For Birmingham, collaboration has shaped a two-weekend Debussy festival marking the centenary of his death. The idea came from Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, with concerts and talks across the city devoted to aspects of the revolutionary French composer’s work. Dipping into three events last weekend, I heard Gražinytė-Tyla conduct her own orchestra and the CBSO Youth Chorus, with Birmingham University Singers, in an unusual programme including the Trois chansons de Charles d’Orléans and the luscious cantata La Damoiselle élue.
Earlier, CBSO players gave a stirring chamber concert – in itself rich enough fare for any day – at the CBSO Centre: Debussy’s string quartet; the weirdly sexy Chansons de Bilitis; and the sonata for flute, viola and harp (special praise for Marie-Christine Zupancic, star principal flute, prominent that evening in Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune). The chance, too, to hear students play in the stunning, linenfold-panelled recital hall at the new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire nearby, was a bonus. In the RBC, which also has a concert hall and jazz club, the city has another impressive venue.