'The theme of roots and origins runs right through this season', writes LSO Music Director Sir Simon Rattle
It’s a journey we began together in 2018, exploring everything from the influence of European folk to jazz in American music, and even looking back to the music of the past and its connection to composers today.
Bartók, one of the great collectors of folk music, is such a central composer to this theme, and the LSO plays his music wonderfully. We’ll perform his last great masterpiece, the Concerto for Orchestra, and his one and only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. The irrepressible Patricia Kopatchinskaja will also join us for the Ligeti Violin Concerto; she comes from a family of folk musicians, and this piece takes folk music from all over the world and puts it into the most dizzying tessellations.
Beethoven 2020 – celebrating 250 years since the composer’s birth – is one of the big projects of the year. He is absolutely inescapable. There are still Beethoven pieces that are rarely performed, and some of them, like Christ of the Mount of Olives, are masterpieces. We want to find new ways to programme his music, so we’ve chosen to put it alongside Alban Berg – they marry very well together.
At the end of the season we’ll have a wild week, beginning with a visit from Wynton Marsalis and the legendary Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and an American roots programme, with lots of Gershwin, Bernstein, Ives and one of the symphonic masterpieces of the last century, Roy Harris’ Third Symphony. Then we’ll finish the season off with an evening exploring the eccentric genius Percy Aldridge Grainger, another great collector of folk song, who simply tried everything and often got there before anybody else.
And once again, the season begins with a concert of British music – one great established masterpiece alongside new and neglected music. It will be wonderful to conduct a new work by Emily Howard, who I’ve known from Liverpool since she was a little girl and her father and I played together in the Liverpool Mozart Players. Colin Matthews, too, has been such a friend of the Orchestra, of British music and of young composers, and we’ll get to play a piece of his.
The journey of working on a new piece of music with the LSO is completely thrilling. I simply can’t imagine looking at a new year and not thinking, ‘What are going to be the sounds that we have never heard before?’
Find out more about Beethoven 250 at the Barbican at www.barbican.org.uk/beethoven250