In Concert

Get a flavour of the music collections of the Library of Birmingham – quirky, practical, historical, contemporary

Beethoven and beyond — February 15, 2020

Beethoven and beyond

2020 is the 250 years since Beethoven’s birth. From amongst the blogs we follow came an article lamenting the likely freezing effect this anniversary might have on programming. That’s entirely understandable given the conservatism of many orchestras’ offerings. Which hard-pressed venue or ensemble manager wouldn’t be seduced by the prospect of more and more Beethoven?

There is another approach. Arcana FM and Richard Whitehouse deliver a concert review for our local orchestra, the CBSO, as the orchestra shows how it’s done. https://arcana.fm/2020/02/01/cbso-mirga-grazinyte-tyla-beethoven/

2020 is also the CBSO’s centenary. Across the two concert seasons, the orchestra will perform 40 new commissions (funded in part by the John Ellerman Foundation). Both established and new composers will have the opportunity to bring freshness and innovation to the concert hall.

This isn’t to dismiss Beethoven. Over the course of the year, we hope to feature a post or two of our own about this towering, maverick figure.

CBSO: a hundred years of music-making — October 23, 2019

CBSO: a hundred years of music-making

Forward

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its centenary this season. As a contribution to the celebrations, journalist and music critic Richard Bratby spent a large slice of his recent life researching the CBSO’s history. Writing a book is hard work, even more so when it’s not fiction. Give this post a read to understand why.

We will add the book to our stock in due course.

Is it that long? — April 4, 2019

Is it that long?

This blog is coming up to its second birthday! It doesn’t seem that long since I wrote our first anniversary post. While I’ve felt more relaxed about the topics featured, there have still been some distinct threads. Let’s have a look at some of the themes and popular posts over the past year.

Participation

all performers
All the performers (Jonathan Schoeps)

November saw a flurry of posts. Continue reading

Set Phasers To Stun — March 27, 2019

Set Phasers To Stun

A few weeks ago, I did a post about the composer, Gustav Holst called A Journey beyond ‘The Planets’ . In it, I looked at some lesser-known works Holst wrote. By a strange coincidence, Holst is our subject this time around as well. There’s no denying the long-lasting appeal of The Planets as a piece of music for listening to or performing. For many amateur orchestral players, having The Planets in their season’s schedule is something special.

Sometimes this isn’t possible though: if you play in a smaller orchestra, a tenor tuba,  double set of timpani, or a contra-bassoon won’t be part of your normal line-up. In that case, an inventive solution is necessary. In this post, we hear how Leamington Sinfonia  found theirs. Continue reading

A Staffordshire Cleopatra? — January 10, 2019

A Staffordshire Cleopatra?

No time for a proper post this week, so here’s a review of some works by Havergal Brian. Including an extended choral work, The Vision of Cleopatra.

On record: ENO Chorus & Orchestra / Martyn Brabbins – Havergal Brian: The Vision of Cleopatra (Epoch)

Brian is associated with Staffordshire in general and the region around Stoke on Trent in particular. During his long life, his compositions were generally ignored and hardly ever performed. The situation has improved somewhat since his death.

Here’s another review from the same site, this time for two of his many symphonies:

On record: Havergal Brian – Symphonies 2 & 14 (Dutton Epoch)

Back to normal for the next post.

Voices In Concert — November 29, 2018

Voices In Concert

At the end of this special, memorial November, I’m taking the opportunity to revisit the concert we described at the start of the month. In this post, we hear from people involved in the performance, and what the concert meant to them. My thanks go to Jane Eminson for doing the hard work, and Jonathan Schöps, photographer with the Jena University Choir for allowing his images to be reproduced here. All photos used in this post are © 2018, Jonathan Schöps Fotografie.

balcony audience
The view from the balcony. (Jonathan Schoeps)

From the Audience:

What an amazingly wonderful event! The choirs were spectacular and seemed as if they’d been singing together forever, stunning pianissimos and magnificent high sopranos. Soloists very good quality (better than many Proms performances!). It must have been an enormous feat of organisation, persuasion and stamina. We are so glad we came and it was very moving to be surrounded by French and German nationals as well. We discussed everything from Brexit to War Remembrance, and the roots of World War 2 in the Versailles Treaty.
Liz and Robert Chalmers

Continue reading

Grant Us Peace! — November 15, 2018

Grant Us Peace!

Once again, we hand over the blog to another musical organisation. This time it’s Birmingham Festival Choral Society and their contribution to the Armistice commemorations. We met members of BFCS in an earlier post which talked about a weekend away rehearsing. As this post goes out, it falls between two concerts which BFCS and Nottinghamshire-based Ryton Chorale are presenting together on the theme of war and peace. The two works are Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light, and Ralph Vaughan William’s Dona Nobis Pacem.

Poppies in Flanders
Poppies flowering in Flanders

I know the VW well, having played in two performances, but I don’t know the Goodall. Both composers take ancient Latin texts from the church liturgy and add new words. In VW’s case, more poetry from his beloved Walt Whitman, and the Old Testament; and from various sources for Goodall’s work.

Here’s a piece from one of BFCS’ singers about her experience of performing in the first concert.

Continue reading

After The Guns Fell Silent — November 1, 2018

After The Guns Fell Silent

Frank_Boggs,_Armistice_Day,_Paris,_1918
Armistice Day, Paris, 1918 (Artist: Frank Boggs) Public domain image from Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By some quirk of the calendar, Remembrance Sunday this year here in the UK is actually the eleventh of November. How propitious that it occurs at the same time as the end of the World War I centenary commemorations? Many musical organisations are seeking to mark the conclusion of the Great War a century ago during this November. One such is Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra. On this occasion, we hand over the blog to a guest writer (as we do every now and again). Here is Jane Eminson talking about the fruition of a great, multi-national, musical project.

St Matthew's Walsall
St Matthew’s Church, Walsall

If you hear the ‘Ode to Joy’ coming from a house near you over the next week, it’s probably one of nearly 400 participants in the Remembrance and Reconciliation concert doing their practice. Continue reading

French Impressions — August 18, 2018

French Impressions

In lieu of last week’s absent offering, here’s a couple of links to posts which coincidentally both take a look at French romantic / impressionistic music. Enjoy.

Prom 44 – CBSO Choruses & Orchestra / Ludovic Morlot – Debussy, Ravel & Lili Boulanger

The CBSO and their choruses are of course one of Birmingham’s musical jewels, and this is a review of their performance at the BBC Proms. Also I have a very soft spot for the music of Lili Boulanger.

https://musicb3.wordpress.com/2018/08/17/creating-a-general-impression-debussy-and-lapres-midi-dun-faune/

This is the blog of Cambridge University Library’s impressive music collections.

The blog will return to normal next Thursday. See you then!

‘So extraordinary a spectacle’ – the 1784 Handel commemoration — June 28, 2018

‘So extraordinary a spectacle’ – the 1784 Handel commemoration

Handel has always held an especially prominent position in British classical music. Yes, his fortune has fluctuated over the years, but The Messiah , if nothing else, has kept him in the public eye.

Burney - View of the orchestra and performers ...
The apparently vertiginous staging for the performers in Westminster Abbey.

In 1784, it was decided to hold a series of three commemorative concerts in April for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Handel’s death. What we’re going to be looking at is the record of the concerts produced by the music historian, Charles Burney which was published the following year. Continue reading

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