of Cyril Scott’s music which Rubbra organised in 1918, he programmed and performed four of Scott’s short solo piano works. Nearly fifty years later, he chose to perform another brief solo piano work by Scott to round off his BBC recital on 9 August 1967, Consolation. In his brief spoken introduction to the broadcast performance , Rubbra described this as ‘one of Scott’s maturest pieces’ written ‘at the height of his powers’ and characterised it as ‘a deeply felt ‘in memoriam’ written as a tribute to a close friend’. In 1958 he began work on the Violin Concerto, Op.103, finishing it in the summer of the following year. It was premiered at the Royal Festival Ha ll on 17 February 1960 when the soloist was Endré Wolf with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by its Principal Conductor at the time, Rudolf Schwarz. This first performance was relayed live and the BBC repeated the work in a Maida Vale performance three days later. A recording of that impressive second performance is presented here.

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Edward Gardner conducts Holst & Richard Strauss

Edward Gardner conducts Holst & Richard Strauss


Holst:

The Planets, Op. 32

Strauss, R:

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30


For its very first album on Chandos, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain devotes its characteristic energy and musical mastery to an explosive programme that transcends daily life and earthly experience. It is helped by the enthusiastic, encouraging, and experienced baton of Edward Gardner as well as by the sumptuous yet detailed acoustic of Symphony Hall, Birmingham, all fully revealed in this surround-sound recording.

Their performance of Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra and Holst’s The Planets is already a point of reference in the UK after the immensely successful Prom concert that preceded the recording. The concert’s five-star review in The Daily Telegraph praised in particular the orchestra’s ‘great attack and complete absence of anything routine’, while The Guardian emphasised the great performance of the orchestra in this ‘graceful and evocative programme’, especially the ‘depth and richness of sound that belied their youth’.

This unique album is a first milestone in what promises to be a superb discography for the NYO.

Special notice: this album will also be released on Vinyl.

“Here these showpieces are played with all the zest and freshness one may hope for from these highly skilled young musicians...It perhaps does not require a conductor of Edward Gardner's calibre to inspire such lively performances...But credit is surely due to him for the sensitivity shown in even such restrained movements as 'Venus'.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2017 ****

“from the long passage in section 2 [Strauss]…his thoughtful, perspicacious interpretation of ‘this series of ideological utterances’ (Norman del Mar) portrays them as a wondrously crafted edifice. Equally so is The Planets, to which Gardner is no less attentive; as indeed are the young musicians, always on a level of ear-flapping artistry cum virtuosity, here reproduced with a grandeur and realism ear-flapping in itself.” Classical Ear, 30th March 2017 *****

“Gardner’s conducting of Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired symphonic poem is impressively flowing and direct while still being flexible and also alive to small details; in return the members of the National Youth Orchestra play with confidence, poise and bravura, and a lack of indulgence on Gardner’s part is refreshing to the music as a whole...However, it’s The Planets that takes the bouquets.” classicalsource.com

“occasionally one misses the refinement of a professional outfit, but rarely: more often one is struck by the warmth and intensity of the string sound and the quality of the wind solos. Edward Gardner’s driven, finely balanced conducting ensures this is one for collectors as well as supporters.” The Guardian, 10th February 2017 ****

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Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 3

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 3


Mendelssohn:

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27

Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 52 'Lobgesang'

sung in English; Mary Bevan (soprano I), Sophie Bevan (soprano II) & Benjamin Hulett (tenor)

CBSO Chorus


This is the third recording in our Mendelssohn in Birmingham series, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and its Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner. The album features Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt) and Symphony No. 2, completing our survey of Mendelssohn’s mature symphonies.

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is the second in a trilogy of concert overtures by Mendelssohn, the two others being A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Hebrides, the latter recorded on Vol. 1 in this Chandos series. Based on two poems by Goethe these sonorous images describe a ship helplessly becalmed in the open sea, then carried by rising winds towards land. The densely textured, immensely slow opening evocation of oceanic calm and the following quickening full orchestral crescendo strikingly depict Goethe’s verses. Symphony No. 2 was valued as one of Mendelssohn’s greatest and most influential achievement for much of the nineteenth century – not least in Britain – but it has since come to be viewed equivocally. A fusion of neo-baroque procedures with romantic sentiment provides the backdrop of this hybrid Symphony-Cantata, made up of three orchestral movements and a choral finale, in which smooth contrapuntal arias contrast with exuberant, dramatic choral sections. The soloists are all emerging young artists in Britain, the wonderfully talented soprano sisters Mary and Sophie Bevan and the tenor Benjamin Hulett.

