Gillian Moore: We really wanted to kick off the season with the most exciting names in classical music we could think of and it’s amazing the different names we have coming here.
In addition to Vladimir Jurowski, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Vladimir Ashkenazy, there’s Ed Gardner, Elim Chan, Susanna Malkki, Nicola Benedetti, Jess Gillam, Alice Sara Ott, Pekka Kuusisto, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Barbara Hannigan, Tamara Stefanovich, Pierre Laurent-Aimard, Hannah Mason. I think all of these people are changing the landscape in music helping us imagine the future of classical music.
I’m really excited that we make such a statement at the beginning of our season with a focus on orchestras, with a focus on great artists who are not all at the younger end - it’s not all about youth, it’s about attitude, it’s about what you do with your talent. Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Pekka Kuusisto (both in Music From Bach to Birtwistle), and Barbara Hannigan (One Orchestra, Four Great Conductors) they have reinvented concerts and performances in such an exciting way.
We’re looking at different interpretations of what an orchestra can be and one of them very excitingly is the British Paraorchestra which is Charles Hazelwood’s orchestra of world class professional musicians with disability and we’re really delighted to welcome them back with Tones, Drones and Arpeggios.
Gillian Moore: In 2020 Beethoven is 250 and there are set to be celebrations happening all over the world, including here, as the London Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates Beethoven’s symphonies with Vladimir Jurowski (The Undiscovered Beethoven).
In Beethoven: 1808 Reconstructed Essa Pekka Salonen is going to reconstruct the famous Beethoven marathon concert of 1808, which featured the Fifth symphony, the Sixth symphony, the Fourth Piano Concerto, and the Choral Fantasy. They were there half the day and all of the night. We also have our Artist-in-Residence Pierre-Laurent Aimard offering Beethoven and the avant-garde (Beethoven & Ives).
And for a different take, we have Marin Alsop and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (Beyond Beethoven 9). Every two years Marin Alsop joins us to reinvent a classical piece in a way that has mass participation at its core. This year she is leading a global project, a mass performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, across Johannesburg, Cape Town, Auckland, Sydney, Carnegie Hall, Baltimore, Sao Paulo and here. But she’s also adding interstitial music from other musical genres in between the movements, because she feels Beethoven’s Ninth is this huge canvas that can really stand being reinvented.
Of course there’s going to be opportunities to hear it in the original version, but I think this is a really legitimate thing to do with such a symbolic piece as this piece; add new stuff to it and really run with it. We hope there’ll be various contemporary musicians form a variety of genres that will be involved with this project too.
Hayward x Music: Bridget Riley
Gillian Moore: Bridget Riley was the first contemporary painter to have a full-scale retrospective at Hayward Gallery when it opened. She’s been involved in the gallery throughout its fifty year history, so we’re honouring her with this huge retrospective exhibition at Hayward Gallery and we felt that called for music.
I think the most obvious, but not necessarily accurate thing to associate with her work would be what we loosely term minimalist, but neither Riley, nor any of the composers we refer to as minimalist recognise that title in their own work. However, there is definitely something about repetition, about contemplative state, about the idea of repetition changing your perception that Riley’s painting has in common with composers such as Steve Reich, Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, and Eliane Radigue.
A real highlight of this Hayward Gallery crossover is a performance of one of the great masterpieces of mid 20th century music, Steve Reich’s Drumming. In 1972, when Reich was pretty much unknown in this country, and the discipline of a percussion ensemble didn’t really exist, the UK premiere of Drumming took place in the Hayward Gallery.
Reich came over with his own musicians, including Russ Hartenberger, and with the help of the minimalist composer Michael Nyman performed with a group of experimental composers, including Nyman himself, Gavin Bryars, Cornelius Cardew, Howard Skempton. They may not have been the best percussionists in the world, and I’m not sure what that performance would have sounded like, but they were very committed to that style of music.
Ben Larpent: In addition to Drumming we have two performances by the young Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe who last year won the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist of the Year Award. He’s playing a programme inspired by the works of Riley that range from 17th century lute manuscripts, right through to Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint, concluding with the extraordinary work by Julia Wolfe called Lad which was originally scored for nine bagpipes, but has been arranged for the solo electric guitar.
We also have the London Contemporary Orchestra performing in Queen Elizabeth Hall; a programme that will include Rushes the enormous forty-five minute work by Michael Gordon, of Bang on a Can fame, for seven bassoons. During which images created by artificial intelligence will be projected onto a specially commissioned cube. And there’s Deep Minimalism 2.0, curated by associate cellist Oliver Coates, this will include a weekend of music, drone ambient music by the likes of John Luther Adams, Eliane Radigue.
Ravi Shankar 100
Gillian Moore: Ravi Shankar is more than a musician, he’s a world figure. He was a household name when I was growing up, and until he came along Indian Classical Music was not really known popularly in the UK. But he changed that through his links with The Beatles, his links with popular culture, and his links with film music.
His daughter Anoushka Shankar is a phenomenal artist within her own right, with a wide following, and she’s now one of our Artists in Residence. As well as bringing some of her own performances to Southbank Centre, she’s also going to be curating an evening with Ravi Shankar and friends. And we have the London Philharmonic Orchestra performing Shankar’s opera Sukanya.
Hyperfutures - the complete Varèse
Gillian Moore: Conducted by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is the phenomenal young music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and she’s got a passion for Edgar Varèse. Varèse is all about sound, and we’re going to curate a weekend in which the complete works of Varèse, beloved by jazz musicians, obsessively beloved by Frank Zappa, and many other contemporary musicians, will be presented here in its entirety.
Ben Larpent: We have a performance of Peter Grimes with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra who performed their semi-staged version of the work at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017, with five star reviews all round. Their star-studded cast includes Stuart Skelton who’s performed the role all over the world, Erin Wall, Roddy Williams, Sue Bickley, James Gilchrist, and Neil Davies to name but a few. It also has Ed Gardiner, Musical Director of the orchestra, conducting.
Gillian Moore: Peter Grimes is the opera which invented British opera after the war. British Opera culture didn’t really exist until May 1945 when this Opera was put on at Sadlers Wells, a month after VE Day, so it’s a really important piece, and it’s going to be stunning.
We have the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra celebrating Michael Tilson Thomas' final season as their Musical Director. Tilson Thomas is a really phenomenal figure, in American musical life, in global musical life. He is an A-List conductor, he is a composer, he is an educator, he is au fait with popular culture. He’s a curator and programmer and he’s really brought the vibe of all these things to San Francisco Symphony.
The concert is going to be classic Tilson Thomas territory I’d say, he’s known for Mahler, and Mahler 6 happens to be my favourite Mahler Symphony; it’s got the whole Mahler world in a single symphony. I think that’s going to be a great performance.