Manchester Collective and Multi Story Orchestra team up with Southbank Centre for 2021/2022

It seems utterly incredible to be even considering a 2021/2022 season.

On Saturday I heard a friend and also a colleague worry about the possibility that there would be some kind of stipulation placed on the 19th July easing of restrictions. Like them, I look on the new Health Secretary’s promises with a degree of optimism. The 19th July like 21 June seems like such an arbritary date, based not on the prevalence of transmissable virus, rather the total number of those vaccinated. Whose to say that date won’t move?

Still. September 2021 seems long enough away to imagine of non-socially distanced audiences, an open members bar, and casual non-directed toing and froing in the Festival Hall foyer. Maybe. Just maybe. It might just happen. Just beyond the summer.

The Southbank Centre are previewing their forthcoming non-distanced season with some impressive new partnerships too. The Multi-Storey Orchestra now move from Peckham to Waterloo. I’m also really pleased to see Manchester Collective having secured a place in the Southbank Centre’s ongoing line-up. A good programming match.

Edward Gardner and Santtu-Matias Rouvali have their first appearances in their respective roles as Principal Conductors of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra in September. Karina Canellakis debuts in her new titled position as Principal Guest Conductor of the LPO and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra comes with five special projects in partnership with the Southbank Centre under their new Music Director Vasily Petrenko.

And there’s the promise of the New Music Biennial in 2022 too.

BBC Radio 3 will be in residence for the opening week, and will broadcast Tippett’s rarely-performed The Midsummer Marriage;

Manchester Collective will appear at the Purcell Room (2 Oct & 3 Dec) and Queen Elizabeth Hall (24 Apr & 14 May) showcasing artists including Hannah Peel, Lyra Pramuk, Vessel and Abel Selaocoe.

Royal Philharmonic play Rossini, Haydn and Vaughan Williams with Petrenko and Isserlis at Royal Festival Hall

It was the RPO’s first concert at the Royal Festival Hall since March 2020, and only the third night of concerts at the Soutbank Centre venue. The orchestra shaped up well, and whilst the atmosphere wasn’t quite so ramped as at the Barbican for the LSO’s first outing a few weeks back, the programme did fit the bill emotionally.

Rossini’s Silken Ladder overture did feel a little raggedy in places. There wasn’t the consistent precision Rossini’s particular writing demands in the score. No surprises really given the complexities of the articulation and the distance imposed on the players. But the breeziness of the melodies and the urgency of the motoring rythmns injected some energy to proceedings on what was a surprisingly hot evening.

Steven Isserlis brought his characteristic ebouillance the stage, brimming with joyous enthusiasm and excitement, producing in tandem with Vasily Petrenko a touching and tender slow movement the impact of which (that delicious moment when you realise everyone around you is completely still) by surprise. A sense of boisterous optimism underpinned the concluding movement. Isserlis emanates warmth in everything he does – evident by the bouncing curls and wide michievous smile. This performance of Haydn’s Cello Concerto felt a reassuring pat on the back driven by an enviable positive mindset.

For a work I’ve spent much of this past year listening to recordings of (Andrew Maze with RLPO in particular) Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5 felt surprisingly intimate, with loud spasms in various places. This isn’t to say the performance wasn’t enjoyable or appreciated. The intimacy gave things a personal feel as though the entire band was talking as one slightly damaged but nonetheless determined individual.

Right from the start, the strings sounded rounded, sweet and resonant, in a taut ensemble. The scherzo was delicate and fragile, the third movement raw, with one especially magical moment at the end when the harmonies pivot as the principal viola invites first cello then upper strings to resolve the harmonies. Come the conclusion there was a sense not of closure so much as a promise of a new start. In that respect the symphony fitted the emotional bill I came to the hall with – a need for a musical statement that went some way to make sense of what had passed, offering a path to something different in the coming months.

