Conductor François-Xavier Roth returns to the LSO in January for ‘After Romanticism’, a series of concerts exploring music on the cusp of change. Here he introduces the series, and tells us more about this fascinating period in music history....
The idea for this series is something that has interested me for years and years, how the music at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries progressively and radically changed to reflect ongoing developments in society. Also in this period you had what might have been the end of something old, but the beginning of something new in music – new directions, new languages and new perspectives. So for me it’s really one of the most fascinating periods in music history.
With the LSO I wanted to explore these different – I can’t say solutions, there are no solutions in music – proposals. I wanted to explore the different proposals put forward by composers in these two programmes. So we have music by Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, and you can very easily hear how different languages come from these composers. Even if you look at someone like Arnold Schoenberg, or even Webern at the beginning, you can hear how they changed over the course of their career, how the same composer produced different musical languages in the same life.
I think that what’s especially exciting in this music is to hear how the composers extended or abandoned the language that was known at the time. With some composers, it was an extension of tonality, while others ignored this language to go in completely different directions. So from this point of view, from the architectural and structural point of view, there was so much exploration taking place, maybe more than at any other time in music history.
I made these two programmes in a balanced way. In fact that’s really the purpose of this theme, ‘After Romanticism’, which is to say that during the same period in Europe you could hear so many different directions in music. You had composers looking towards the past and trying to develop what they had inherited. Or you had people who were really reconsidering the musical language and opening up new perspectives. So it’s really a balance between the two.
And also for the audience I will feature some of the stronger works from this period that they might already know, like Mahler’s fifth symphony or Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, but then combine these with lesser known works written around the same time. So they’ll get to hear this spirit of these new areas in music all on the same evening, and immerse themselves in that spirit of exploration from that time.
'After Romanticism' begins on 21 January, when conductor François-Xavier Roth will be joined by soprano Camilla Tilling for works by Wagner, Berg and Mahler. Then on 24 January delve deeper into this era at our LSO Discovery Day, followed by an evening concert with works by Webern, Berg and Strauss, featuring violinist Renaud Capuçon.