News: Philharmonia Orchestra announces 2020/21 London season

The Philharmonia Orchestra announces its new season as Resident Orchestra at Southbank Centre featuring its broadest range yet of distinctive programming from Verdi, Strauss and Clara Schumann to Jonathan Dove, Tyshawn Sorey and The National’s Bryce Dessner, performed by some of the greatest artists in classical music.

Key highlights:

  • In his final season as Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts a series of concerts made up of music inspired by the elemental tales found in Ancient Greek mythology including Strauss’s Elektra and the UK premiere of Salonen’s Gemini;
  • Philharmonia at 75, a year-long celebration (2020) marking three-quarters of a century of brilliant live music-making, definitive recordings, technological innovation and community-led outreach culminates with Riccardo Muti conducting Verdi’s Requiem and Isata Kanneh-Mason performing Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto;
  • The season features some of the greatest artists in classical music: violinists Joshua Bell and Leonidas Kavakos, pianist Yuja Wang and conductors Riccardo Muti and Herbert Blomstedt;
  • Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts three distinctive programmes that include Shostakovich’s 12th Symphony, Carl Orff’s choral epic Carmina Burana and Mozart’s Clarinet Concert0 with new Philharmonia principal Carlos Ferreira;
  • Contemporary series Music of Today is refreshed by curator Esa-Pekka Salonen, featuring Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Tyshawn Sorey and two new Southbank Centre Associate Artists, Víkingur Ólafsson, and Bryce Dessner;
  • Gaspard’s Foxtrot, by Jonathan Dove, a Philharmonia commission, will receive its London premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, narrated by author Zeb Soanes and brought to life on screen by illustrator James Mayhew, as part of the orchestra’s new strand of programming for families.

The Philharmonia announces its 2020/21 Season at Southbank Centre, which will be Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 13th and last as Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Orchestra. The highlight of Salonen’s final season is a focus on music inspired by Greek myth. In Origin Stories: Greek Myth in Music, Salonen conducts Scriabin’s Prometheus: The Poem of Fire with Yuja Wang as soloist (24 Sep 2020) and Strauss’ Elektra with soprano soloists Irene Theorin and Lise Davidsen (7 Feb 2021). And to close the Season (10 Jun 2021), Salonen conducts Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe (complete) alongside the European premiere of his own work Gemini.

This season, bringing together some of the most exciting names in contemporary music, Salonen also takes up the role of curator of the Philharmonia’s small-ensemble new music series, Music of Today, from composer Unsuk Chin. In a double-bill at Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of Southbank Centre’s SoundState series (25 Feb 2021), the Orchestra works with American jazz drummer and composer Tyshawn Sorey and multi-award-winning Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson. Salonen has also programmed music by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir (29 Oct 2020) and American composer (and co-founder and guitarist of The National), Bryce Dessner (4 Mar 2021), both in the Purcell Room.

In autumn 2020, the Orchestra continues to celebrate its 75th anniversary, with two key moments. Riccardo Muti returns to conduct the Philharmonia for the first time since 2010, with Verdi’s Requiem (10 Dec 2020). The legendary Italian conductor was Chief Conductor of the Orchestra from 1972 to 1982. Almost 75 years to the day since the Philharmonia’s first concert, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, James Gaffigan conducts a Sunday matinee concert with Isata Kanneh-Mason as soloist in Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto (25 Oct 2020).

The 2020/21 Season features a raft of major conductors, instrumentalists and singers, both guest and titled artists. Principal Conductor Designate Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts a trio of concerts including a programme of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana preceded by Shostakovich Jazz Suite No. 2 (21 Mar 2021). Principal Guest Conductor Jakub Hruša conducts two programmes including a pairing of Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin and excerpts from Strauss’s Salome. Soprano Malin Byström sings Salome, mezzo soprano Susan Bickley sings Herodias and tenor Peter Hoare sings Herod (15 May 2021).

Guest artists include conductors Herbert Blomstedt, Elim Chan (two concerts), Han-Na Chang, Philippe Herreweghe, Paavo Järvi, Riccardo Muti, Lahav Shani and John Wilson; violinists Joshua Bell, Lisa Batiashvili and Leonidas Kavakos; pianists Yefim Bronfman, Denis Kozhukhin and Yuja Wang; and cellist Alisa Weilerstein.

Alongside the core symphonic repertoire, the Philharmonia presents a showcase of concertos and film scores by movie composer James Newton-Howard (4 Jun 21) and a new family show, the London premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Gaspard’s Foxtrot (two shows, 20 Feb 2021). Gaspard the Fox is a set of children’s books about an urban fox and his relationship with other animals and humans in the city. In this live show set to music by Jonathan Dove, Gaspard’s adventures are narrated by its author Zeb Soanes and brought to life on screen by its illustrator, James Mayhew. Soanes and Mayhew also narrate and draw live for the companion piece, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.

Interim Managing Director Michael Fuller said: “As the Philharmonia completes its first 75 years in 2020 and looks towards the future, we celebrate everything that makes this orchestra extraordinary. We welcome legendary conductors from the Philharmonia’s storied past like Riccardo Muti and Christoph von Dohnányi, performing classic repertoire for which the Philharmonia is famous. Esa-Pekka’s 13-year tenure as Principal Conductor culminates with a series based on ancient Greek mythological stories that have universal, timeless resonance. And we look ahead and welcome Principal Conductor Designate Santtu-Matias Rouvali, along with a group of young, diverse artists who will help us redefine what a world-class orchestra can be for the 21st century.”

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