Pedal-powered performance from composer Laura Bowler and the London Sinfonietta

An unexpected message in my inbox this morning drawing my attention to a new commission premiering at the Southbank Centre on 9th July from resident band London Sinfonietta.

Composer Laura Bowler (pictured) seeks to bring more attention to the ongoing climate crisis, bringing music and movement together in an inventive and thought-provoking piece: the entire performance and the resources needed to host it will be powered entirely by cyclists, on-stage with members of the London Sinfonietta. I hope to God they’ll make sure they’re oiled the chains beforehand.

Bowler’s new work work Houses Slide, describes one woman’s psychological journey to investigate her response to the climate emergency.

The concert is directed by the award-winning theatre director Katie Jane Mitchell OBE who will position 16 bicycles on stage with the players. It’s these bicycles that will power the production and the venue.

Bowler said of Houses Slide, “The climate crisis is the most urgent matter for the artistic community to address right now. The more ways we find to communicate the problem, the more likely people will become active in demanding governmental action and in turn global action. Houses Slide delves into the complexities at the heart of the climate crisis; climate psychology and
climate grief. How can we change our minds and the minds of others? How can we effect change?”

This video previewing her collaboration with Manchester Camerata a few years back helps provide some background on Bowler’s work. What I’m drawn to here are her values, particularly the importance she places on creativity based on authentic experience, and the need for the music experience to communicate.

“I don’t see any point in making art unless it communicates.”

composer laura bowler, 2018

Here in particular I’m excited by the way she creates soundscapes – audio renditions of the thoughts and feelings which arose as a result of that experience. In the case of Houses Slide, that makes the creative output something that will undoubtedly provoke thought and reflection.

Houses Slide with London Sinfonietta premieres at Royal Festival Hall on Friday 9 July.

Southbank Centre’s Summer Reunion starts 28 May with concerts from Chineke!, Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia

Very pleased to receive a press release this morning detailing a whole range of indoor, outdoor and broadcast events the Southbank Centre has planned for the coming months up until August of this year. I’m counting down the days.

There’s a fair range of indoor classical events in the Royal Festival Hall including some well-chosen works that make for fitting musical statements that document the return of live music. Vaughan Williams 5 in particular will be a must-attend.

Chineke! kicks off the Summer Reunion with soloist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performing Dvořák’s Cello Concerto (28 June). The following day, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brings families together for its popular format, ‘Noisy Kids: Heroes & Villains’ (29 June).

The following week in June Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen bows out with two unmissable concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra after a disrupted final season; he is joined by Yefim Bronfman (4 June) and Mitsuko Uchida (10 June), two of his long-time collaborators.

The re-opening of the Southbank Centre coincides with the venue’s 70th anniversary. In May 1951 the Royal Festival Hall opened its doors for the first time as part of the ‘Festival of Britain’ – billed then as a post-war ‘tonic for the nation’.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Royal Festival Hall, a specially-commissioned poem about the beloved venue by Theresa Lola is to be filmed and released worldwide on 3 May. Theresa Lola is a British-Nigerian poet based in London and was appointed the 2019/2020 Young People’s Laureate for London.

Saturday 28 June, 7.30pm
Chineke! with Sheku-Kanneh Mason
Dvorak Cello Concerto

Wednesday 2 June, 7.30pm
Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Haydn Cello Concerto
Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5

Thursday 3 June, 7.30pm
Alina Ibragimova and Friends
Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time

Friday 4 June, 7.30pm
Esa Pekka Salonen with Philharmonia Orchestra
Beethoven Symphony No. 1
Lizst Piano Concerto No. 2
Sibelius Symphony No. 7

Thursday 10 June, 7.30pm
Philharmonia Orchestra & Mitsuko Uchida
Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3

Friday 25 June, 7.30pm
Philharmonia Orchestra & Bach Choir
Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius

Sunday 4 July, 3pm
Nicola Benedetti with Aurora Orchestra
Beethoven Violin Concerto

Tickets go on sale to Southbank Centre members on Tuesday 27 April, and to non-members on Wednesday 28 April. Seating is limited in accordance with COVID guidelines but is anticipated to return to normal capacity on 21 June. More information on the Southbank Centre website.

