Full programme

  • Elgar, Cockaigne  (13mins)
  • Mozart, Violin Concerto No.5  (31mins)
  • Sibelius, Symphony No.5  (30mins)

Performers

  • Headshot of Sakari Oramo

    Sakari Oramo

    Conductor
  • Headshot of violinist Daishin Kashimoto

    Daishin Kashimoto

    Violin

Introduction

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Welcome to the annual fundraising concert of the CBSO Benevolent Fund.

On behalf of the committee and the orchestra, I wish to welcome you to our annual concert! We are thrilled you are able to join us today to celebrate all things CBSO - players and staff, both past and present, who have given so much to the musical life of Birmingham. Our concert is singular within the CBSO season, for this is the one day in the year that the players, conductor and soloists ALL give their services free of charge, as do the staff and management in the organisation of the event. All profit we make from this concert goes right back into the Fund.

We are so grateful to past Music Director, and dear friend of the orchestra, Sakari Oramo, who will be bringing his signature elegance to Sibelius’ Symphony No.5, alongside Elgar’s musical portrait of London: The Cockaigne Overture to open our concert. Before the interval, we also welcome the marvellous Daishin Kashimoto to play Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto. We are certain this will be a tremendous concert.

The Benevolent Fund was set up by the members of the orchestra to provide financial assistance and support to active and retired members in times of need. It also contributes towards treatments and therapies which enable members to continue to perform at elite levels. This includes anything from physiotherapy and massage to counselling and performance coaching.

Within the context of a cost of living crisis, financial assistance and access to medical help is more important than ever to our members. Our ‘Fitness to Work’ Scheme, set up last year, still brings regular specialists into our workplace throughout our schedule. We are equally fortunate to be able to bring practitioners with us on international tours, giving members vital relief during physically demanding patches of work.

The CBSO Benevolent Fund could not survive without the generosity of our donors, and the committee would like to thank everyone who has given to the Fund since our last concert. In particular, the incredible donations from the Justham Trust, Muntz Trust and the estate of the late Beresford King-Smith have been hugely beneficial and deeply appreciated.

The Fund invests all monies received from subscriptions, donations and profits from our annual concert to ensure its longevity. Should you wish to make a further donation - either in the form of a deed of covenant, regular standing order, or a legacy - please write to: The Treasurer, CBSO Benevolent Fund, CBSO Centre, Berkley Street, Birmingham B1 2LF.

Further details on how to donate can be found at www.cbsobenfund.org.uk.

We wish you a delightful and memorable evening.

Georgia Hannant, Chair of the Committee, CBSO Benevolent Fund

Thank You

The Benevolent Fund Committee is extremely grateful to Sakari Oramo and Daishin Kashimoto for giving their time and musical energies for this evening’s concert. We acknowledge their generosity in giving their services free of charge and ensuring that our concert will be a great success. On behalf of all our members, we would like to sincerely thank them. Alongside the generous assistance of the CBSO management and staff of Symphony Hall, we know it will be a very special occasion.

On behalf of all the players, we would also like to thank the Fund’s Medical Adviser Dr Chris Boyson for his medical support and advice throughout this year. Our thanks also go to our physiotherapy consultant, Sarah Upjohn, whose expertise and advice continues to enable our Fitness to Work Scheme to flourish. We’re eternally grateful to our sport massage therapists Alison Hunt and Ben Levine, and another of our physiotherapists, Kiran Franklin, whose combined knowledge and treatments have greatly improved the working lives of our players and staff.

We must thank our wonderful Trustees: Sangeeta Ambegaokar, Jane Clarke, Mark Devin, Robin Daniels, and Jon Lloyd, who have brought their wide-ranging expertise, wisdom and support to successfully run the Fund for another year, and deftly navigate us through complex financial times.

Thanks also go to our financial adviser Simon Woolf at Evelyn Partners for his help towards fulfilling our financial objectives, together with our accountant John Taheny of Bissell & Brown, and our legal advisor Nick Makin.

Finally, our Committee of Management volunteer their free time to maintain the operations of the Fund. Our most recent line-up includes Vice-Chair Maddi Belsey-Day, Treasurer Aidy Spillett, Secretary Helen Benson and Medical Co-ordinator Rachael Pankhurst. The running of the Fund is a big commitment and responsibility, which they handle with grace and generosity. They are a fantastic team of people and I am personally grateful to each of them for their dedication and commitment to our members.

Georgia Hannant, Chair of the Committee, CBSO Benevolent Fund


Programme Notes

This evening, violinist Daishin Kashimoto and conductor Sakari Oramo join the CBSO for a concert which includes Mozart's best-loved violin concerto and Sibelius’ stunning 5th Symphony.

The CBSO Benevolent Fund is a registered friendly society no. 735F and all proceeds from this concert will go towards supporting former and current CBSO players and staff.

Overture Cockaigne (In London Town), Op.40

Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

First: that name. The mythical Land of Cockaigne was the place of poor men’s dreams – a land of fun and plenty, where hog roasts wandered the streets ready-to-eat and the roads were paved with pastry and barley-sugar. Naturally, the citizens of Victorian London saw this as a fitting description of their own city – where could Cockaigne be, but the Land of the Cockneys?

Elgar was no Londoner, but he spent the peak years of his career in London and Severn House, his big rented home in Hampstead, was a source of great pride to this Worcestershire lad made good. “Stout and steaky” was his description of his overture Cockaigne, written in the spring of 1901: “Honest, healthy, humorous, and strong but not vulgar". It’s a series of musical scenes from London life, woven into a tight-knit and gloriously colourful musical tapestry. Elgar sets out with tongue firmly in cheek - a jokey, chuckling tune low in the orchestra - but it’s followed by something far more distinguished (Elgar marked it nobilmente – nobly); perhaps a musical portrait of the City itself.

