Looking ahead to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Making a very welcome return in January after too long an absence will be the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under its new Musical Director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

With over 100 to choose from, the CBSO has chosen to start its lively programme with the middle one of Haydn’s so-called ‘day symphonies’ 6, 7 & 8.

In bridging the gap between classicism and Romanticism Haydn here, in his highlighting of individual instruments, reflects more the elements of the chamber ensemble than the full-blown Romantic symphonic tradition.

The symphony, No. 7 and christened the ‘noon’ (‘Le Midi’), makes for a bright opening to the concert reminding us of Haydn’s remark that if God had given him a cheerful heart ‘he will forgive me for serving him cheerfully.’

The ‘Scottish Fantasy’ brings multi-award winning violinist Ning Feng to perform this, one of Bruch’s still frequently played compositions, each of its four movements based on a Scottish folksong.

Bruch, like many of his predecessors, came under the spell of Scottish folklore, a lot of it largely invented by Sir Walter Scott but directly in line of descent from the cultural primitivism explored by the Romantics and contributed to by figures such as Robert Burns and Scott himself as they collected ancient songs.

This is a piece guaranteed to make Scottish exiles yearn for their homeland, and requires the ultimate virtuosity from a violinist which, to judge by his track record, we can expect Ning Feng to display. It is a beautiful work and leads interestingly into the ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ by Bartok, himself a great admirer of folk music.

The five movements of Bartok’s work present a spectrum of moods ranging from the haunting to the playful and demonstrate engagingly a full range of instrumentation.

In fact the fast and furious Finale, a sort of moto perpetuo, anticipates the fugal last movement of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ written only 2 years later, and another influence of Bartok can be detected perhaps in the music of John Williams (e.g. in his cinematic scores for the ‘Home Alone’ movies).

Conducting will be Musical Director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, a position she’s held for just over a year. Mirga hails from Vilnius in Lithuania and comes from a distinguished family of musicians, mainly in the choral tradition to which she herself belongs.

She is now familiar to many since her inaugural appearance at the Proms last year, and the photograph of her in the current Corn Exchange Classical Music Series booklet depicts her in   characteristic dynamic mode.

It is obvious that Mirga lives and breathes music with her very soul and being.

Yes, she knows that we all have difficulty in pronouncing her name, but it’s one we’re going to be mastering as this young maestro who follows in the distinguished footsteps of Sir Simon Rattle heads for similar achievements. So on no account miss this concert. Her electrifying presence will be sure to blaze like a meteor in the darkness of a Cambridge winter night.


The concert takes place on Thursday 18th January and to book tickets for the CBSO concert click HERE