Last week the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra also announced a programme of concerts running from May to July 2021.

London Philharmonic Orchestra to play concerts in Royal Festival Hall 30 September – 30 December

Always nice to start the day with an invigorating press release. This from the London Philharmonic Orchestra announcing their concert schedule for the rest of the year offers a little bit of hope and possibly even excitement.

All thirteen concerts will be streamed via Marquee.TV which if you’ve got one of a range of Connected TVs you may well be able to access directly on the TV (otherwise its an HDMI connection from your laptop to the TV). Marquee are currently offering 50% for all subscriptions to their service in September. The LPO concerts will be freely accessible via Marquee for the first 7 days after broadcast.

More detail for the LPO season on the orchestra’s website. For Marquee TV subscriptions go here.

Wednesday 30 September 2020, 8pm

JÖRG WIDMANN Con brio
SIBELIUS (ORCH. RAUTAVAARA) In the Stream of Life
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5

Edward Gardner conductor (Chair supported by Mrs Christina Lang Assael)
Gerald Finley bass-baritone


Wednesday 7 October 2020, 8pm

MESSIAEN
 Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht

Edward Gardner 
conductor (Chair supported by Mrs Christina Lang Assael)


Wednesday 14 October 2020, 8pm

JULIAN ANDERSON Van Gogh Blue*
NIELSEN Violin Concerto
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7

John Storgårds
 conductor
Simone Lamsma violin


Wednesday 21 October 2020, 8pm

ANNA CLYNE Prince of Clouds
R STRAUSS Suite, Le bourgeois gentilhomme
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8

Karina Canellakis
 conductor
Pieter Schoeman violin (Chair supported by Neil Westreich)
Tania Mazzetti violin (Chair supported by Countess Dominique Loredan)


Wednesday 28 October 2020, 8pm

SIBELIUS 
The Bard
MAGNUS LINDBERG Cello Concerto No. 2 (UK premiere)
RAVEL Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 1

Jukka-Pekka Saraste 
conductor
Anssi Karttunen cello
Sally Matthews soprano


Wednesday 4 November 2020, 8pm

VIVALDI La stravaganza, Op. 4, Concerto No. 1 in B flat major
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 2
THOMAS LARCHER Ouroboros for cello and orchestra
REGER Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 132

Thierry Fischer conductor
Pieter Schoeman violin (Chair supported by Neil Westreich)
Kristina Blaumane cello (Chair supported by Bianca and Stuart Roden)


Wednesday 11 November 2020, 8pm

CHEVALIER DE SAINT-GEORGES
 Overture, L’amant anonyme
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4
BEETHOVEN Ah! Perfido
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4

Daniele Rustioni
 conductor
Nicolas Namoradze piano
Sophie Bevan soprano


Wednesday 25 November 2020, 8pm

SCHUBERT Symphony No. 3
PENDERECKI Concertino for Trumpet and Orchestra
LOTTA WENNÄKOSKI Verdigris (London premiere)
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 5

Hannu Lintu
 conductor
Gábor Boldoczki trumpet


Wednesday 2 December 2020, 8pm

PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1 (Classical)
HILLBORG Bach Materia
SCHUBERT Overture in B flat major, D.470
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5

Thomas Søndergård 
conductor
Pekka Kuusisto violin


Saturday 5 December 2020, 8pm

RAVEL Le tombeau de Couperin
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 6
JONATHAN DOVE Vadam et circuibo civitatem (a cappella)
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3

Thomas Søndergård 
conductor
Alexander Gavrylyuk piano
London Philharmonic Choir


Wednesday 9 December 2020, 8pm

J S BACH Orchestral Suite No. 1
ELENA KATS-CHERNIN Piano Concerto No. 3 (European premiere)
ENESCU Decet, Op. 14
ENESCU Chamber Symphony

