On 20 June 2016 St John’s Smith Square announced its 2016/17 Season. With over 300 concerts and many individual series, workshops and strands, this season further strengthens St John’s Smith Square’s core mission: to be a centre of excellence for chamber orchestras, choral and vocal music and period instrument groups. St John’s Smith Square also plays a vital function in presenting new work (with over 30 world premieres already announced for 16/17) and supporting emerging artists (including an own-promoted Young Artists’ Series).
Period Instrument Performance
Being the only concert hall from the Baroque period in the UK, historically informed performance is a central theme of the St John’s Smith Square programme.
New to St John’s Smith Square this year are Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques bringing a programme of Monteverdi with the tenors Anders J. Dahlin and Emiliano Gonzalez Toro (7 June 2017); The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments as part of the London Bach Society’s Bachfest (8 November 2016); the French baroque ensemble from Nantes, Stradivaria in a programme of Rameau and Rebel with their founder director Daniel Culler (1 June 2017) and Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima who give a series of six concerts focussing on 18th-century music celebrating the Italian Grand Tour (September 2016 – February 2017).
Regular artists returning include Gabrieli and Paul McCreesh with Handel's Dixit Dominus (28 March 2017), the Steinitz Bach Players (4 November 2016) and The Brook Street Band (September 2016 to June 2017) with three concerts exploring different aspects of Handel’s immense creativity. Also returning are The Musicall Compass who present a fascinating programme juxtaposing the Lamentations by Lassus with ancient folk song (1 February 2017).
La Nuova Musica and David Peter Bates have performances in both September and December complemented by exciting outreach programmes, and the Early Opera Company and Christian Curnyn give their annual November opera performance - Handel's Serse (18 November 2016). As part of St John’s Smith Square’s collaboration with the Southbank Centre there will be regular concerts with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment who also return with Stephen Layton’s Polyphony for their keenly anticipated Christmas and Easter visits. St John’s Smith Square’s Creative Europe funded partnership with the European Union Baroque Orchestra’s Mobile Baroque Academy also continues with further concerts of Bach and Vivaldi.
Opera, particularly from the Baroque and Classical periods, is an important part of the St John’s Smith Square programme. Ann Murray DBE joins La Nuova Musica for Purcell’s perennial favourite, Dido and Aeneas (29 September 2016) and the Early Opera Company perform Handel’s Serse (18 November 2016) in their eagerly anticipated annual visit. Bampton Classical Opera always bring forgotten operatic treasures to St John’s Smith Square and this year is no exception with a double bill of Gluck’s Philemon and Baucis and Arne’s The Judgement of Paris (13 September 2016) and Classical Opera continue their Mozart exploration with two early operas: Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots (21 and 22 March 2017) and Apollo et Hyacinthus (12 and 13 June 2017).
St John’s Smith Square continues its partnership with Howard Shelley and the London Mozart Players in their innovative Mozart Explored series and John Lubbock and the Orchestra of St John’s bring a range of household names to the concert hall with their My Music series, including Timothy West, Prue Leith, Nicholas Parsons and Libby Purves. St John’s Smith Square is also delighted to welcome the Aurora Orchestra for two concerts including Brahms' Symphony No. 1 from memory (3 June 2017); the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Magnus Lindberg as part of the LPO Foyle Future Firsts Series (12 July 2017) and Orchestra Nova who return to celebrate the 60th birthday of their founder and conductor George Vass (10 May 2017).
Choral and vocal music
As a church, St John’s is perfectly suited to great choral and vocal music. Highlights include Stephen Layton and Polyphony in their annual performances of Handel's Messiah (23 December 2016) and Bach's St John Passion (14 April 2017) and the Holst Singers also with Stephen Layton for Handel’s Jephtha (20 May 2017) as the conclusion of the London Festival of Baroque Music. The Tilford Bach Society return with their performance of Bach’s St John Passion (20 June 2017) whilst Gabrieli under Paul McCreesh present a new work by Matthew Martin (8 June 2017).
New Music and emerging talent
Although an 18th-century building, ever since St John’s Smith Square became a Concert Hall in 1969 new music and emerging talent has also been key to its programming.
