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EMI & LiveHereNow capture Berlioz event live in U.K.

When the combined forces of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, take over Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on October 14 and 15, 2009, their performances of Hector Berlioz’s spectacular Requiem (Grande messe des morts, Op. 5), will be uniquely documented.  In a first for EMI Classics, through the LiveHereNow initiative and in partnership with the CBSO, Mariinsky Theatre, and Town Hall & Symphony Hall, Birmingham, the event will be recorded and a strictly limited edition of CDs burned per night, available to those who purchase at the event itself.  The CDs – to be prepared in the foyers of Symphony Hall – will be hot off the presses within minutes of the end of the concert, and ready for audience members to experience once again what promises to be the musical event of a lifetime.

Stephen Johns, Head of Artists & Repertoire for EMI Classics, said, “Through history, recordings have endeavored to capture the essence of the live experience and make it available for listeners to appreciate again and again.  EMI Classics, who have been making recordings for over 112 years, are pleased to announce their first live recording to be available to the audience on CD immediately following the recorded performance.  For such an innovative project, the recording is of a suitable scale – Berlioz’s monumental Requiem (Grande messe des morts, Op. 5), written for large chorus, orchestra, and four additional brass groups – the latter, in this case, spread around Birmingham’s justifiably famous auditorium.  The unique nature of this project is heightened by the one-off combination of performers – the joint orchestras and choirs of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, conducted by one of the great musicians of our time, Valery Gergiev.”

Berlioz composed the Requiem to commemorate the fallen heroes of the French Revolution of 1830.  In addition to being a Grande messe des morts, the work can be heard as a celebration of the glory of the French nation.  Through his Requiem, Berlioz, who was not a religious man, wished to create a communal experience akin to the Day of Judgement in which each listener would be “shaken to the depths of his soul.”  The composer achieved this through his magnificent score and his use of massive choral and orchestral forces, including four brass bands and extra percussion intended to fill the immense open spaces of Paris’s Cathedral of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides.  In a footnote to the manuscript, Berlioz wrote: “The number [of performers] indicated is only relative.  If space permits, the chorus may be doubled or tripled and the orchestra be proportionally increased.”  Four hundred performers took part in the premiere of Berlioz’s Requiem in December 1837.  The joint orchestral and choral forces in Birmingham next week will total around 380. 

Valery Gergiev’s inspired leadership as Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre since 1988 has taken Mariinsky ensembles to 45 countries, presenting the best of Russian opera and ballets as well as the complete Shostakovich and Prokofiev symphonies and Wagner’s Ring cycle, and has brought universal acclaim to this legendary institution.  Presently Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev is also founder and Artistic Director of the “Stars of the White Nights” Festival and New Horizons Festival in St. Petersburg, the Moscow Easter Festival, the Gergiev Rotterdam Festival, the Mikkeli International Festival, and the Red Sea Festival in Eilat, Israel.  In 1998, Valery Gergiev succeeded Sir Georg Solti as conductor of the World Orchestra for Peace.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is a world-renowned orchestra at the heart of the U.K. that has been celebrating music and musical talent for nearly 100 years.  The arrival of Andris Nelsons as its Music Director in 2008 has seen the orchestra go from strength to strength with record ticket sales and huge acclaim both in the U.K. and internationally.  CBSO’s “Ignite” program inspires individuals to sing, play, compose, and experience music and includes five talented and renowned choruses, a youth orchestra, and an education and outreach program that reaches over 50,000 people regionally each year.  The CBSO is a charity that is core-funded by the Arts Council of England and Birmingham City Council.  The CBSO was one of the first U.K. orchestras to invite Valery Gergiev to perform with them; he made his debut with the orchestra in 1989, conducting several concerts over subsequent seasons in Birmingham’s Town Hall, and visiting Symphony Hall before its public opening.

The Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra enjoys a long and distinguished history as one of the oldest musical institutions in Russia.  Founded in the 18th century during the reign of Peter the Great and housed in St. Petersburg’s famed Mariinsky Theatre since 1860, the Orchestra entered its “golden age” in the second half of the 19th century under the musical direction of Eduard Nápravník, who single-handedly ruled the Theatre for more than half a century (1863-1916).  The Mariinsky Theatre was also the birthplace of numerous operas and ballets regarded as masterpieces of the 19th and 20th centuries, having presented world premieres of works by Glinka, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Khachaturian.  Renamed the “Kirov” during the Soviet era, the Orchestra continued to maintain its high artistic standards under the leadership of Yevgeny Mravinsky and Yuri Temirkanov.  Now, in the post-Glasnost era, the Theatre has reclaimed the Mariinsky name and under the leadership of Valery Gergiev has forged important relationships with the world’s greatest opera houses and concert halls as it has entered its second “golden age.”  In addition to touring extensively with the Opera and Ballet Companies, the Orchestra has performed throughout the world to international acclaim, and has been acknowledged in the London press as one of the ten best orchestras in the world.

The performances in Birmingham, which will also feature Prokofiev’s Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, form the centerpiece of the Mariinsky Opera’s October 2009 U.K. tour, managed by the Mariinsky Theatre Trust.  The tour will also include three concerts in the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff; the opening concert of the 2009 Belfast International Festival; and the opening concert of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s International Classical Concert series.  The Mariinsky Theatre Trust is a U.K. charity established in 1993 with Valery Gergiev.  As well as supporting Mariinsky projects in Russia, the Trust plays an active role in facilitating performances of the Mariinsky’s most innovative projects and repertoire in the U.K.

With its world-famous acoustics and unique design, Symphony Hall, Birmingham is one of the few concert halls in the U.K. capable of presenting a project the size of Berlioz’s Requiem.  The performances on October 14 and 15 will be two of the biggest concerts ever presented on its stage.  Symphony Hall, which is promoting and funding this unique pair of concerts, has a long-standing relationship with Maestro Gergiev and his Mariinsky company, dating back to 1991 when the Kirov (as it was then known) became the first opera company to perform in the newly-opened concert hall. 

The concerts on October 14 and 15, 2009 represent an Anglo-Russian cultural venture on an unprecedented scale.  Over a period of four days of rehearsals and performances, British and Russian musicians will work closely together with conductor Valery Gergiev to form one huge international ensemble.  Stephen Maddock, Chief Executive of the CBSO, said: We are thrilled to be taking part in what will be one of the greatest orchestral spectacles of its kind, in the acoustics of one of the best concert halls in the world.  Gergiev has an energy that captures the imagination of the audience: we will certainly be in for a treat.”  Andrew Jowett, Director of Town Hall & Symphony Hall, said, “During Symphony Hall’s long association with the Mariinsky company we have enjoyed some very memorable concerts.  However, this new opportunity, which brings together Gergiev’s great opera company with Birmingham’s own celebrated symphony orchestra and chorus, may yet surpass them!”



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© 21C Media Group, October 2009

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