Vladimir Jurowski 
conductor
Tamara-Anna Cislowska piano


Wednesday 16 December 2020, 8pm

J S BACH
 Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
BRETT DEAN The Players, for accordion and orchestra (UK premiere)
STRAVINSKY Pulcinella (complete)

Vladimir Jurowski 
conductor
Pieter Schoeman violin (Chair supported by Neil Westreich)
Juliette Bausor flute
Catherine Edwards harpsichord
James Crabb accordion
Angharad Lyddon soprano
Sam Furness tenor
David Soar bass


Wednesday 30 December 2020, 8pm

VIVALDI Overture, La verità in cimento
SPOHR Symphony No. 2
HONEGGER Pastorale d’été
BLISS Rout
JAMES MACMILLAN Sinfonietta

Vladimir Jurowski 
conductor
Mary Bevan soprano

Benedetti’s chart-topping Elgar, socially-distanced concerts back on, the Southbank, and a tweak to the career?

This week’s update from (near) the English Riviera – Falmouth

Without live events there seems to be little impetus to write. Since the £1.57 billion pledge to the UK arts scene, it feels a little as though the fire has gone from the fight. Nicola Benedetti stoked the grate a considerable amount a week last Friday with her appearance on Scala Radio. Good promo for her chart-topping Decca (physical) release of Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the LPO on 7 August..

But there is, as a good friend recently posited just this week, a sense of resignation about the return of live performance. And whilst the seemingly never-ending album and track releases might act as a substitute, their rate impacts on noteworthines. All of these recordings battle for us streamers attention. The music pluggers and programmers would have you believe that the mere fact that something has been released is in itself the newsline. Difficult to believe. Finding the editorial line in a world devoid of occasion is a challenge.

Socially-distanced concerts are back on

On the flipside, three organisations announced socially distanced concerts over the past ten days: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from September (‘as and when guidelines allow’); Academy of St Martin in the Fields (23 August at St Stephen’s Church, Dulwich); and Snape Maltings Concert Hall starting up their offer on 21 August. At the time of writing all three days of concerts at Snape for a ‘small and socially distanced audience’ had sold out.

Snape Maltings Concert Hall’s socially-distanced concerts snapped up like hot cakes.

The restaurant experience isn’t much different from before

I’ve been staying in Falmouth over the past few days with members of the extended family, some of whom work in the catering and hospitality industry. Conversations with them about loopholes (the one about repurposing a currently redundant function room at a golf club as a restaurant that can house 150 people nicely gets around the restriction of mass gatherings it seems) combined with an experience at a local restaurant prompted me to reflect on the equivalent for concert venues and theatres. During our Saturday lunchtime snack at a restaurant on the high street, members of bar staff are masked, awkwardly maintaining a social distance and asking us to submit our contact details for track and trace, whilst diners sit in surprisingly close proximity (certainly less than a metre) inside and out and eat their food. I make the observation with my party that I’m not feeling unduly ill-at-ease, and that save from the various table staff milling around with their masks on, nothing is that different from normal. It prompts me to reflect that the restrictions are placed on live performance venues, they’re not wholly down to the careful consideration of health and safety regulations in a COVID-ridden world. Smells more like organisational ineptitude to me.

Southbank confusion

I’m struggling to know what to think about the Southbank Centre connundrum. First, an open letter sent by members of the considerable number of staff at risk of redundancy pointing to (amongst other things) senior executive pay, and an intention by SBC management to mothball the site until 2021.

Some of the points responded to in the response by all the senior execs was inevitable, though the absence of the CEO Elaine Bedell on the list of signatories seems odd to say the least.

Letter sent in response to the SOS open letter

It’s all a little painful to read. Catastrophic thinking is inevitable. The idea that a building so dear (to me and a few others at least) could now be embroiled in an argument which if not resolved could come to represent how the global pandemic exposed some of the systemic issues classical music and the arts has failed to grapple with is a little sad. Maybe good will eventually come of it. I do hope so. I still consider the Southbank Centre a special place. Unsurprisingly, the Southbank Centre turned down the opportunity for a podcast interview saying they’d be back in touch with details about their plans in due course. Tsk.

