Sir Antonio Pappano's latest recording with the London Symphony Orchestra features a pairing of Vaughan Williams Symphonies that span the build-up and aftermath of the Second World War. Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos 4 & 6 will be released via the Orchestra's LSO Live label on CD, download and for streaming from 16 April.
For years, I’d had my heart set on conducting the Fourth; its bewildering audacity knocked me off my feet when I first heard it. The fact that it was the only symphony the composer recorded himself added to the allure for me, as if there was some very deep secret in it, so painfully personal. Post-World War 2, the strain of ‘getting on with it’ after such horrific happenings with so much loss did keep the UK united, but the personal reaction to these tumultuous events, especially from artists, was often less hopeful for the future than we would ideally imagine. Both the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies are angry pieces. No, the composer did not ‘explain’ these works in print. ‘Can’t a composer just write a piece of music…?’ So personal are these works that even studying them is a painful process, not only because of the complexity of the writing, but also because you quickly understand that you will eventually have to deal with something titanic. Are you up for it? Do you have the strength, the wisdom? Quite frightening, but also stimulating in the extreme.
This recording is taken from two separate concerts, the Fourth on 12 December 2019, the Sixth on 15 March 2020. Coincidentally, both dates were important dates in the UK calendar; the first was Election Day, the second the night before the announcement of the closure of all concert venues and theatres due to COVID 19.
It’s often remarked in concert lore that on such and such a night there was a particularly electric atmosphere in the hall; I can attest to that being totally the case with these two concerts. The Fourth symphony and its tortured and conflictual nature somehow resonated with the political struggles of the country, but, importantly (for me at least), the music unhesitatingly defines the British character: courage, perseverance, action. This has nothing whatsoever to do with taking political sides, but only with the febrile sensations of performers and audience members in the hall that night.
I would say that to an even greater degree this was true of the March 2020 date. We somehow knew that a lockdown or a shutdown was coming, this knowledge or fear (!) inspiring the combined forces of the LSO to give their utmost, to hold a proverbial fist up to the insidious virus. Everyone felt it.
Leading these two works has been a voyage of discovery, and has revealed to me just how timely (modern!) are Vaughan Williams’ passion, tenacity and deep understanding of humanity.
— Sir Antonio Pappano
Notes to editors
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos 4 & 6 will be released 16 April on CD (Hybrid SACD) and via all major streaming and download services, including Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, Primephonic and IDAGIO. The album is the conductor’s second on the London Symphony Orchestra’s LSO Live label, following a pairing of the tenth symphonies by Peter Maxwell Davies and Andrzej Panufnik (LSO0767), which was released in 2015.
About Sir Antonio Pappano
Sir Antonio Pappano has been Music Director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, since 2002, and Music Director of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome since 2005. Nurtured as a pianist, repetiteur and assistant conductor at many of Europe’s and North America’s most important opera houses – including at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and several seasons at the Bayreuth Festival as Musical Assistant to Daniel Barenboim – Pappano was appointed Music Director of Oslo’s Den Norske Opera in 1990, and from 1992–2002 served as Music Director of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (Brussels). From 1997–1999 he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
In high demand as an opera conductor, Pappano works regularly with the Metropolitan Opera, New York; Wiener Staatsoper and Staatsoper Berlin; Bayreuth and Salzburg Festivals; San Francisco Opera; Lyric Opera of Chicago; Théâtre du Châtelet; and the Teatro alla Scala. His wide-ranging repertoire at the Royal Opera House has generated critical acclaim, in productions including Verdi’s Otello, Wagner’s Parsifal, Rossini’s Semiramide, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and Turnage’s Anna Nicole, whilst working with such illustrious singers as Jonas Kaufmann, Nina Stemme, Karita Mattila, Gerald Finley, Anna Netrebko and Bryn Terfel.
As a guest conductor, Pappano has appeared with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, including the Berlin, Vienna, New York and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, and the Orchestre de Paris. He maintains particularly strong relationships with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He is actively committed to nurturing young singers and instrumentalists, and enjoys close associations with the Aldeburgh and Verbier Festivals.
An exclusive recording artist for Warner Classics (formerly EMI Classics) since 1995, Pappano’s discography features many complete operas, including Verdi’s Aida, hailed as “a magnificent achievement, of rare accomplishment” (Gramophone). Numerous orchestral discs document his work with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, London Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, and the orchestras of the Royal Opera House and the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie. Many productions from the Royal Opera House have been released on DVD/Blu-ray, and his recordings have garnered accolades including Classic BRIT, ECHO Klassik, BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone Awards.
As a pianist, Antonio Pappano has accompanied some of the most celebrated singers, including Joyce DiDonato, Diana Damrau, Gerald Finley and Ian Bostridge. He has also partnered singers and instrumental soloists on disc, including operatic and chamber recitals with Barbara Bonney, Ian Bostridge, Joyce DiDonato, Placido Domingo, Jonas Kaufmann, Anna Netrebko and Nina Stemme, and concerto recordings with Leif Ove Andsnes, Maxim Vengerov, Janine Jansen, Jan Lisiecki and Beatrice Rana.
Antonio Pappano was born in London to Italian parents, and moved with his family to the United States at the age of 13. He studied piano with Norma Verrilli, composition with Arnold Franchetti and conducting with Gustav Meier. His awards and honours include Gramophone’s ‘Artist of the Year’ (2000), the 2003 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, the 2004 Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, and the Académie du Disque Lyrique’s Bruno Walter prize. In 2012 he was made a Cavaliere di Gran Croce of the Republic of Italy, and a Knight of the British Empire for his services to music, and in 2015 he was named the 100th recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal, the body’s highest honour. He has also developed a notable career as a speaker and presenter, and has fronted several critically-acclaimed BBC Television documentaries including Opera Italia, Pappano’s Essential Ring Cycle and Pappano’s Classical Voices.
Release date: 16 April, 2021
CD (Hybrid SACD) – LSO0867 / 0822231186724
Digital – LSO0867D / 0822231186762
Label: LSO Live
Recorded 12 December 2019 & 15 March 2020, Barbican Hall, London
Producer: Andrew Cornall
Engineers: Classic Sound Ltd
For further press information please contact:
LSO Live Marketing & Partnerships Manager, London Symphony Orchestra
Photo: © Liam Hennebry