Highlights include the London Sinfonietta who return with the Southbank Centre for a number of fascinating programmes including music by Beat Furrer, Berio, Hans Abrahamsen and Kaija Saariaho. And the Park Lane Group bring their annual festival to St John’s Smith Square exploring music by Gordon Crosse, Giles Swayne, David Blake and Richard Rodney Bennett among others (24 – 28 April 2017).
Two French ensembles make their St John’s Smith Square debuts this season. In October Ensemble L’Imaginaire from Strasbourg present a programme of music by the British composer Richard Barrett (16 October) whilst in February Ensemble Variances led by composer Thierry Pécou give a programme focussed around his own work Outre-mémoire, often compared favourably to Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time (22 February 2017). Also new to St John’s Smith Square will be the Institute of Composing’s Notes Inegales series with the CD launch of Van Diemen’s Land, an exploration of new music inspired by folk idioms by the Mercury short-listed Sam Lee (21 January 2017). St John’s Smith Square also welcomes the English Symphony Orchestra who will give two world premieres by Philip Sawyers (28 February 2017).
St John’s Smith Square’s much celebrated Young Artists’ Scheme continues with six different artists giving concerts and workshops across the year. The harpist Oliver Wass, Ensemble Mirage, the pianist Christina McMaster, the Minerva Piano Trio, the Ferio Saxophone Quartet and the recorder quartet Palisander all contribute towards the over 30 premieres already scheduled which include works by Ralf Wallin, Simon Holt, Laura Snowden, David Matthews, Giya Kancheli, Charlotte Bray, Christian Mason, Morgan Hayes, Danielle Howard, Bob Chilcott, Misha Mullov Abbado, Matthew Martin and Charlotte Harding.
Regular Concert Series
St John’s Smith Square hosts regular Thursday Lunchtime Concerts which feature, among others, Yeomen from The Musicians’ Company, prize winners from the Oxford Lieder Festival, performances from St John’s Smith Square’s Young Artists, artists featured at the Dartington International Summer School and a monthly organ recital series programmed by St John’s Smith Square’s organ curator David Titterington, opening with a concert with the world renowned Jennifer Bate (22 September 2016).
The Sunday at St John’s programme returns for its third year and includes a number of mini-series within it. The London Piano Trio perform three concerts with music from Russia, England, Georgia and Spain and The Revolutionary Drawing Room give an overview of Haydn’s Op. 77 quartets alongside the Beethoven Op. 18 set which they influenced. I Musicanti pair great chamber works of Mozart and Schubert with contemporary music from South Africa and the pianist Deniz Arman Gelenbe collaborates with friends on a purely Mozart series.
There is further great chamber music with the continuation of Martino Tirimo’s exploration of the Great Piano Quintets, with the Fitzwilliam Quartet (21 September 2016) and the Carducci Quartet (16 November 2016), who also return with the cellist David Cohen (5 May 2017). The pianist Nicholas Walker continues his Balakirev Odyssey (6 October 2016) with a concert marking the release of his third CD of Balakirev’s piano works and Geoffrey Saba will give an all-Beethoven programme (17 October 2016). Following his success in the Occupy the Pianos Festival the Australian pianist Zubin Kanga brings a programme juxtaposing old and new keyboard works (23 June 2017).
Festivals at St John’s Smith Square
Festival programming continues to be a key feature at St John’s Smith Square this season. The 31st Annual Christmas Festival curated by Stephen Layton (9 – 23 December 2017) includes concerts with firm favourites Ex Cathedra; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Clare College Cambridge, Trinity College Cambridge, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, Merton College Oxford, King’s College London; the National Youth Music Theatre; Polyphony; and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. New to the Festival this year are Tenebrae, the City of London Choir, the Holst Singers, the City of London Sinfonia, The Gesualdo Six and La Nuova Musica.
Also returning in 2017 is the third London International A Cappella Choral Competition (25 June – 1 July 2017) in conjunction with The Tallis Scholars and Peter Phillips. Both old and new music are important parts of the competition and this year’s featured composer will be Arvo Pärt.