“The playing of the CBSO is of the highest quality, and the perfectly balanced and blended sound of the wind sections is something very special...Edward Gardner is an ideal interpreter of this music, and one can sense how much he and his musicians love it...the whole disc is a rare pleasure.” MusicWeb International, February 2015

“Calm Sea is one of Mendelssohn's most evocative pieces...and Edward Gardner conducts a most sensitive performance...[in the Symphony] Gardner stresses what over the years we have come to consider the more purely Mendelssohnian attributes, Apollonian qualities such as lightness, line and overall beauty of form.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2015

“Gardner favours bright, transparent, woodwind-highlight textures in these amiable accounts, with exquisite solo singing from the sopranos Sophie and Mary Bevan and the tenor Benjamin Hulett in the finale to Mendelssohn’s homage to Beethoven’s Choral Symphony.” Sunday Times, 5th April 2015

“This is in every sense an absorbing account [of Calm Sea], exceptionally well played and directed with admirable facility and understanding by Gardner…[the reading of the Second Symphony] is a thoroughly committed and scholarly one, and Gardner manages to invest several of the big choruses with near theatrical conviction…this fine account should certainly impress.” International Record Review, March 2015

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Szymanowski: King Roger & Symphony No. 4

Szymanowski: King Roger & Symphony No. 4


Szymanowski:

Król Roger

Thomas Hampson (King Roger), Elzieta Szmytka (Roxana), Philip Langridge (Edrisi), Ryszard Minkiewicz (Shepherd), Robert Gierlach (Archbishop), Jadwiga Rappé (Deaconess)

City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus

Symphony No. 4, Op. 60 (Sinfonia Concertante)

Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)


Simon Rattle’s luminous reading of Szymanowski’s philosophical opera King Roger won a Gramophone Award for opera on its first release in 2000. ‘A vibrantly dramatic account, revealing potent theatricality from the outset and sustaining its grip throughout’ (Gramophone), Rattle’s recording is coupled with Szymanowski’s colourful Fourth Symphony, with the solo piano part assuredly performed here by Leif Ove Andsnes.

GGramophone Awards 2000

Winner - Opera

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

Warner Classics - 2564620051

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Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 2

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 2


Mendelssohn:

Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11

Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 'Scottish'

Ruy Blas Overture, Op. 95


Edward Gardner and the CBSO present volume 2 in their series Mendelssohn in Birmingham, this time performing Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 and the Overture Ruy Blas. The impressive first volume was roundly praised, IRR commending the ‘powerfully engaging and alert performances’ while the Sunday Times made it their ‘Album of the Week’.

Among the fruits of his prodigiously gifted youth were thirteen string symphonies, which Mendelssohn composed privately as ‘practice’ pieces. At age fifteen he returned to the last of these, expanded the orchestration and published it as the first of his mature numbered symphonies. As heard here, this energetic work, bursting with youthful high spirits, shows the influence of Mozart, Beethoven, and Weber, but that influence is always absorbed in a personal way.

Although numbered as the third of five, the ‘Scottish’ Symphony was actually the last which Mendelssohn composed. Inspiration for it had come while Mendelssohn was visiting Edinburgh in 1829. He was immediately moved to compose the brooding melody that begins and ends the work, but not until 1842 did he actually finish this masterpiece.

No such time span was needed to complete the Overture to Victor Hugo’s tragedy Ruy Blas, which was commissioned only three days before the production’s opening night.

Mendelssohn loathed Hugo’s drama and though the opening is suitably sombre, the rest of the overture disregards the play’s form and character, concluding in celebration where Hugo’s story culminates in murder and suicide.

“The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and its principal guest conductor, Edward Gardner, prove to be interpreters in the best tradition of the city. The symphonies Nos 1 and 3, the “Scottish”, get splendidly vital performances that go at quite a lick.” Financial Times, 23rd August 2014 ****

“Gardner conducts these pieces with a highly satisfying blend of freedom and discipline. In some of Mendelssohn's more lyrical moments...you need a metronome to judge his rhythmic flexibility, so naturally does he apply it...and throughout the disc the strings articulate with splendid vigour.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2014 *****

“it is essential that [No. 1's] music’s clarity and precision should be respected although in itself this is not enough. Urgency and an unsentimental response to the deeper and more lyrical aspects are also essential. All of these are present here with the result that even the more obviously derivative parts of the work are enjoyable...this is a very worthwhile addition to the catalogue, especially for the performance of the Symphony No. 1.” MusicWeb International, 1st December 2014

“Mendelssohn's First Symphony is in fact a re-orchestration by the composer of his final string symphony (one of thirteen composed in his youth as 'practice' exercises); its youthful spirit comes across clearly in this performance by the CBSO under Edward Gardner, while the liveliness of the Scottish Symphony is as joyful as one could wish.” David Smith, Presto Classical, December 2014

BBC Music Magazine

Orchestral Choice - December 2014

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Elgar: Music for Powick Asylum

Elgar: Music for Powick Asylum


Elgar:

Menuetto (Powick orchestration)

(first recording)

Andante & Allegro for Oboe & String Trio

(first recording)

A Singing Quadrille

(first recording)

Duetto

Fugue for Violin and Oboe


Innovation Chamber Ensemble (Players from the CBSO), Barry Collett

First recording with a professional orchestra of Elgar’s Powick Asylum Music.

