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CULTURE : Classical Preview: Rare visit for top Italian pianist.

Byline: Christopher Morley

Visits to this country by the veteran Italian pianist Aldo Ciccolini are increasingly rare. His only appearance at Symphony Hall was a few years ago, when he held a large audience breathless with a programme which concluded with a probing, earth-stopping account of Schubert's otherworldly late B-flat Sonata.

On Sunday afternoon he returns to the venue for a recital of Chopin (two Nocturnes and the B minor Sonata), Ravel (the haunting Valses Nobles et Sentimentales and the Four Spanish Pieces by Manuel de Falla (3pm).

Tonight at Symphony Hall, meanwhile, Gabriel Chmura conducts the Polish National Radio Orchestra in an attractive programme of "Fantasy Pictures": Tchaikovsky's passionate Romeo and Juliet, Sibelius's atmospheric Swan of Tuonela with its plaintive cor anglais solo, and Mussorgsky's vivid Pictures at an Exhibition. More abstract music comes at the heart of the evening with the much-loved G minor Violin Concerto by Max Bruch, the much-admired Priya Mitchell as soloist (7.30pm).

Mario Venzago has proved a popular guest on the CBSO podium in the past, and has recently been appointed principal conductor of Sweden's Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. On Tuesday he appears again with the CBSO at Symphony Hall for a programme of Weber (Der Freischutz Overture) and Brahms (the heroic First Symphony), with Alexander Melnikov the soloist in Beethoven's charmingly Mozartean B-flat Piano Concerto (7.30pm, all details of Symphony Hall concerts on 0121 780 3333).

The CBSO Centre in Berkley Street is a mecca for lovers of contemporary music this weekend, beginning tomorrow when the Chameleon Ensemble gives the premiere of Wish You Were Here< ("Five Postcards for Wind Quintet") by the highly-regarded and highly-accessible Birmingham composer Ivor McGregor, flanked by wind masterpieces by Mozart (7.30pm).

On Saturday Birmingham Contemporary Music Group opens its new season with a programme built around the extraordinary talents of the Hungarian singer Katalin Karolyi. There is also a strong percussion flavour to the evening, which includes works by Donatoni, Kagel, Xenakis, Ligeti and John Woolrich, who gives a pre-concert talk at 6.30pm. Dominic Muldowney conducts (7.30pm, CBSO Centre details on 0121 767 4050).

Also on Saturday Birmingham Chamber Music Society launches its 54th season (and a determined drive for new members, with an attractive family package - details on 01384 395849) with an enticing programme of music by Haydn and Schubert from the Osiris Piano Trio. Soprano Charlotte Riedijk joins the instrumentalists for Shostakovich's Seven Romances after poems by Alexander Blok (Adrian Boult Hall, 7.30pm; details on 0121 303 2323).

Further afield, Charlton Church near Pershore hosts a performance of Schubert's tremendous song-cycle Die Schone Mullerin from the highly-regarded tenor James Gilchrist, accompanied by pianist Anna Tilbrook. This is the latest in a series of chamber music concerts and song recitals which has been running here since 1998, with the occasional larger-scale performance and hopes for the venue's first chamber opera in 2006 (7.30pm, details on 01386 861139).

And at the other end of the region, Abbotsholme School at Rocester, near Uttoxeter presents a recital from Stephen Hough on Sunday afternoon. This accolade-winning pianist plays the febrile, intense Berg Sonata, Schubert's G major Sonata, and works by Granados, Albeniz, Debussy, Ravel and Moszkowski (3pm, details on 01543 263304).

The tremendously hard-working Warwick Arts Society promotes two attractive programmes this week. Tomorrow night it brings the Martinu Quartet to Leamington's Royal Pump Rooms, with string quartets by Haydn, Dvorak and Martinu himself (7.30pm), and on Tuesday the acclaimed French vocal group L'Ensemble Europeen William Byrd presents a programme of 17th-century music at St Mary's Church in Warwick (7.30pm, details of both concerts on 01926 496277).

Staying with Leamington, the Royal Spa Centre is the latest stop-off point on Saturday for Mid Wales Opera's best-selling tour of Carmen (7.30pm, details on 01926 334418).

Finally, to return to Birmingham and two of its universities, UCE Birmingham Conservatoire (as we must now call it) has saxophonist Andy Tweed launching his debut CD with a recital accompanied by Jonathan Taylor on Monday evening (7.30pm, details on 0121 303 2323), while the Barber Institute at the University of Birmingham hosts London Brass on Wednesday (7.30pm, details on 0121 414 7333


Aldo Ciccolini returns to Symphony Hall on Sunday to play a programme of Chopin, Ravel and de Falla
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 6, 2005
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