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Southbank Centre Announces 2020/21 Classical Music Season

Southbank Centre, together with its unparalleled line up of Resident Orchestras - London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, London Sinfonietta - and Associate Orchestras - Aurora Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Chineke! Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain - today announces a distinctive 2020/21 classical music season with over 230 concerts across Southbank Centre's internationally renowned venues, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room.

  • The season is defined by musicians who are changing music, led by three new Southbank Centre Associate Artists: Gramophone Artist of the Year, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, Grammy Award-winning violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and composer Bryce Dessner, one of the very few artists to have won Grammy Awards both as a classical composer, and in rock (with his band The National).
  • Daniel Barenboim returns to Southbank Centre performing the complete Beethoven Piano Trios alongside his violinist son Michael Barenboim and cellist Kian Soltani.
  • For the first time, there are premieres by an equal number of female and male composers, with a line up of over 40 premiere performances (and more to be announced), including UK premieres by Sofia Gubaidulina, in the year she turns 90, and 94-year-old Betsy Jolas in the return of major global new music festival, SoundState.
  • Conductor Vladimir Jurowski conducts 14 concerts in his final season as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of London Philharmonic Orchestra including two semi-staged performances of Wagner's Ring Cycle and the world premiere of Sir James MacMillan's Christmas Oratorio.
  • In his 13th and final season as Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen focuses on music inspired by Greek myth, including Strauss' Elektra with soprano soloists Irene Theorin and Lise Davidsen and the European premiere of his own work Gemini.
  • Andris Nelsons and Europe's oldest civic orchestra, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig mix tradition with a fresh approach to Bruckner as part of their ongoing partnership with Southbank Centre.
  • The first major UK focus on the music of Canadian composer Claude Vivier includes a rare performance of his final work, the text of which eerily predicts his own murder.
  • There are London premieres for contemporary operas addressing powerful subjects: Harriet: Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman by Mexican composer Hilda Peredes explores the life of American abolitionist and campaigner, Harriet Tubman; Naciketa, inspired by Brahmin spiritual texts, is the next step in a line of operas in which composer Nigel Osborne integrates modernist and traditional music to create innovative music theatre. Ariel Dorfman's libretto marries traditional musical forms with a storyline that takes place in communities which Osborne has come to know as an aid worker and Dorfman has defended as a human rights activist.
  • London premiere of James Dillon's Pharmakieta, one of nine London Sinfonietta premieres during 2020/21.
  • All-female line up of sitarists in autumn 2020 events marking the centenary of Ravi Shankar's birth and the finale of Southbank Centre's Shankar 100 season: Zubin Mehta conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and soloist, Southbank Centre Associate Artist Anoushka Shankar in Ravi Shankar's Sitar Concerto; Darbar's SitarFest features leading sitarists Anupama Bhagwat, Mita Nag and Roopa Panesar, and a rare chance to hear Sukanya Shankar, Ravi Shankar's widow, in conversation.

Further highlights include:

  • Mitsuko Uchida and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra continue their acclaimed exploration of Mozart concertos.
  • Marking five years since its inaugural concert at Southbank Centre, Associate Orchestra Chineke! champions the work of 'forgotten' BME composers including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who enjoyed huge success at the start of the 20th century, his daughter Avril Coleridge-Taylor and 18th century composer Joseph Boulogne.
  • Southbank Centre Artist in Residence, pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard explores Beethoven and his influence on modernist composers, and cellist Matthew Barley and Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon present an unusual take on Beethoven cello sonatas, interspersed with new compositions and improvisation (the culmination of Southbank Centre's 2019/20 Beethoven 250 series).
  • World premiere of a new work by Errolyn Wallen marks International Women's Day.
  • Aurora Orchestra takes music for a dance with Piazzolla tangos and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Story performed from memory, alongside music by Frank Zappa.
  • Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment launches interactive BAROQUEBUSTERS game show, exploring the 18th century musical hits still known to millions through films, adverts and ringtones.
  • National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain brings a burst of youthful energy in the European premiere of Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz's Téenek.
  • Vasily Petrenko, Music Director Designate of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducts the RPO four times.
  • Southbank Sinfonia showcases the exceptional talent of its 33 young graduate musicians in wide ranging concerts.
  • Southbank Sinfonia and the BBC Concert Orchestra both feature in BBC Radio 3's Unclassified Live, which returns for a second season at Queen Elizabeth Hall.


Gillian Moore, Director of Music at Southbank Centre, comments:

"This 2020/21 classical season is what Southbank Centre is all about, from traditional repertoire to the newest of the new, all performed by the world's most enquiring musicians. It's a season defined by musicians who are changing the musical landscape, from our uncompromisingly brilliant new Southbank Centre Associate Artists to the line up of composers in SoundState, the musical ambition of our world-leading Resident orchestras to the 'game-changing' Chineke! Orchestra, born at Southbank Centre five short years ago and Aurora Orchestra, redefining classical music for new - and existing - audiences. This is music that really has something to say, and we are strongly focused on widening the audience it speaks to.

It's crucial that classical music better reflects the world around us and there is a strong thread of socially engaged contemporary music and opera in 2020/21. It's important that for the first time, an equal number of female and male composers feature in our extensive line-up of premieres and more music by black and minority ethnic composers, past and present (with additional new music programming to be announced later in the year). Taking a lead from our history, as 'The People's Palace' of post-war culture, we are leading the way in stripping away barriers to concert going so that everyone, regardless of background, education or opportunity, knows that classical music at Southbank Centre is there for them. This informs everything we and our Resident and Associates do and it finds full voice in the joyous range of music in our 2020/21 season."

Thousands of seats for classical concerts at Southbank Centre are available for £15 or under, alongside many free events. An online Newcomers Guide to Classical Music offers a warm welcome to people new to classical music.

Southbank Centre's 2020/21 classical music season goes on sale to Southbank Centre Members at 10am on Thursday 27 February and then on sale to the general public at 10am on Tuesday 3 March.

For more information or to buy tickets please visit the Southbank Centre website HERE.Southbank Centre Announces 2020/21 Classical Music Season



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