Wednesday 27 January 2016

Barbican 2016-17 launch - from the Fairy Queen to Jonas Kauffmnn and beyond

Jonas Kauffmann - photo Mathias Bother
Jonas Kauffmann - photo Mathias Bother
On Monday the Barbican Centre launched its 2016-17 classical music season, in a programme which combines the distinct personalities of the four main resident and associate ensembles, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Britten Sinfonia, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra with the centre's international programming and links to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. All the ensembles are involved in the Reich, Glass, Adams: the Sounds that Changed America season which celebrates the 80th birthdays of Steve Reich and Philip Glass and the 70th birthday of John Adams in a season which includes Adams operas El Nino and Doctor Atomic (with Gerald Finley), a weekend of Steve Reich's music with the Britten Sinfonia, LSO and students from the Guildhall, Glass's Les parents terribles danced by the Royal Ballet as part of a BBC Symphony Orchestra Total Immersion day devoted to Philip Glass

Another of the musical highlights must be the residency of tenor Jonas Kauffmann who will be at the Barbican for 10 action packed days in February when he will be performing Act One of Wagner's Die Walkure (with Karita Mattila) and Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder with Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra, a programme of Richard Strauss songs (including the Four Last Songs) with Jochen Rieder and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, giving a recital with pianist Helmut Deutsch and giving masterclasses at the Guildhall School.

RIchard Tognetti
RIchard Tognetti
Another residency of rather different kind is that of violinist Richard Tognetti who will not only be giving a series of performances with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in concerts which range widely from Shostakovich to Peteris Vasks and Roger Smalley as well as The Reef (a genre defying celebration of surfing), but will also be collaborating with pianist Polina Leschenko to perform Beethoven, Brahms, Part and Peter Sculthorpe, and performing acoustic and electronic work with Squarepusher (Tom Jenkinson).

And another international residency starting in 2017 is that of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with Daniele Gatti whose performances will include a collaboration with members of the National Youth Orchestra which will form the centrepiece of an NYO Inspire Day with 100 young people from East London music hubs.

In addition to the Adams operas, the programme includes the European premiere of Gerald Barry's opera Alice's Adventures Under Ground with Thomas Ades conducting the Britten Sinfonia and Barbara Hannigan as Alice, Gyorgy Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre directed by Peter Sellers with Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, and Purcell's Fairy Queen with Richard Egarr conducting the Academy of Ancient Music (with a narration from Timothy West and a cast including Sarah Tynan, Mhairi Lawson and Iestyn Davies). The Purcell is the first in a three year cycle of Purcell operas that the academy is performing.

The London Symphony Orchestra launches its season with Verdi's Requiem conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the London Symphony Chorus so this work is very appropriate. In addition to Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre, Simon Rattle's concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra include a new work from Mark Anthony Turnage, work with Lang Lang and a new children's opera. As well as the orchestra's chief conductor elect, there is also a chance to hear their former chief conductor Valery Gergiev in action, and Bernard Haitink (now 86) is returning to conduct Mahler's Ninth symphony, and Brucknner's Ninth symphony and Te Deum. The LSO Artist Focus will be Janine Jansen who will be performing music by Brahms, Bernstein and Berg.

The Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Richard Egarr's taking over as artistic director, and concerts include not only Purcell's Fairy Queen but a Monteverdi and Castello concert with Carolyn Sampson and a performance of Monteverdi's Vespers celebrating the composer's 450th anniversary. There will also be more programmes directed by AAM principals including Pavlo Beznosiuk and Bojan Cicic and a hugely anticipated concert with Jordi Savall (the first time this great artist has worked with the AAM). Another first time is tenor James Gilchrist directing the ensemble in a programme of Bach and Purcell.

There will be another singer at the helm when tenor Mark Padmore directs the Britten Sinfonia in Bach's St John Passion and they will be including readings of TS Eliot poems in the mix too. Thomas Ades will be directing the Britten Sinfonia in Beethoven symphonies (performing all of them over three years), combining the programmes with music by Gerald Barry (the sort of programming that would not be possible without the support of the Barbican centre). The combination of composers might seem unusual, but it was Ades own suggestion to conduct Beethoven, and Barry has been very inspired by Beethoven's music and even written a piece titled simply Beethoven. Thomas Ades will be also playing the piano with members of the Britten Sinfonia in programmes of chamber music at Milton Court. When talking about possible timings for the concert, Ades view was that you could knock five minutes off the standard timings of the Beethoven symphonies so we should be in for an exciting time.

The Britten Sinfonia have also collaborated with the Sixteen and conducted by Harry Christophers will be giving the world premiere of James MacMillan's Stabat Mater whilst Ex Cathedra and Jeffrey Skidmore give the London premiere of MacMillan's Seven Angels.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo will be performing Florent Schmitt's Antoine et Cleopatre Suites interspersed with readings from Shakespeare's play by actors from the Globe Theatre. Semyon Bychkov as curated a short festival Beloved Friend in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra plays music by Tchaikovsky and others inspired by the composer's friendship with Nadezhda von Meck (and Ronald Harwood's play Beloved Friend will be performed too). Total Immersion days include Richard Rodney Bennett (including Spells, Anniversaries and Symphony no. 3). Whilst a total immersion day for Richard Rodney Bennett can only graze the surface of that composers huge and varied output, the second Total Immersion day of the season, devoted to Edgar Varese, will perform every known note by the composer. The orchestra will also be performing a new score by Neil Brand for the silent film Robin Hood as well as collaborating with the American humorist David Sedaris.

The Britten Sinfonia will be bringing their children's concerts to the Barbican, aimed at 3 to 7 year olds these use the Max the Brave books as a focus for new music. The London Symphony Orchestra continue to target a number of key stage groups with their concerts working with ten east London Music Hubs. The LSO works with the teachers, and the children not only come to concerts but participate and these events form the back bone of the LSO's Discovery programme, which includes a number of projects such as the Discovery choirs at LSO St Lukes, where the LSO also presents mother and baby concerts. For its part, the BBC Symphony Orchestra has found that the response to the BBC's Ten Pieces project extraordinary, particular from teachers who love to have something they can engage with and teach and the BBC is currently in the middle of its second Ten Pieces project aimed at older pupils.

This is only a summary of what promises to be an exciting programme. I haven't even mentioned Joyce DiDonato in Handel's Ariodante or Peter Donohoe in the complete piano sonatas by Scriabin with all ten performed in one day with complementary readings curated and performed by Gerard McBurney.

Full details are available from the Barbican website.

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