Other highlights include James Gilchrist, Anna Tilbrook, the Elata Ensemble and the Holst Singers in a six concert exploration of Vaughan Williams and Friends (7 – 9 October 2016) and Rolf Hind starts preparations for the next full Occupy the Pianos Festival with a packed day of concerts (6 May 2017) on the theme of music and nature featuring music by Messiaen, Radulescu, Tansy Davies, Simon Steen Andersen; composers old and new for whom these two areas are a source of inspiration and enquiry, as well as new pieces by student composers and composers-in-association.
A new Festival for 16/17 will be the Holy Week Festival (9 – 14 April 2017), curated by Nigel Short and Tenebrae featuring a mix of ticketed concerts and free liturgical music. From Palm Sunday to Good Friday St John’s Smith Square will resound with choral music for Passiontide. Alongside the more usual concert hall works will be a programme of late night Matins and Tenebrae Responsories. There will also be lunchtime concerts and workshops to give people a chance to get involved.
The London Festival of Baroque Music (12 – 20 May 2017) will bring the theme of Baroque at the Edge to St John’s Smith Square. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi and Telemann, the Festival explores those places where the Baroque pushes at its boundaries, either backwards towards the Renaissance and forwards to the Classical era, or into ‘edgier’ and more extreme forms of expression. Composers will include Monteverdi, Telemann, Pergolesi, Biber and Handel.
At the end of the season the St John’s Smith Square organ curator David Titterington brings the St Alban’s International Organ Festival (where he is Director) for their Concerto Competition final.
St John’s Smith Square is also delighted to be a regular home for many orchestras and choirs including the Parliament Choir, The Elysian Singers, Islington Choral Society, Whitehall Choir, Hertfordshire Chorus, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Southbank Sinfonia, Goldsmith’s Choral Union, London Choral Sinfonia, Vasari Singers, Anton Bruckner Choir, Young Musician’s Symphony Orchestra, London Phoenix Orchestra, Kensington Symphony Orchestra, Fulham Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Vitae.
Southbank Centre at St John’s Smith Square
Alongside the residencies of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the London Sinfonietta, St John’s Smith Square continues to host a number of concerts from the Southbank Centre's International Piano Series (IPS) and International Chamber Music Series (ICMS) during the 2016/17 season.
IPS highlights at St John’s Smith Square Smith Square include the outstanding young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor (4 October 2016), runner-up at the 2010 International Chopin Competition Ingolf Wunder (19 November 2016) and winner of the same competition Yulianna Avdeeva (29 March 2016). Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich perform music for 2 pianos as part of Southbank Centre's year-long festival Belief and Beyond Belief in partnership with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (24 January 2017). This concert also forms part of Southbank Centre's International Chamber Music Series.
ICMS highlights at St John’s Smith Square include further baroque music with composer and pioneer of authentic early music performance Jordi Savall performing with Le Concert des Nations to recreate his soundtrack to the award-winning French film Tous les matins du monde. This concert also forms part of Southbank Centre's Film Scores Live series (19 October 2016). Celebrated cellist Alisa Weilerstein performs a complete cycle of Bach’s cello suites also as part of Belief and Beyond Belief (8 February 2017) whilst the Pavel Haas Quartet are joined by pianist Denis Kozhukhin to perform Dvořák’s Piano Quintet No. 2 (2 June 2017).
Richard Heason, Director of St John’s Smith Square said: "I am thrilled to be able to launch another season packed with exciting and stimulating concerts. It is particularly exciting to see international partnerships, with groups like Les Talens Lyriques and Stradivaria, starting to come to fruition. I am very keen to ensure that St John’s Smith Square presents a dynamic and individual programme and that we devote our energy to ensuring we present top quality artists. Alongside the distinctive baroque programme we offer it is also very rewarding to welcome artists presenting contemporary music and commissions. My sincere thanks go out to all those partners who have collaborated to make this programme possible. St John’s Smith Square receives no public subsidy and so we are reliant on the friendship and support of those who believe in our mission to be one of the UK’s leading concert halls.”