2017/18 50th Anniversary Season 4 October 2017 to July 2018


  • The London Sinfonietta has Unfinished Business: to continue to champion music of the 20th century and inspire people with music of the 21st
  • In the autumn, the ensemble explores its history and cultural legacy. In the spring and summer, new commissions, premieres, cross-art collaborations and site-specific projects in exciting spaces point to the ensemble’s future
  • The 50th anniversary is celebrated on the exact date of the London Sinfonietta’s first ever concert (Wednesday 24 January) in the Royal Festival Hall
  • The London Sinfonietta continues its commitment to make new music accessible for everyone, with large scale education and public participation projects in 2017/18
  • BBC Radio 3 are the official Broadcast Partner for the season, continuing a longstanding partnership in creating and performing new work

Having broken the mould in 1968, the London Sinfonietta continues to play a defining role in new music. The autumn season features important past commissions and relationships with iconic 20th century composers, whose music helped to define the genre. The seasons kicks off with an exclusive conversation with co-founders David Atherton and Nicholas Snowman about the start of a new musical era, and the birth of the ensemble (Wednesday 4 October). The chance to rediscover some of the London Sinfonietta’s important commissions by new music giants include Hans Werner Henze’s Voices conducted by David Atherton (Wednesday 11 October) and Landmarks, featuring the works of Iannis Xenakis, Harrison Birtwistle, Colin Matthews and Wolfgang Rihm which helped to establish a new chamber ensemble repertoire showcasing this soloistic ‘one to a part’ group. (Wednesday 22 and Saturday 25 November). The ensemble celebrates the special collaborative relationship it held with both Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio, with a performance of Stockhausen’s extraordinarily theatrical Trans conducted by Oliver Knussen (Wednesday 6 December), and Turning Points: Berio (Saturday 4 November).

On Wednesday 24 January, the date of the London Sinfonietta’s first ever concert in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1968, the Royal Festival Hall plays host to a major birthday celebration of the ensemble’s past, present and future. Co-founder David Atherton joins George Benjamin and Vladimir Jurowski in conducting a journey that begins with Stravinsky, Ligeti and Birtwistle through to the London premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s piano concerto Left, Alone (Tamara Stefanovich, piano) with a look into the future with a new commission by RPS award-winning composer Samantha Fernando.

In its 50th anniversary season and beyond, the London Sinfonietta continues to push boundaries and test what is possible for new music in the 21st century. World premieres of major new commissions by Phillip Venables and Tansy Davies explore issues of sexuality, gender and climate change. Venables’ The Gender Agenda (Thursday 12 April) turns the QEH into a game-show and the audience into contestants in a thrilling concert experience that flips traditional gender roles on their head. Tansy Davies’ and Nick Drake’s Cave, produced in association with the Royal Opera, occupies the cavernous warehouse space of The Printworks in Canada Water (June 2018) presenting one man’s quest for survival in a desolate future. Cave stars acclaimed tenor Mark Padmore and the brilliant Elaine Mitchener, directed by Lucy Bailey and conducted by Geoffrey Paterson. With Beacons the ensemble celebrates leading lights of the contemporary composition scene in an all-female programme, featuring the world premiere of a new commission by Charlotte Bray, the UK premiere of Unsuk Chin’s cosmigimmicks and Rebecca Saunders’ RPS Award-winning Skin (Wednesday 16 May).
The London Sinfonietta has an established tradition of collaborating with a wide breadth of artists from visual art, spoken word, film and theatre, as well as other music genres including electronica and jazz. 2017/18 is no different, as the ensemble collaborate with experimental music series Kammer Klang, and Tom Jenkinson (AKA Squarepusher). For the latter, Jenkinson will create two new works especially for the ensemble as part of a thrilling evening of experimentation. The London Sinfonietta will also commission some of the most exciting music creators of today to create responses to the work of German landscape photographer Andreas Gursky, as part of a major exhibition of his work in the newly-opened Hayward Gallery. The works will be performed on Wednesday evenings in the gallery in March 2018, offering a distinctive audio-visual experience.

