Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: Concerts in the UK 2007

One of the joys of living in London is that you can go out almost every night of the year and see world-class music-making. Londoners are simply spoilt for choice but it’s not just in the capital that we can look forward to an exciting start to 2007. Around the country great conductors and orchestras are offering a fantastic line-up of concerts in the first part of the year, and here we round up some of the best.

In London, the biggest event of the year is bound to be the re-opening of the Royal Festival Hall in June. As we eagerly await news of the programming for the launch and beyond, the orchestras resident on the South Bank have a full schedule of concerts in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Two of the hottest conducting talents around today make a number of appearances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra during this period. Marin Alsop will conduct four concerts through to April and works include Britten’s Violin Concerto (soloist Anthony Marwood), James Macmillan’s Veni, veni, Emmanuel and Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies.

Vladimir Jurowski will work with both the LPO (Honegger’s Fourth Symphony in March and an intriguing mix of Bach, Mozart and Bruckner in May) and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (where Glinka’s Kamarinskaya and Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony make up an attractive programme). Other appealing events from the LPO include Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms early in the New Year and Alice Coote singing Ravel’s Sheherazade in February.

The QEH’s other major resident, the Philharmonia Orchestra, shows its ability to attract top names with visits by Esa-Pekka Salonen (due to take over as Principal Conductor in 2008), Charles Dutoit, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Charles Mackerras, Andrs Schiff, Andrew Davis and the young Venezuelan whizz-kid Gustavo Dudamel. Christoph von Dohnnyi will of course also be in evidence during his final full year as Principal Conductor.

Before leaving the South Bank, mention has to be made of the London Sinfonietta, who continue to champion new and recent work, with a programme of Ligeti, Knussen and Goehr looking particularly attractive in March.

Over the river and turn right and you arrive at the Barbican, the capital’s other major venue. The quality of the programme is so high here that you can easily find yourself having to book a year ahead. The London Symphony Orchestra sees Valery Gergiev take over as Principal Conductor in January and he will conduct a series of concerts focusing on Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Debussy. Also with the LSO, Mark Elder conducts an interesting line-up of pieces by Jancek alongside Brahms’ Violin Concerto (soloist Joshua Bell). One of the highlights of the year must be Colin Davis and another of his concert performances of Berlioz operas, this time the early work Benvenuto Cellini.

Top picks for the other resident orchestra, the BBC Symphony, include their Chief Conductor Jir Behlovlek and Jancek’s The Adventures of Mr Broucek, a recital with Thomas Hampson and Susan Graham, and Sarah Connolly singing Britten’s Phaedra in May.

Young British composer Thomas Adès is celebrated in a major retrospective, Traced Overhead, in which he will conduct works by other composers who have influenced him, as well as a number of his own compositions – a chance to find out what all the fuss is about.

Austrian mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager leads the cast of a concert performance of Handel’s Ariodante at the end of March. Mariss Jansons visits with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam playing Schubert and Bruckner in February, while Simon Rattle and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment give an all-Dvorak programme in May.

That’s barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer in London this coming spring but what is there for music lovers further afield?

Another major cultural centre is Manchester, home of two important bands – The Hall and the BBC Philharmonic.

Mark Elder has been mentioned already but the Halle is his home and chances to hear him at work include a concert featuring extracts from Wagner plus Alice Coote singing Elgar’s Sea Pictures. He’ll also direct a programme in April of unusual works – Mendelssohn’s The Fair Melusine and Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto, with one of Sibelius’ lesser known symphonies, the Third.

The BBC Phil will be out and about, playing at Kendal Leisure Centre, Leeds Town Hall, Durham Cathedral and Wolverhampton Civic Hall, as well as The Bridgewater Hall. Chief Conductor Gianandrea Noseda will conduct the Schumann symphonies (over several evenings) and soprano Katie van Kooten will sing Strauss’ Four Last Songs conducted by veteran Edward Downes. In March, Composer James Macmillan conducts a number of his own works plus other pieces including Armenian sacred chants.

Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo has been Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra since 1999. He can be seen in action at Symphony Hall throughout the Spring, and highlights include an all-Russian programme (Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev) and then Mahler’s Third with mezzo Susan Graham as soloist, both in March. The latter gets several outings, some of them coupled with Thomas Ads’ large scale work Asyla.

Emmanuelle Ham will conduct Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Symphony Hall in late January. Haydn’s lovely Nelson Mass is slightly worryingly billed as “Singalong with the CBSO” – a sign of the times, perhaps, though I’d rather leave it to the professionals. An all-British programme (Britten, Vaughan Williams, Macmillan) in April sounds promising.

Over the border and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra can be heard at venues in a number of the major cities – Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Dunfermline, Edinburgh and Glasgow. January sees Handel’s Messiah, the traditional New Year Strauss-fest and a combination of Bruckner’s Third Symphony with Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll (conductor Walter Weller). An American programme in March sees Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops doing Gershwin, Bernstein, Barber and Copland.

Based at the City Halls, Glasgow, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will also be out and about, touring to other venues in Scotland plus the odd venture south of the border. Ivan Volkov will conduct Mahler’s magnificent Ninth for a couple of nights in March and will be back in May with Haydn’s Paukenmesse.

Hopefully, this lightning tour will give you a feel for the variety and quality of what’s available around the country and whet your appetite. It’s all out there just waiting for you, so log-on and find out more – and then it’s time to get booking.

buy Simon Rattle MP3s or CDs
Spotify Simon Rattle on Spotify

More on Simon Rattle
Jenůfa review – Rattle returns to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra
BBC Proms 2023 Preview – back to normal Part 2
Katya Kabanova: Simon Rattle conducts a shattering performance with the LSO and an unbeatable cast
Two choral masterpieces put the LSO Chorus through their paces at the Barbican
BBC Proms: London Symphony Orchestra / Rattle @ Royal Albert Hall, London