The Philharmonia Orchestra and Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen announce their new season as Resident Orchestra at Southbank Centre with a vibrant programme spanning 250 years of music.

Key highlights:

The launch of Philharmonia at 75, a year-long festival (2020) marking three-quarters of a century of brilliant live music-making, definitive recordings, technological innovation, community-led outreach and artistic adventure;

Beethoven Day, an immersive day of performances, talks and free events marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth (15 Mar 2020). At its centre, a reconstruction, of one of the most extraordinary events in music history, Beethoven’s four-hour ‘Akademie’ concert of 1808, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen; part of Southbank Centre’s Beethoven 250 Series;

The announcement of the full programme for Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis (Jun - Sep 2019), exploring the music, culture and politics of Germany during the Weimar Republic;

A Gustav Mahler focus (Feb – Jun 2020), featuring Principal Guest Conductor Jakub Hrůša conducting the ‘Resurrection’ Symphony; Paavo Järvi conducting the Fifth Symphony; and three song cycles: Humoresken (songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn), Das Lied von der Erde and Das klagende Lied;

A Russian music theme, led by Principal Guest Conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, who conducts excerpts from Swan Lake, Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 and two Rachmaninov piano concertos.

The Philharmonia Orchestra opens its 75th birthday celebrations in January 2020 with the opening weekend of Philharmonia at 75, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The weekend features a programme centred on the year 1945 (19 Jan 2020), when the Philharmonia was founded, and the world premiere of a horn concerto by Mark-Anthony Turnage, commissioned by the Philharmonia, in a programme inspired by famous French Horn players linked to the Orchestra, including Dennis Brain, Richard Watkins (soloist on this occasion) and Esa-Pekka Salonen himself (16 Jan 2020).

The Philharmonia marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in a single immersive day (15 Mar 2020). Salonen conducts a four-and-a-half-hour marathon of Beethoven’s music, replicating the concert Beethoven gave at the Theater an der Wien on 22 December 1808. Remarkably, three of Beethoven's masterpieces – the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, and the Fourth Piano Concerto – received their public premieres at the ‘Akademie’ concert, conducted by Beethoven himself. Whilst the audience shivered in a cold auditorium, amateurs had to fill in gaps within the orchestra, and the ink was still drying on the pages of the Choral Fantasy, it was certainly a night to remember. In a new realisation, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia bring a piece of music history to life as part of a day of Beethoven-themed activity at Southbank Centre, including an Insights Morning led by Beethoven expert Professor John Deathridge.

Esa-Pekka Salonen presents Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis (June – September 2019), an ambitious journey through the music and culture of this politically turbulent and explosively creative period. Alongside music by Weill, Hindemith and Berg are a film screening of 1927 epic expressionist masterpiece Metropolis and a partnership with BFI Southbank, a cabaret programme at Queen Elizabeth Hall directed by Gerard McBurney, and an Insights Day hosted by Series Advisor Gavin Plumley. Violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff performs concertos by Berg and Weill across two concerts (26 and 29 Sep 2020 respectively).

Managing Director Helen Sprott said: ”An exciting season lies ahead for the Philharmonia with a programme that invites audiences to travel through time and to experience pivotal moments in cultural history: towards a time and place – Weimar Germany – when artforms creatively collided against a backdrop of political instability; back to Vienna in 1808 and Beethoven’s extraordinary ‘Akademie’ concert; and then forward again to 1945 and the founding of this great Orchestra, which we’ll celebrate throughout 2020.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with such a wealth of artistic talent in 2019/20 and our commitment to working with a diverse roster of artists is demonstrated by the growth in our conductor relationships. We are delighted that Elim Chan and Xian Zhang return to conduct subscription concerts and Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro makes her debut with a distinctive programme of music by Bernstein, Barber, Copland and Steven Stucky.”

Further details:

Audiences can hear some of the most exciting soloists in classical music with the Philharmonia across the season, including pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Tamara Stefanovich and Zhang Zuo; violinists Leonidas Kavakos, Nemanja Radulovic and Christian Tetzlaff; cellists Sol Gabetta and Steven Isserlis; and singers Lise Davidsen, Allan Clayton, Dame Sarah Connolly and Bejun Mehta.

The Philharmonia collaborates with two leading names in contemporary music during 2019/20. As well as performing the world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new Horn Concerto, Sir George Benjamin conducts a concert celebrating his 60th birthday, featuring his key works Dream of the Song and Duet for Piano Orchestra, with Bejun Mehta and Pierre-Laurent Aimard as soloists respectively. Supporting new music on the main stage, the Philharmonia’s small ensemble series Music of Today, curated by Unsuk Chin (whose successful tenure as Artistic Director concludes at the end of the Season), presents a diverse programme across the Southbank Centre site, including a focus on American composer Augusta Read Thomas, a showcase for percussionist Colin Currie, and world premieres from three emerging composers on the Philharmonia’s Composers’ Academy in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society.

The Philharmonia again presents one of the most comprehensive programmes of free events on London’s classical music scene, over 25 free activities at Southbank Centre, including: Philharmonia Chamber players performances, recitals from the Philharmonia’s MMSF Instrumental Fellows, talks and Insights events, and artist collaborations, supported online by the Orchestra’s popular YouTube channel of documentaries, performance and education videos. The Orchestra’s Key Stage 2 schools concert, Orchestra Unwrapped, returns after its successful debut in 2018/19, along with a programme of school workshops, teacher training and resource materials.


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