Press release: London Symphony Orchestra 2019/20 season announced

21 February 2019
For immediate release

  • Sir Simon Rattle announces his third season as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra

  • Principal Guest Conductors Gianandrea Noseda and François-Xavier Roth explore roots and origins

  • LSO celebrates 50-year collaboration with Michael Tilson Thomas

  • LSO Artist Portrait – Antoine Tamestit

  • Sir Mark Elder, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Sir Antonio Pappano

  • Eight further guest conductors with three conductor debuts

  • New works for 2019/20

  • Repertoire ranging from Baroque to Gospel

Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO 2019/20

The London Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Sir Simon Rattle open the 2019/20 season on 14 September 2019 with a programme continuing their commitment to British music. The evening begins with a world premiere by Emily Howard, a 2007 alumna of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme, whose influences range from geometry and magnetism to the human brain and neural networks. The second piece features guest soloist Leila Josefowicz playing Colin Matthews’ Violin Concerto, with William Walton’s stirring Symphony No 1 closing the evening. On the following night, Sir Simon conducts Messiaen’s final complete work Éclairs sur l’Au-delà… scored for a huge orchestra of over 120 musicians – a remarkable piece that melds together the composer’s fascination for Roman Catholic theology and ornithology. This concert introduces a theme that runs throughout the year of including – at both the Barbican and LSO St Luke’s – explorations of significant works from the latter half of the twentieth century to today. There is a particular focus on Michael Tippett’s post-war works, and also featured are pieces by Auerbach, Berio, Gubaidulina, Ligeti, Ogonek, Saariaho, Tilson Thomas, and Widmann. In Sir Simon Rattle’s words, ‘I’m always trying to get in works that are off the beaten track in every programme'.

The LSO joins with the Barbican in celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary year in early 2020 playing a series of concerts pairing Beethoven’s works with music by Alban Berg. The opening two programmes include Beethoven’s Symphony No 7, with later performances of two great choral works, the Ninth Symphony and the rarely performed oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. Sir Simon describes the piece as ‘very rarely performed and I simply cannot make out for the life of me why that is. This is from his most incredible creative period – around the 'Eroica' and the Fourth Symphony, terribly difficult to sing but really a masterpiece’. Christ on the Mount of Olives will be a highlight of the LSO European tour dates for 2019/20.

To complete the LSO’s homage to Beethoven in May 2020 acclaimed violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter returns to play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the LSO conducted by Manfred Honeck.

A series of BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime chamber concerts at LSO St Luke’s in autumn 2019 complements the Barbican Hall Beethoven evenings with four concerts of Beethoven and Tippett. In addition, LSO Discovery will present a Beethoven Singing Day on Christ on the Mount of Olives led by Simon Halsey, LSO Chorus Director.

This season Sir Simon Rattle also continues his theme of roots, origins and the future of music, with a particular exploration of the work of Béla Bartók. Sir Simon conducts Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra for the Half Six Fix series of early evening concerts that run through the season, and at a second concert alongside Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Over at LSO St Luke’s, BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime chamber concerts focus on the complete Bartók String Quartets featuring guest string quartets from France, Romania, Finland and Norway.

In the final weeks of the season, Sir Simon leads an evening of music and visuals exploring the life of the maverick and eccentric genius Percy Aldridge Grainger with Gerard McBurney as creative director. On Saturday 30 May and Sunday 31 May 2020, Wynton Marsalis performs with the legendary Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the LSO playing his 'Jungle' Symphony. Both events are co-productions between the LSO and the Barbican.

Six days later Sir Simon’s final concert of the season is a rousing American roots evening of celebration with Gershwin’s Cuban Overture and An American in Paris, Roy Harris’ Third Symphony, Decoration Day by Charles Ives and Bernstein’s Dance Episodes from 'On the Town'.

Principal Guest Conductors explore roots and origins

LSO Principal Guest Conductor Gianandrea Noseda delves further into the Russian identity in music this season, continuing his cycle of Shostakovich’s symphonies – with the Sixth, Seventh and Ninth – and conducting works by Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky. He also leads a Palm Sunday performance of James MacMillan’s dramatic, large-scale telling of the St John Gospel, originally premiered by the LSO in 2008 under its dedicatee Sir Colin Davis.

LSO Principal Guest Conductor François-Xavier Roth continues the season’s survey of the extraordinary music by the great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók with an exploration of his ballet works The Miraculous Mandarin and The Wooden Prince. In his programmes, he counterpoints these with contrasting pieces by Bartók’s contemporaries, including Elgar’s Violin Concerto and Stravinsky’s The Firebird and presents a programme dedicated to French composer Paul Dukas, best known for his symphonic poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. For those keen to learn more about Dukas, LSO Discovery will hold a Dukas Discovery Day ahead of the concert.

LSO celebrates 50-year collaboration with Michael Tilson Thomas

Over five days in November 2019, the LSO celebrates the 50th anniversary of LSO Conductor Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas’ first appearance with the Orchestra. He conducts Berlioz’ drama-in-music Romeo and Juliet, a ground-breaking take on Shakespeare’s bittersweet tragedy, which combines the musical drama of a symphony with the theatricality of solo voices and chorus. A keen advocate of new concert formats and drawing in audiences, Tilson Thomas presents his first Half Six Fix concert with Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony on 13 November. He conducts it again in a final celebratory concert featuring a second great Russian masterpiece, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, and an original composition of his own. Elegant, jazzy and cacophonous, Tilson Thomas’s Agnegram is a playful but heartfelt tribute to a friend, premiered by San Francisco Symphony in 1998, played here by the LSO for the first time.

