On 29 June 2015 St John’s Smith Square announced its 2015/16 Season. With over 250 concerts and many individual series and strands, this season clearly demonstrates St John's core mission: to be a centre of excellence for chamber orchestras, choral and vocal music and period instrument groups. St John’s also plays a vital function in presenting new work (with over 30 premieres for 15/16) and supporting emerging artists (including an own-promoted young artists’ series).
Orchestral performance is a cornerstone of the programme at St John’s Smith Square. Over the coming season St John's is delighted to be welcoming the London Mozart Players, Orchestra of St John’s, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment*, London Sinfonietta* and Philharmonia* among others.
The London Mozart Players will be giving three distinct series: Mozart Explored, continuing their exploration of Mozart Piano Concertos with Howard Shelley; Beethoven Explored, performing the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos, again with Howard Shelley; and Mozart Explored: 1783, celebrating music from the year 1783 in Mozart’s life.
The Orchestra of St John’s bring a range of programmes including opera and oratorio, a traditional New Year Strauss celebration, a collaboration with Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead (13 February 2016) and a series of celebrity appearances entitled Public Passions opening on 5 March 2016 with Joanna Lumley.
The Philharmonia bring Stravinsky under Esa-Pekka Salonen (2 June 2016), the London Sinfonietta with Martyn Brabbins and Garry Walker bring two programmes of premieres including a new work by Sir Harrison Birtwistle (1 June 2016) and a premiere by Laurence Crane (10 October) and the OAE have a regular season at St John's in addition to their traditional Christmas and Easter St John’s concerts.
Choral and vocal music
There is also a vibrant season of choral and vocal music for the 2015/16 Season. This includes The Tallis Scholars' landmark 2000th concert (21 September), a celebratory event which also opens the London International A Cappella Choir Competition (22-26 September).
Other vocal highlights include performances from Polyphony under Stephen Layton at Christmas and Easter in Handel's Messiah with the OAE (23 December) and Bach's St John Passion on Good Friday (25 March 2016). Stephen Layton also continues his Handel oratorio cycle with The Holst Singers and The Brook Street Band, this time featuring Handel’s Solomon. Other Handel performances include the rarely heard Athalia with the Whitehall Choir, London Baroque Sinfonia and Paul Spicer (17 November).
As well as sacred choral music, Opera is a significant aspect of the 15/16 programme. There will be Salieri's seldom-heard Trofonio's Cave from Bampton Classical Opera (15 September), Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the Orchestra of St John's (14 September), Zelenka with Bury Court Opera (20 October), Handel’s Acis and Galatea with La Nuova Musica (2 November) and Rameau’s Castor et Pollux with Olivier Award-nominated Early Opera Company and Christian Curnyn (20 November). There is also operetta with Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld from Opera Danube (29-31 January 2016) and Stephen Oliver’s realisation of Mozart’s opera The Goose of Cairo as part of the London Mozart Players’ 1783 series (14 April 2016).
Period Instrument Performances
Historically informed performance with period instruments is one of the key features of the 15/16 programme at St John’s, the UK's only baroque concert hall.
The Brook Street Band, The Revolutionary Drawing Room, Solomon’s Knot, Arcangelo, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, La Nuova Musica, the Steinitz Bach Festival, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Early Opera Company, the International Baroque Players, The Amadè Players, Gabrieli and the European Union Baroque Orchestra all contribute to this rich vein running through the programme.
New Music and emerging talent
Across the programme there are over 30 premieres and commissions including new works from Alissa Firsova, Simon Holt, György Kurtág, Errollyn Wallen, Lawrence Crane, Martin Butler, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Tansy Davies and Christian Mason. All those selected for the St John's Young Artists’ Scheme (Tabea Debus, the Ligeti Quartet, Joo Yeon Sir and The Gesualdo Six) also feature new music as part of their programming.
St John's is also delighted to welcome the Park Lane Group for both a lunchtime series and their intensive festival (18-22 April 2016), featuring emerging artists and new music, and tomorrow’s opera stars get a chance to shine through Opera Danube’s training programme.
