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Waterfront Festival

Music Review: The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at Royal Concert Hall

10 March 22 words: Kevin Stanley

An evening of live music featuring Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky is the perfect antidote to the worries of the world...

I’d long desired to watch the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra perform, so I was very pleased that they visited Nottingham. Tonight, they rightly condemn the bloodshed in Ukraine happening in Putin's name, dedicating their performance to the people of both Ukraine and Russia, in a demonstration of peace and comradeship. 

Lithuanian Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is just 35 years of age and is currently the musical director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and tonight she is the conductor. What an absolute pleasure to see an extremely talented young woman leading such a fine and celebrated orchestra. She conducts with visible passion, her arms sweeping in enormous arcs; she uses her entire physicality to guide her ensemble. It's also good to see Romanian Lead Violinist Eugene Tzikindelean's stunning style, and to hear him play. Of course, the entire orchestra is extraordinary.

The programme for the evening features Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture: Romeo and Juliet. Tchaikovsky took great inspiration from the works of William Shakespeare and, although this piece of work was not well received upon its World Premiere in March of 1870, it is now, 150 years later, met by rapturous applause from an appreciative Nottingham audience. At times, the piece is brooding, at other times it reaches climactic crescendos, before a melancholic ending - all of which perfectly captures the joy, romance and ultimately the heartbreak of The Bard's story.

Music transcends language, crosses borders effortlessly and feeds us emotionally and spiritually

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the Moldovan-Austrian-Swiss solo violinist also made a very welcome appearance playing Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto. Wearing a beautiful dress traditional to her homeland, she performs beyond admirably. In a stunning display of skill and dexterity, she achieves what Stravinsky had thought impossible when composing this piece - he had considered it ‘unplayable’. Kopatchinskaja’s treatment of the piece sends shivers and tingles down the spine. She is bursting with energy, playful and smiling throughout, noticeably enjoying her work. What a tremendous performance. She also plays a piece of her own composition, which is very well received.

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 rounds out an amazing evening of live music. At a time when war is being waged in Europe, when we are still learning to live in a world that has been ravaged by COVID, when we have for so long been unable to experience live music, getting out to see such a fantastic orchestra, filled with both British and European players so full of talent and verve, makes me both grateful and emotional. It fills me with hope for a better planet. Music transcends language, crosses borders effortlessly and feeds us emotionally and spiritually. We should never underestimate its power.

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