There’s a quiet interlude – like the leafy heart of a Georgian square - and then a sudden, giddy swirl of excitement as a military band swaggers past, breastplates gleaming in a welter of trumpets and cymbals. Another marching band, shabbier and rather melancholy, follows on its heels, and then Elgar mixes all his impressions together in the bustling, crowded clamour of the city’s streets. Finally the military band returns in all its splendour, the noble “City” theme striding proudly behind as the organ swells – but as ever, it’s the wit of the cockneys that gets the last word.

Violin Concerto No.5 in A, L.219 (Turkish)

I. Allegro aperto
II. Adagio
III. Rondeau: Tempo di menuetto

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 –1791)

Violin-playing was the Mozart family business. In the year of Wolfgang's birth, his father Leopold had published his Elementary Violin-School - the definitive 18th-century violin textbook - and in November 1770, two months before his 15th birthday, Wolfgang was appointed leader of the Salzburg Court Orchestra. He certainly knew exactly how to get the best out of a violin: in 1777 he wrote to his father from Augsburg that he'd performed one of his own concertos and "it went like oil. Everyone praised my beautiful pure tone". "It went like oil" – he always had a way with words, as well as notes. He’d called a favourite childhood fiddle his "butter violin", because of its soft, mellow sound.

So with his Fifth violin concerto, completed five days before Christmas in 1775, the 19- year old Wolfgang was entirely on top of his game. Take the opening. In a well-bred classical concerto, the orchestra should introduce a variety of melodies, stop, and then hand those same themes politely over to the soloist. Mozart begins with a broad opening theme in the up-to-the-minute "Mannheim" style, presents his second theme - then cuts away to reveal the soloist, as if from afar, playing in a completely different style and speed.

A technicality, true, but it's worth mentioning, because Mozart's style is so effortless that it's easy to miss what he's actually up to. And after the serene, tenderly flowing Adagio, the games resume. The finale begins as the politest of classical Minuets - then turns, without warning, into a stamping Hungarian dance in (once again) an utterly different style and speed. (18th century Austrians were slightly vague about Eastern European geography; hence the concerto's nickname). And after this astonishing adventure in world music, Mozart slips discreetly back into the Minuet as if nothing had ever happened. A deliciously deadpan end to his teenage fling with violin and orchestra.

Symphony No.5 in E Flat, Op.82

I. Tempo molto moderato – Allegro moderato
II. Andante mosso, quasi allegretto
III. Allegro molto

Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1956)

Sibelius began his Fifth Symphony in the summer of 1914. It had been three years since the premiere of his Fourth Symphony in April 1911, and his drinking and financial problems were now under some sort of control. But a commission from the Finnish government for a work to celebrate his own fiftieth birthday was both a compliment and a heavy burden – especially when set against the bleak political situation (Finland, as part of the Russian Empire, was an unwilling participant in the First World War). Sibelius wrestled furiously with his ideas. “Spent the evening with the symphony” he wrote in his diary in April 1915. “It is as if God had thrown down mosaic pieces from the floor of the heavens and asked me to put them back together”. A first version of the symphony, in four movements, was premiered in Helsinki on 8th December 1915.

But Sibelius remained dissatisfied, and his children tiptoed around the family home. “Papa is in a dreadful hurry with his Fifth Symphony” commented his 12-year old daughter Katarina. “Everything here is upside down…Papa is up every night until five in the morning and then stays in bed, and pretends he is working there until half past noon”. It would take another four years of revision before he would conduct the first performance of the symphony as we know it today on 24th November 1919.

And yet…”God opens his door for a moment, and his orchestra is playing Sym. 5” wrote Sibelius in his diary as early as September 1914. Nature affected Sibelius profoundly, and one of the most famous anecdotes about the symphony concerns the great swinging horn motif that introduces the symphony’s expansive closing theme. It happened on 21 April 1915, and Sibelius described what he saw in his diary:

Just before ten to eleven saw sixteen swans. One of the greatest experiences in life. Oh God, what beauty: they circled over me for a long time. Disappeared into the sun like a silver ribbon, which glittered from time to time […] The Fifth Symphony’s finale theme. The trumpet will bind it together ….

So over a gentle drumroll, the horns sing a simple call, rising and falling. You can hear what follows as musical nature-painting at its freshest, or as a symphonic movement as tautly and logically argued as anything since Beethoven (of course, it’s both). As the music pulls itself up from shadow to the most majestic climax yet, the pulse quickens and lightens, and trumpets shout in triumph as Sibelius accelerates into what was originally the scherzo of his symphony, now the glittering coda to a single arc of music which has imperceptibly acquired the momentum and velocity of a planet in orbit.

A quiet hymn introduces the main theme of the second movement: played pizzicato (plucked) by cellos and violas, then taken up by woodwinds. The music finds its own pace, its own moods of calm, melancholy and even hilarity, and when it’s said what it has to say, it simply stops. The finale buzzes into existence in a whirlwind of strings; dark shapes start to rise quietly through the music, and then with a single stroke Sibelius introduces the noble horn theme that came into his mind when he saw those swans – itself merely the accompaniment to the long, singing, sighing melody that will crown the whole symphony.

When that moment comes, the “Swan Hymn” rears up again, this time (as Sibelius planned) blazing with trumpets. The melody grinds against it like a tectonic plate. But if this is a symphony born from nature, it’s also a product of the human mind and the human spirit: and in six massive final chords, standing amidst an even vaster silence, Sibelius gives us one of music’s mightiest affirmations of just how great a load they can bear.

© Richard Bratby


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