Regular Concert Series
St John’s hosts regular Thursday lunchtime concerts which, amongst others, feature Yeomen from The Musician’s Company and artists from the Dartington International Summer School. There is also a monthly organ recital series including performances by Thomas Trotter, Jane Watts and Roger Sayer, programmed by St John's organ curator David Titterington.
St John's other regular series is the Sunday at St John’s programme which includes mini-series such as the London Piano Trio’s complete Beethoven Piano Trios (11 October, 29 November 2015, 17 January 2016) and the Fidelio Trio’s focus on French repertoire and new works (15 November 2015, 24 January, 24 April 2016).
There is further great chamber music from the Françoise Green Duo, who have devised a fabulous series of first meets second Viennese School alongside new commissions (21 January, 25 February, 31 March, 7 April, 12 May 2016) and the return of the Henschel Quartet (6 October) following their magnificent debut last year.
The pianist Martino Tirimo, with friends including the Carducci Quartet, Minguet Quartet and Rosamunde Trio, presents a series spanning 2016 of the great piano quintets and there is an absolute tour de force of the Complete Chopin Cycle given by pianist Warren Mailley-Smith over eleven concerts.
Festivals at St John's Smith Square
Festival programming is also central to this season. In September St John's welcomes back pianist and composer Rolf Hind who has curated the second ‘Occupy the Pianos’ festival: a fascinating exploration of all things piano with nine concerts showcasing an eclectic mix of 20th and 21st Century music for pianos, prepared piano, voice and dancer (10-13 September).
A fortnight later Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars launch the second London International A Cappella Choir Competition with choirs battling out the prize over five days. Christmas sees the superlative St John's 30th Annual Christmas Festival curated by Stephen Layton (11-23 December), bigger than ever before and including familiar faces, such as Ex Cathedra, Ensemble Plus Ultra and the Choirs of Christ Church Oxford, King's College London and Clare College Cambridge as well as newcomers Siglo de Oro and the Choir of Merton College Oxford. St John's also welcomes back the London Festival of Baroque Music (13-19 May 2016) which for 2016 has ‘The Word in Music’ as its theme.
Two new festivals for 2016 are ‘Principal Sound’: a focus on the music of Morton Feldman and those he influenced (1-4 April 2016) and DEEP∞MINAMLISM (24-26 June)* with music by Meredith Monk, Galina Ustvolskaya, Mica Levi and others.
St John's is also delighted to be the regular home for many orchestras and choirs including the Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra, the Kensington Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Vitae, the 1885 Singers, the English Baroque Choir, the Collaborative Orchestra, the Orchestra of St Paul’s, Cantandum, Twickenham Choral Society, the Salomon Orchestra, the Fulham Symphony Orchestra, the City of London Choir, the London Phoenix Orchestra, the Parliament Choir, The London Chorus and the Royal Orchestral Society as well as many schools, music colleges and community organisations who use St John's regularly.
Southbank Centre at St John's Smith Square
Finally, there is one other exciting collaboration taking place at St John’s this season. During the period of refurbishment at the Southbank Centre St John's will be providing a temporary home for concerts from the International Piano Series, the International Chamber Music Series and a number of the Southbank Centre’s resident ensembles. Artists appearing at St John’s as a result of this partnership include Nikolai Demidenko, Steven Osborne, Tamara Stefanovich, Imogen Cooper, the Jerusalem Quartet, Viktoria Mullova, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Nicola Benedetti, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Steven Devine, Ian Bostridge, John Butt, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the London Sinfonietta.
Richard Heason, Director of St John's Smith Square said: “I am immensely proud of the new season programme at St John’s Smith Square. St John’s is a wonderful place; a unique baroque building, majestic and serene and situated in one of the most inspirational settings I have ever come across. Our 2015/16 programme is packed with concerts and festivals of the highest quality which, I am sure, will prove to be informative, entertaining and inspirational. St John’s Smith Square doesn’t receive any public subsidy; our income coming solely from hiring the hall, box office revenue, the restaurant and bar and the generosity of our supporters. As such, this programme would be impossible to put together were it not for the support of a huge range of partners and friends. My thanks go to everyone who has helped to put together what I am confident will be a year of musical triumphs for St John’s.”