It was in January 1879 when the 21-year-old Elgar was appointed Bandmaster at the Worcester County and City Lunatic Asylum in the nearby village of Powick. Elgar’s ensemble had its origins in a brass band, founded with instruments bought out of asylum funds. The enlightened doctors in charge of the asylum were in no doubt about the therapeutic effects of music upon the patients who enjoyed dancing. Elgar became involved in teaching the players in the band, writing dance music for the weekly Friday entertainments and conducting the band which consisted of members of the Asylum staff. These made up a rather eccentric orchestra of piccolo, flute, clarinet, two cornets, euphonium and bombardon, up to eight violins, occasional viola, cello and double bass with piano, a maximum of 19 players.

The music for Powick opens with a charming, Schubertian Menuetto, which Elgar originally composed for flute and string quartet. This is its first outing in the Powick orchestration. Over the six years of his Bandmastership Elgar composed four sets of Quadrilles, a set of Lancers and five Polkas. A delightful

addition to this CD is the first recording of A Singing Quadrille where Elgar mainly uses well-known nursery rhymes. The work remains only in sketch score but it has been edited by Andrew Lyle for the Elgar Complete Edition which we have used, also for the recording of the Powick music. To quote Barry

Collett on Elgar’s Powick Music: “In summary – lost masterpieces, no...but surely works to be enjoyed and treasured alongside the great masterworks in the same way as the German Dances and Ländler of Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven.” In our view, the music is never less than delightful!

“Throughout the miniatures of this CD we acquire fascinating glimpses of Elgar's cosmopolitan outlook. The Paris quadrilles, with their evocative French titles, embody memories of his 1880 trip to the French capital. Others have a Sullivanesque ambience, redolent of the English theatre filtered through Italian opera.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2014

“mainly what we have here is Elgar the entertainer, supplying his dance music to order. Barry Collett has been in the forefront of the revival of this repertoire, and the Innovation Chamber Ensemble (players drawn from the CBSO) play it with gusto and empathy.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2014 ****

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Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 1

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 1


Mendelssohn:

Hebrides Overture, Op. 26

Symphony No. 5 in D major, Op. 107 'Reformation'

Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 90 'Italian'


‘Mendelssohn in Birmingham’ is an exciting new recording project with the CBSO and its Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner. It celebrates Mendelssohn’s special relationship with the city’s Town Hall and will feature the complete symphonies recorded there. It was a venue much loved by Mendelssohn and saw him conduct many of his own works there, including premieres. ‘Mendelssohn in Birmingham’ also encompasses a major concert series at the Town Hall which will run alongside these recordings.

Inspiration for The Hebrides, recorded here in Vol. 1, sprang from experiencing the seas and landscapes of the Scottish Western Isles. The famous wave-like repeated patterns of its opening set the scene for a vivid work that has been a template for composers of ‘sea’ music ever since. Symphony No. 5 ‘Reformation’ was completed in 1832, and although the last of his numbered symphonies, it was the second to be composed. Typically for Mendelssohn, he had doubts about its quality and soon wrote it off. This self-criticism is highly exaggerated of what is a finely crafted and original work. Similarly, despite the success of its premiere in 1833, Mendelssohn significantly revised and eventually abandoned his ‘Italian’ Symphony, No. 4. Fortunately the original score from the premiere was recovered and published, posthumously, in 1851. The symphony is relatively short and its pervasive lightness of touch lends it a unique character and charm.

“Gardner's approach is entirely logical, given Mendelssohn's markings. The Hebrides is very dramatically played...All in all a fine trio of performances, individual for sure, and an encouraging start to what I hope will be an extended series.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2014

“[Gardner] and the Birminghamsters catch the hazy “Scottish” atmosphere of the Hebrides, and he is expansive in the outer movements of the Reformation, with its quotation of the Dresden Amen and Luther’s chorale, Ein feste Burg. The Italian Symphony is exhilaratingly delivered — with poetic solos in the andante con moto — especially the breathless Saltarello presto finale.” Sunday Times, 2nd February 2014

“He characterises the land- and seascape of the “Hebrides” Overture with a good ear for storm, surge and serenity, and the purposeful instrumental detail that he elicits is a vital factor, too, in the “Reformation” Symphony.” The Telegraph, 20th February 2014 ****