LSO Artist Portrait – Antoine Tamestit

Antoine Tamestit, one of the world’s great viola players, is the subject of this season’s LSO Artist Portrait. Over the course of three performances on the Barbican stage, he takes us deep into the repertoire for his instrument, surveying composers as widespread as Berio and Walton. His opening concert features Jörg Widmanns’ whimsical Viola Concerto written specifically for Tamestit’s technique and personality, which sees the soloist walking through the Orchestra as he plays. Tamestit has also curated four chamber music performances at LSO St Luke’s, as part of the BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert series, inviting along some of his closest friends and collaborators.

Sir Mark Elder, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Sir Antonio Pappano

Guest Conductors Sir Mark Elder and Sir Antonio Pappano each explore British identity and origins. Sir Antonio Pappano conducts two programmes pairing symphonies by Vaughan Williams with other British composers Tippett, Britten and Elgar. Sir Mark Elder’s programme couples Elgar’s Violin Concerto, featuring guest soloist Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, and Sibelius’ Symphony No 4. Sir John Eliot Gardiner investigates Czech roots with two concerts in October 2019 that bring together three works that define the ‘Czech Sound’ by composers who drew their material from their country’s history, legends and landscapes: Janáček and Dvořák, and Dvořák’s son-in-law Suk.

Four debuts by guest conductors

Four guest conductors Karina Canellakis, Elim Chan, Susanna Mälkki and Nathalie Stutzsman take to the Barbican Hall podium this season, and Emmanuelle Haïm is welcomed to the LSO for the first time conducting the LSO Chamber Orchestra at Milton Court Concert Hall. Karina Canellakis makes her debut with LSO conducting Ravel’s La valse and his Piano Concerto in G Major, and two works by Strauss – Suite from Die Frau ohne Schatten and Death and Transfiguration. Nathalie Stutzman, also in her debut with the LSO, takes on Wagner’s Overture and Venusburg Music from 'Tannhäuser', Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and Brahms’ Symphony No 1.

Ádám Fischer also makes his LSO conducting debut with a programme featuring Haydn’s Symphony No 88, Mozart’s Violin Concerto and, Dvořák’s Symphony No 9 From the New World. Conductors returning to conduct the LSO this season include Alain Altinoglu, Alan Gilbert, Daniel Harding and Manfred Honeck.

New works for 2019/20

All three new works presented in the Barbican Hall this season are compositions by alumni of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme. Emily Howard opens the 2019/20 Season and was commissioned for Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO by the Barbican. Sophya Polevaya‘s piece receives its premiere on 19 December, conducted by François-Xavier Roth, then on 27 February 2020 Elim Chan conducts a new work by James Hoyle.

The LSO’s support for new music is highlighted throughout the season. Jerwood Composer+ Daniel Kidane will curate an evening of new music featuring Juice Vocal Ensemble and LSO Musicians in a culmination of his time on the programme, whilst his fellow Jerwood Composer+ Amir Konjani showcases his latest work on 2 November. During 2020 a further eight new composers will hear their work rehearsed by the LSO and François-Xavier Roth, guided by mentors Colin Matthews and Christian Mason as part of the annual Panufnik Composers Scheme.

There will also be two Soundhub Showcases on 15 February and 18 July 2020. A platform for emerging composers, based at LSO St Luke’s, LSO Soundhub provides a flexible environment where composers can explore, collaborate and experiment, with access to vital resources, support from industry professionals and LSO members and staff. Soundhub is a composer-led resource, responding directly to the needs of those using it: a supportive framework for artists to try out new ideas, develop existing work and benefit from peer-to-peer networking and support.

Exploring the repertoire – from Baroque to Gospel

There are two special concerts in the season exploring repertoire less familiar to the LSO. The LSO Chamber Orchestra under guest conductor and Baroque specialist Emmanuelle Haïm will perform a programme of Handel, Purcell and Rameau at Milton Court Concert Hall. In the Barbican Hall conductor and composer, André J Thomas brings together symphonic and gospel music, including orchestral arrangements of traditional spirituals and classical standards given a gospel twist.

In addition, the LSO’s popular Half Six Fix series of short early-evening concerts will increase in number to five this season and feature works by Prokofiev, Bartók and Beethoven.

There will also be further Discovery Days focusing on Janáček and Sounds from America plus two more BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime series at LSO St Luke’s exploring Bach, and Russian Roots.


Concert listings for the full 2019/20 season can be found here.

For further information, please contact:

Christopher Millard, Head of Press & External Affairs

London Symphony Orchestra 

Barbican Centre
Silk Street

D +44 20 7382 2550

M +44 20 7768 667419

Notes for Editors

The London Symphony Orchestra [LSO] was established in 1904 and has a unique ethos. As a musical collective, it is built on artistic ownership and partnership. With an inimitable signature sound, the LSO’s mission is to bring the greatest music to the greatest number of people. The LSO has been the only Resident Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in the City of London since it opened in 1982, giving 70 symphonic concerts there every year. The Orchestra works with a family of artists that includes some of the world’s greatest conductors – Sir Simon Rattle as Music Director, Principal Guest Conductors Gianandrea Noseda and François-Xavier Roth, Michael Tilson Thomas as Conductor Laureate and Conductor Emeritus André Previn. Through LSO Discovery, it is a pioneer of music education, offering musical experiences to 60,000 people every year at its music education centre LSO St Luke’s on Old Street, across East London and further afield. With the formation of its own record label LSO Live in 1999 the LSO pioneered a revolution in recording live orchestral music. The LSO strives to embrace new digital technologies – having successfully moved into digital film, Blu-Ray Audio, downloads, streaming and virtual reality – and it continues to innovate with platforms such as LSO Play, a web-based video player that allows people to observe the Orchestra from different angles. The LSO is a highly successful creative enterprise, with 80% of all funding self-generated.