Classical music fans in the UK are set to be spoilt for choice over the next few months, with some old favourites and some brand new pieces being performed by some of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors.
Politics and classical music may not seem to a be a natural mix, but that hasn’t stopped several venues putting on performances inspired by real-life figures and real events. Prokofiev – Man of the People? is an exploration of the Russian composer’s life and music by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Southbank during January.
Another Russian is celebrated in Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony which is being performed by the Liverpool Philharmonic in a double-header with John Adams’ more modern piece, The Chairman Dances, a musical portrait of the Chinese leader Mao Zhedong.
Back in London, Black Angels, a response to the Vietnam War by composer George Crumb, is being performed by the Kronos Quartet at Hackney Empire while Esa Pekka-Salonen, along with the Philharmonia, is putting on Il prigioniero, the Dallapiccola composition that deals with fascism, at the Royal Festival Hall.
There are plenty of shows both inside and outside the capital for those who prefer to explore new musical creations, including the long-awaited new opera from Jonathan Harvey, Wagner Dream, which is on at the Barbican.
Also in London are new pieces from both Detlev Glanert and Wolfgang Rihm are being performed by English National Opera and you can expect an entertaining night out at London Sinfonietta’s take on Hommage à Klaus Nomi, a contender for the title of the campest opera ever written, by Olga Neuwirth.
Old and new collide with an innovative musical adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest by Gerald Barry being premièred by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at London’s Barbican before they head home to Birmingham’s Symphony Hall at the end of April.
World-famous musicians are heading for the UK this spring, including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra which will be making three appearances at the Barbican, each time with a different star conductor. Mariss Jansons and Bernard Haitink are appearing with the orchestra in May, while Nikolaus Harnoncourt opens the season on April 22.
Opera stars Mark Padmore, Kristine Opolais and Thomas Quasthoff will be singing a very special performance of Britten’s War Requiem in Coventry Cathedral to mark the 50th anniversary of the show’s première. Accompanied by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, this promises to be a special performance and an emotional night.
Finally, the Olympics continue their bid for UK domination with an extensive programme of cultural events to run alongside the sporting competition. The Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music will feature a performance of L’Olimpiade by Vivaldi, with the same opera getting another outing at Garsington Opera in June.
The opening ceremony of the Games will be celebrated at the BBC Proms on the same night with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Daniel Barenboim, while the Royal Opera House is offering its own tribute to the London Olympics with a staging of the complete Ring Cycle by Wagner later in the year.