“Unsurprisingly, the quality of the playing here is very high. I particularly enjoyed the timpani roars in The Hebrides Overture. In the Italian Symphony, Gardner coaxes elegant phrasing from the strings...In contrast, [he] allows the Reformation Symphony its full measure of grandeur and intensity.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2014 ****

“Did it move me? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. The playing is enthusiastic and balances the intimacy and drama of much of this music. Gardner is sympathetic to the nuances of Fingal’s Cave and the sun-drenched pages of the Italian Symphony: he has given me a version of the Reformation Symphony that I can do business with.” MusicWeb International, 28th March 2014

“a characterful performance of his famous Hebrides Overture.” David Smith, Presto Classical, December 2014

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Britten: War Requiem, Op. 66

Britten: War Requiem, Op. 66

world premiere recording

recorded live at Coventry Cathedral, May 1962


Heather Harper (soprano), Peter Pears (tenor), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Melos Ensemble, Coventry Festival Choir, Boys of Holy Trinity, Leamington and Holy Trinity, Stratford, Meredith Davies (CBSO), Benjamin Britten (Melos)

This performance is the World Premiere of the Britten War Requiem to mark the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral.

Hearing History

‘The first performance created an atmosphere of such intensity that by the end I was completely undone; I did not know where to hide my face,’ Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau wrote in his autobiography of the War Requiem premiere. ‘Dead friends and past suffering arose in my mind.’ Fischer-Dieskau was a somewhat gruff, paternalistic character of whom Britten would grow wary, but he perfectly captured the emotional intensity of the occasion. Nor was he exaggerating: a few days after the first performance on 30 May Britten wrote to a friend about how Peter Pears had to help Fischer-Dieskau from his seat at the concert’s end. By the time of this letter the ripples from the premiere had travelled far and the profound impact of the work was quickly acknowledged in reviews and correspondence. Yet even Britten was caught unawares by the public resonances of the piece and the emotional responses it inspired.

The commissioners gave Britten a remarkably broad brief. ‘The new work they seek could be full length or a substantial 30/40 minutes one: its libretto could be sacred or secular.’ Britten opted for both sacred and secular, which gave him the opportunity to undermine the former with the latter. He had been thinking about such a piece for a few years, telling a friend in January 1957, ‘I am just starting a Mass myself, a rather sad 20th century, European, affair.’ Typically Britten’s big compositions were some years in the making. Usually at least the librettist, story or poems were pinned down early on, but in the case of this sad mass, Britten had not yet established the form it would take. By the time he thought of his bold scheme to juxtapose Owen’s bitter take on Judeo-Christian beliefs and the Old Men of church and state who shrouded themselves in these beliefs as they marched young men off to war, Britten was wracked with the sort of uncertainty that governed all his major works. ‘I go on working at the Coventry piece,’ he told director Basil Coleman in 1961, a month or so before finishing it. ‘Sometimes it seems the best ever, more often the worst – but it is always so with me.’

Extracts from the note by Paul Kildea

“Taken from a BBC recording, this single CD preserves the historic first performance in all its messy glory...[Harper] is at her peak, all gleaming beauty and commanding authority; and Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, both in fine voice, match each other in the kind of singing of which history is made.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2013

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Foulds: 3 Mantras, Dynamic Triptych, Mirage & Lyra Celtica

Foulds: 3 Mantras, Dynamic Triptych, Mirage & Lyra Celtica


Foulds:

Three Mantras (from Avatara), Op. 61B

Dynamic Triptych (Piano Concerto)

Mirage, Op. 21 (1910)

Lyra Celtica, Op. 50 (c. 1925)

Apotheosis, Op. 18 (1909)

Music-Pictures Group III, Op. 33

April-England, Op. 48 No. 1

Song of Ram Dass

Keltic Lament


“A missing link between Edwardian opulence and the avant-garde, Foulds wrote rampaging, adventurous, iridescent music, splendidly championed by Oramo and the CBSO.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2014 ****

“The nine works...display the full range of Foulds's talents, from the exotic and the ecstatic to the wild and poetic. Sometimes like late Strauss, at others more early Messiaen, in the end he is purely himself.” The Observer, 11th August 2013

Apex - 2564645113

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Debussy: Orchestral Works

Debussy: Orchestral Works


Debussy:

Musiques pour Le Roi Lear

Images for orchestra

Jeux - Poème dansé


Before Sir Simon Rattle took over the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, he poured all his resources as the conjurer of Early Modern music into his work with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. One of the best documents of this cooperation is his set of recordings of the Impressionist orchestral scores of Claude Debussy.

EMI Red Line - 6365592

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$6.50

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