The London Sinfonietta was the very first UK ensemble to develop an education department, and its learning and participation programme continues to hold a leading position worldwide. In 2017/18 the ensemble will be working in schools in Enfield and Haringey for Sound Out; a project inspiring school children to compose their own music, which will be performed on stage by professional and young musicians at the 50th Anniversary Schools Concert in the Royal Festival Hall (Monday 19 March).
The ensemble launches the first ever LS Open; a new music festival made by the public. Joining forces with CoMA (Contemporary Music for All), the festival features commissions that place public participation at its heart, as well as RSVP: Postcard Pieces; an open submission call for new musical ideas written on the back of a postcard from anywhere in the world. As part of LS Open, the ensemble will also be running a new competition with its acclaimed Steve Reich’s Clapping Music App (downloaded over 170,000 times). High scorers will be invited to participate in a masterclass, with winners performing onstage with the ensemble (March 2018).

Across its 50 years, the London Sinfonietta has played a vital part in discovering and championing emerging talent, both in the composers it works with and the musicians it employs. A new round of its Writing the Future scheme will see the ensemble working with a talented group of music creators from diverse backgrounds, working with them to stretch both the artists’ and ensemble’s imaginations.
The ensemble regularly performs with student musicians, such as in its ongoing partnership with the Royal Academy of Music’s Manson Ensemble (Stockhausen: Trans, Wednesday 6 December). 2018 also marks the 10th anniversary of the London Sinfonietta Academy, its intensive course for emerging musicians and conductors to train alongside its Principal Players. The Academy has seen a wealth of talent come through its doors in this time, including Geoffrey Paterson who conducts the ensemble this season for the world premiere performances of Cave. Academy alumni join the ensemble on stage for its 50th anniversary concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 24 January 2018.

A landmark digital engagement project as part of its 50th anniversary, the London Sinfonietta together with music expert Paul Morley explore the history of the ensemble in 50 archive objects. Released online throughout the season, Morley will delve deep into the ensemble’s archive, tracing the 50 objects over 50 years that give a unique and often surprising insight into the ensemble’s past and present.

This special anniversary season is also a chance to celebrate 50 years of working with the Southbank Centre, where the London Sinfonietta is Resident. The London Sinfonietta’s first ever concert was in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 24 January 1968. The large-scale performance of Stockhausen’s Trans is mounted with additional support from Southbank Centre and forms part of their Belief and Beyond Belief festival. The London Sinfonietta is proud to be presenting new and innovative work in each of Southbank Centre’s re-opened spaces; The Gender Agenda and Beacons in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Mix: London Sinfonietta & Tom Jenkinson in the Purcell Room, and Response: Andreas Gursky in the Hayward Gallery. 2018 also marks ten years since the London Sinfonietta became Artistic Associate at Kings Place. Through this partnership the ensemble is able to deliver exciting new concert formats, workshops and community events which benefit the local area.

“The London Sinfonietta’s 50th anniversary season will be a very special time for the ensemble. It’s hugely fitting that we are today still Resident at Southbank Centre, with whom the group has created and performed so many landmark moments, and now also proud Artistic Associates at Kings Place. Our 2017/18 season will be a story of past and future. We are featuring just some of the ensemble’s important commissions in our autumn concerts, while the rest of the season will represent future directions – including new work from Charlotte Bray, Tansy Davies, Tom Jenkinson and Philip Venables, UK and world premieres, collaborations and site-specific events. Our anniversary concert on the 24th January is a chance to celebrate the musicians, our partners and the extraordinary achievement of David Atherton and Nicholas Snowman who brought this group into being.”

The London Sinfonietta is pleased to be working closely with BBC Radio 3 for an enhanced broadcast partnership across the season. Radio 3 will transmit the 24 January anniversary concert live. Other broadcasts, interviews and features across the season will share the story and impact of the ensemble over the past 50 years, while co-commissions will continue the London Sinfonietta and Radio 3’s shared, longstanding and on-going partnership in creating and performing new work.

The London Sinfonietta is grateful to Arts Council England for its continuing support of the ensemble’s work through its National Portfolio Funding, and to its Corporate Partners Lark (Group) Limited.


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