Classical music

Philip Glass - The Bowie symphonies

Part of Classical Season 2018/19

Attend the European premiere of Philip Glass’ Symphony No.12, a tribute to the chameleon genius of pop mastermind David Bowie.

It’s performed alongside his First and Fourth symphonies by trail-blazing new music ensemble the London Contemporary Orchestra, innovative organist James McVinnie and Grammy award winning singer Angelique Kidjo.

Philip Glass’ Symphony No.1 and Symphony No.4 reimagine the first two albums of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, Low and Heroes, as classical works.

Bowie had moved to the East German capital in 1976, where he joined forces with Brian Eno over a triptych of albums to create a more experimental sound, bringing together aleatoric techniques (involving elements of chance), Krautrock influences and synthesizers.

Glass describes his Low Symphony, composed in 1992, as ‘a real collaboration’ between his music and the work of Bowie and Eno on the first album in the trilogy, released in 1977.

A few months after Bowie’s death in January 2016, Glass’ Heroes symphony became the first classical work to headline Glastonbury. Composed in 1996, the six-movement work responds to Bowie’s brooding Cold War album, out just seven months after Low, and its well-known title track.

Bowie liked the symphonic version so much that he used it as walk-in music at his live appearances, and according to Glass, privately superimposed his own vocals over the recording.

Bowie and Glass had discussed a third symphony, and now, finally, the work has been realised, in a Southbank Centre co-commission with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra.

My approach was to treat the themes very much as if they were my own and allow their transformations to follow my own compositional bent when possible. In practice, however, Bowie and Eno’s music certainly influenced how I worked, leading me to sometimes surprising musical conclusions.
Philip Glass


London Contemporary Orchestra
Robert Ames conductor
Hugh Brunt conductor
James McVinnie organ *
Angelique Kidjo vocals *


Philip Glass: Symphony No.1 (Low)
Philip Glass: Symphony No.4 (Heroes)
Philip Glass: Symphony No.12 (Lodger) for orchestra & organ - from the music of David Bowie and Brian Eno * (European premiere)

Dates & times

9 May 2019
Approximate run time: 200 mins (incl. 2 intervals)
Run times may vary, find out more
    • Thu 9 May 2019
      • 7:30 pm


Royal Festival Hall


£20 - £55
Booking fee: £3.00 (Members £0.00)
£20, £27, £35, £45, £55


25% off (limited availability)
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need to know

Tickets for this event go on sale to Members and Supporters on Friday 2 February and to the general public on Tuesday 6 February.