Since becoming Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle has launched every season with a programme entitled “New Music Britain”, combining British classics with world premieres by the likes of Helen Grimes, Harrison Birtwistle, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Emily Howard and Julian Anderson. It cements the importance of contemporary music within the orchestra’s programming, plus a commitment to promoting British repertoire. The 2022-23 season – Rattle’s last as Music Director before taking on the title Conductor Emeritus – features a new work by Daniel Kidane. 

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the LSO at the Barbican
© Mark Allan

In this instance, the new work won’t be a world premiere as Kidane’s Sun Poem will have played summer festivals in Edinburgh, Grafenegg, Berlin and Lucerne shortly before reaching the Barbican. Rattle sandwiches it between Frank Bridge’s rarely heard symphonic poem Enter Spring and Elgar’s Second Symphony. Elgar is a composer Rattle rarely conducts, his last Barbican outing with the LSO being the Enigma Variations in that first “New Music Britain” programme in 2017. 

Elsewhere, the first half of the announced season contains some classic Rattle programming. He’s rarely been one for the overture-concerto-symphony formula – although there is one of those when Dame Mitsuko Uchida joins the orchestra for Schumann’s Piano Concerto in November. Rattle has a gift for juxtaposing unusual shorter works, such as the programme on 15th September, which is centred around Tōru Takemitsu’s Fantasma / Cantos II for trombone and orchestra where the soloist will be LSO principal Peter Moore. It is performed between short works by Berlioz and Ravel. But in the second half of the concert, presumably with Moore back at his usual desk, Rattle includes two works featuring significant trombone solos – the Suite from Bartók’s ballet The Miraculous Mandarin and Sibelius’ single-movement Symphony no. 7, where the trombone motif recurs at key moments. 

Peter Moore
© Andy Paradise

Rattle has been a devout Sibelian for decades. Where many conductors would preface a Bruckner symphony with a Mozart piano concerto (almost concert “law” in the UK), Rattle has two Sibelius symphonic poems – The Oceanides and the mighty Tapiola – on the bill, a reminder that the Finn was profoundly moved by Bruckner’s music. December sees a concert which includes “Stravinsky Journey”, a collection of short works that the conductor has threaded together rather like his “Haydn Imaginary Orchestra Journey” he created in 2017. 

December also sees Brahms’ German Requiem paired with Szymanowski’s rarely heard Stabat Mater (a work Rattle performed and recorded in Birmingham), followed by concert performances in January of Janáček’s Kátya Kabanová starring Amanda Majeski, who scored such a success in The Royal Opera’s 2019 production, in the title role. Rattle’s programming is always highly imaginative and has a way of refreshing the ears. 

Gianandrea Noseda is another familiar face in the season. The LSO’s Principal Guest Conductor continues his Shostakovich symphony cycle (also being recorded for LSO Live) with the Eleventh, subtitled “The Year 1905”. It commemorates the events of the 1905 Russian Revolution and the bloody massacre of protestors who had gathered in front of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. Shostakovich’s music is vividly descriptive, often charged with being like a film score. As it’s a terrifically loud work, it’s good to see that Alice Sara Ott will perform Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major before the interval. Ott is always a welcome visitor to the LSO and also appears earlier in November where she plays Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto in a programme where Nathalie Stutzmann conducts Brahm’s Fourth and Le Chasseur maudit by César Franck (who’s being shamefully ignored by UK orchestras in his 200th anniversary year). Noseda conducts the LSO’s contribution to the EFG London Jazz Festival with Jess Gillam (playing John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto) and “symphonic jazz” and is then back in January with Prokofiev’s Sixth and Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with LSO favourite Janine Jansen. 

Jess Gillam
© Robin Clewley Photography

The LSO’s autumn season also includes chances to hear contemporary music from North America. Canadian Samy Moussa’s Crimson opens Kevin John Edusei’s concert on 27th October. Premiered at the Lucerne Festival in 2015, it is written for a large orchestra including plenty of percussion. Listen out for contrabassoon growls too! Edusei programmes it before Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto (LSO leader Roman Simovic) and Stravinsky’s puppet ballet, Petrushka

Composer and conductor André J Thomas leads a programme of music by Black American composers, at the centre of which is the UK premiere of the Tuba Concerto by jazz trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis, played by LSO principal Ben Thomson. It comes between works by two composers from Atlanta, Carlos Simon’s Portrait of a Queen and Joel Thompson’s To Awaken the Sleeper, a medtiation with narration based on the words of James Baldwin. The week before, Thomas also conducts a programme dedicated to “Symphonic Gospel” which will feature choirs from across London.

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