'What happened to music in Europe at the end of the 19th and into the beginning of the 20th century interests me a lot – how during that time music spread in so many different directions and how composers reacted to those changes,' says Principal Guest Conductor François-Xavier Roth.
'In the mid-1890s, Debussy, Dvořák and Strauss – from three different countries and traditions – produced three masterworks and between them produce this musical panorama of how music resonated across Europe at the time. Debussy really opened the door to modernity with his Prélude à l’après-midi d’un Faune whilst Dvorák’s Cello Concerto opened up a new area of works for this instrument and how the form of the concerto itself could develop. And Richard Strauss went so far as putting the orchestra in a role it had never had before so between them, this fascinating period shows the rich diversity of what was happening musically in Europe at this time.
'Haydn, Bartók and Ligeti however span centuries but are much closer geographically, contained in the ‘Mitteleuropa’ (central European) tradition. The father of the symphony, Joseph Haydn, was at the forefront of modern music in his time – as were Bartók and Ligeti. Here is an opportunity to celebrate this Mitteleuropa culture through these composers, especially with two major choral works performed side-by-side, and Ligeti putting the Orchestra in to such a different hold than before.
'Ravel, through his own family and his experiences in the Basque Country, had such a deep admiration for Spanish culture, and here is an opportunity to focus on his affinity with Spain on three different levels. Boléro is a conceptual masterpiece and one of the first of its kind – that is to say it’s a piece of music without any music ‘inside’, just this strong concept of repetition and development. L’heure espagnole crosses the borders as it has a Spanish theme, but all the misunderstandings and comedy of the Parisian operatic tradition with a huge orchestra but for such a small, short opera. The Rapsodie espagnole is such gorgeous, sophisticated music. A bit like Debussy’s La mer, this is like a study for orchestra with the most luxurious sound from Ravel’s orchestration. So – three works, one theme, and one very versatile composer who can change his art into such different directions.
'Finally, to LSO Futures, the third iteration of this short biennial. Last time my theme was the symphony, and this season's LSO Futures takes the the concept of ‘space’ as its focus. How can an orchestra today reinvent its performance space? What is space as an element of perception for the audience, with all the amazing sounds coming from the orchestra? Many composers are very interested in this aspect and none more so than Phillippe Manoury with his work Ring which I premiered in Cologne in 2016. It is an amazing work for a huge orchestra, but most of the orchestra the audience won’t see because it surrounds the whole audience on various levels. The whole piece is a firework of amazing sound. This juxtaposed with Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, with the orchestra sat in standard formation, will be a very interesting experience. And of course there is the Panufnik Scheme world premiere by Donghoon Shin – a composer who it is a great please to collaborate with as he is a composer of colour, a composer of new dimensions – I’m very impatient to see what he can achieve.'