I’m inclined to agree with #SouthbankSOS’s final para in the response to the Senior Execs letter.

SOS: The fact that Southbank Centre’s leadership are choosing to press ahead with this brutal programme of redundancies before they seem to have a clear understanding of whether they are eligible for a Government grant or loan suggests that they are using this crisis as an opportunity to carry out a cost-saving restructure. By making the majority of their staff redundant now they will be able to use the Government bailout – which it seems clear to us that they will receive – for something other than saving jobs or honouring their own redundancy policy.

https://saveoursouthbank.com/southbanks-response/

Surprising coaching revelations

Many readers know I work as a leadership coach. Some maybe surprised that I have in the past couple of months signed up for a leadership coaching programme myself. Part of that coaching experience for me on the receiving end of the process is to reflect. What has come to the fore in an unexpected way is the feeling – and that’s all it is right now – of unfinished business, or perhaps unrealised ideas pertaining to work in the classical music world.

During recent sessions I’ve stumbled on the notion of the ‘Hero Story’ and ‘Shadow Careers’, the way in which we live a shadow-life instead of the life we intended or hoped to. And how, when put into the context of the ‘Hero Story’, one can return to the original career or intention renewed by the discoveries made during our shadow career.

It’s prompted me to return to that period of time when I worked in arts admin, the new opportunities I was energised by towards the end of it, and to reexamine my reasons for leaving it behind. There is more work to be done here (and probably more to write about). But the time feels right now to explore more of what happened before in order to understand where best to go next.

A stolen moment on the South Bank

The sun is hot. Very hot. There’s the smallest of breezes, but the excitement from the crowd here on the South Bank more than makes up for it.

The Festival Hall is the new must-go-to location in Central London. I’m sitting on concrete benches. Beside me is a lady drawing up her to-do list in her notepad. On my right, two well-spoken thirty-somethings friends sit and chat, meeting for the first time in many months. They share surgery stories. One of them says that a patient at the hospital nearly died today. That was his high point today. Both seem quite happy.

In front of me people lean against the wall, looking out over the river as they knock back the cans of beer they’ve bought at the nearby supermarket. Nobody minds they haven’t gone to the bar. It’s all quite bohemian really what with their long hair, canvas shoes and shades.

It’s lovely to be here. There’s a relaxed vibe about the place. And it’s much needed. The architecture – the concrete – has a surprisingly reassuring effect on me. It’s as though my mother has put her arm around me. “There, there chump. It will all work out.”

Do Mums really know that? Or is that the best they can say? Do they believe in themselves when they say it or are they just offsetting their own insecurities? We believed them when they said it back then. Why does it all seem so unbelievable now?

The South Bank resonates. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve used that word ‘resonates’ this week. I’ve worked on the basis that the bigger the word the more successful I’ll be in securing my place in the big scheme of things. I can’t say I think it’s worked especially. I suspect I’ve ended up feeling more and more out of step with everyone else around me and those I come into contact with. I haven’t changed. So what’s happened to them?

Shit. I’ve digressed again. I’m sorry. I’m shit for doing that.

The South Bank. It’s a key place for me. I love it here. It feels like home. London’s version of style. My own personal version of 1960s Carnaby Street. An opportunity to watch people. To tap into conversations. To feel alive.

I came here for the first time in my early twenties, desperate to establish contacts with players in the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra to bolster my own little black book. Later I used to wander around here on weekend walks with The Chap. It was here I wrote about for my first writing assessment for the correspondence course I began nearly ten years ago. And it was here I was planning meeting up with my cousin I haven’t seen for nearly 20 years over the weekend.

It’s a special place. A moment of exquisite serenity. Something to savour.