Salvation and Damnation is part three of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s (OAE’s) ‘Six Chapters of Enlightenment’ – music seasons at Southbank Centre inspired by the golden age of science and philosophy that gave the Orchestra its name.
Crispin Woodhead, OAE Chief Executive and co-curator of the season, says: “This season we focus on Salvation and Damnation with eight concerts exploring ideas which have resonated down the ages about faith, doubt and legacy. How will I be judged? What will people think of me when I’m gone? Will an artist’s work survive the test of time? How do we come to terms with mortality and find peace?”
Thomas Mann’s novel Dr Faustus, about a composer’s Faustian pact for the gift of genius and an artistic legacy, is explored through music connected to the book’s narrative. It’s an extraordinary tour of key moments in German Romanticism, with unusual arrangements for an OAE chamber group, including Wagner: Prelude to Act 3 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Mahler: Kindertotenlieder, and Schoenberg’s revolutionary Chamber Symphony No.1, directed by Geoffrey Paterson (25 March 2020, Queen Elizabeth Hall).
Roger Montgomery, OAE Principal Horn and co-curator, says: “Nothing can be more about damnation than the Faustian pact. The book addresses many issues such as madness, genius, the fragile line between them, the decay of nations and descent into war.”
Forgotten composer Michael Haydn, as famous in his day as his older brother, and almost as prolific, is championed by the world-renowned violinist Alina Ibragimova, who performs his Violin Concerto in A major (19 May 2020, Queen Elizabeth Hall). Intent on reviving the composer, who didn’t even catalogue his own work, Ibragimova and the OAE will record the complete violin concertos.
The Orchestra welcomes back Masaaki Suzuki following his critically acclaimed performances in 2016, in one of several concerts featuring works written by composers towards the end of their lives – opening the season with Mendelssohn’s Elijah (3 October 2019). Other concerts sharing this theme include Mozart’s last three symphonies with Principal Artist Iván Fischer (7 February 2020, Royal Festival Hall) and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with countertenor Iestyn Davies (11 November 2019, Queen Elizabeth Hall).
Pianist Stephen Hough and OAE Principal Artist Sir Mark Elder join the Orchestra in a concert featuring Liszt and Wagner, the bad boys of 19th century music (26 June 2020, Royal Festival Hall). This concert is caught between salvation and damnation: Liszt’s piano playing whisked listeners into a musical frenzy – dubbed Lisztomania – that inspired audiences to throw their underwear at him. The OAE performs Wagner's Prelude & Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde and Tannhäuser Overture, which have redemption from sensuality as their theme - but Wagner’s operas were considered by some to lead to deep moral panic.
Ian Bostridge and the OAE travel through three hundred years of English music, from Purcell’s Curtain Tune from Timon of Athens and Blow: Suite from Venus and Adonis, to Britten: Serenade, in which the poet voice considers the essence of mortality and finding peace (26 April 2020, Queen Elizabeth Hall).
Other outstanding artists this season include Emeritus Conductor Sir Roger Norrington marking Beethoven’s 250th anniversary with Symphonies 2&3 (28 January 2020, Queen Elizabeth Hall) and baritone Roderick Williams, tenor Brenden Gunnell, soprano Carolyn Sampson and mezzo soprano Anna Stéphany in Elijah (3 October 2019).
Players and conductors will introduce themselves and the music together from the stage, and this season there’s another change to concert hall formalities – a strictly drinks-in policy!
Crispin Woodhead, Chief Executive of the OAE says: “We’re democratic in the way we manage the orchestra, which is run by the players – we like to question ourselves, and the sharing of knowledge underpins every performance. We’ve also learned a lot about connecting with an audience through The Night Shift series, playing regularly down the pub, and want to bring that friendliness into the concert hall, with insights into what it’s like to perform.”