Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia’s flagship Voices of Revolution: Russia 1917 series continues with Workers & the State, a programme exploring propaganda and music in Soviet Russia, in Basingstoke (21 March) and London (22 March)
The series then returns to Royal Festival Hall on 29 April, for an Insights Day hosted by Series Advisor Martin Sixsmith, and an evening Shostakovich programme featuring the Fourth Symphony, the premiere of which Ashkenazy attended in 1961
On 15 April, Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the European premiere of a major new work for orchestra, organ and chorus by Unsuk Chin
Le Chant des Enfants des Étoiles (‘The Song of the Children of the Stars’), for symphony orchestra, choir, children's choir and organ is inspired by astronomy and physics
The Philharmonia Orchestra presents two major projects at its Southbank Centre home in March and April 2018 with three of its titled artists: conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen and Vladimir Ashkenazy, and composer Unsuk Chin (who is Artistic Director of the Orchestra’s Music of Today series).
After opening Voices of Revolution: Russia 1917 with a live screening of Eisenstein’s masterpiece Battleship Potemkin in October 2017, Vladimir Ashkenazy returns to conduct two programmes he designed to focus on different aspects of Soviet life. Workers & the State (22 March) looks at music composed as the Soviet State grew. At the centre of the programme is Reinhold Glière’s Suite from The Red Poppy, the first Soviet ballet with a revolutionary theme, best known today for its ‘Sailor’s Dance’.
In Fear & Repression, Ashkenazy explores Stalin’s Terror and a personal connection. Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony, composed in the 1930’s, but withdrawn amidst the backlash – directed by Stalin – against Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, was not premiered until 1961. In the audience that night was a young Vladimir Ashkenazy, two years before he left the Soviet Union for self-imposed exile. Incidentally, the UK premiere of the Fourth Symphony was performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra (conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky), at the 1962 Edinburgh International Festival.
This concert, which also features Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto performed by James Ehnes, will be broadcast by BBC Radio 3 on Radio 3 in Concert on Monday 7 May. Voices of Revolution culminates on 20 May with a Prokofiev programme featuring Pekka Kuusisto (with the First Violin Concerto) and the rarely performed Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution. A version of that programme also visits St David’s Hall in Cardiff on 18 May.
After conducting Mahler’s First Symphony with the Philharmonia on 12 April, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts a major premiere by Grawemeyer Award-winning, Berlin-based Korean composer Unsuk Chin on 15 April.
Le Chant des Enfants des Étoiles (‘The Song of the Children of the Stars’), scored for symphony orchestra, choir (Philharmonia Voices), children's choir (Trinity Boys’ Choir) and organ (Richard Pearce), is Chin’s most significant new work to be performed in London since her Clarinet Concerto in October 2015 (also with the Philharmonia). The 40-minute work takes inspiration from the idea that ‘all humans are stardust’, formed from cosmic explosions billions of years ago, and draws from texts by poets across four centuries whose writing explores galactic and natural phenomena.
Completing the adventurous programme, Salonen conducts Battalia, a programmatic ‘battle’ piece by 17th century composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, and Beethoven’s Second Symphony.
Unsuk Chin said: “I have been interested in astronomy and physics for a long time. Le Chant des Enfants des Étoiles offers musical and poetic reflections on natural phenomena and on our physical relationship with the cosmos. Its title refers to the idea that humans are ‘stardust’, which, in turn, is based on the scientific fact that almost everything in the universe – and so on Earth – was formed in cosmic explosions billions of years ago, including our bodies, which are made of remnants of stars.”
Unsuk Chin has a close relationship with the Philharmonia; she has been Artistic Director of the Orchestra’s Music of Today series since 2011. A free Music of Today concert precedes the main evening concert on 15 April: Joana Mallwitz conducts a showcase of original music by Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj, recent winner of the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize.