Lugano audiences know what to expect from a season at LAC (Lugano Arte e Cultura), their arts centre in a stunning Alpine lakeside setting, and the 2021-22 season promises to deliver the formula that has been a winner for years now: visiting orchestras from amongst the world’s very best, superstar soloists and a repertoire focused on the “long nineteenth century” with occasional excursions earlier to the baroque and later to music of our times. In fact, some of the names will look familiar from our previews in previous season, because in what everyone hopes will be the aftermath of the pandemic, there are a number of events which were cancelled in 2019-20 and 2020-21 which have been rescheduled for 2021-22.

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The LAC (Lugano Arte e Cultura) arts centre
© Studio Pagi

The list of superstar soloists should be exciting enough on its own. Martha Argerich is just celebrating her 80th birthday, but – to borrow from Shakespeare – age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety. “Amazingly, not only does she continue to play it [Beethoven PC2] with great enthusiasm but she seems to uncover new details each time,” we wrote about her in June. In February, our five star review described her performance of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G major as “all the magic that one has grown to expect from her over the decades of her career”: that’s the piece that she will be playing in Lugano on 6th December, when she joins her ex-husband Charles Dutoit and the young musicians of the European Philharmonic of Switzerland.

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Grigory Sokolov
© Mary Slepkova | DG

For well-aired reasons, UK-based concertgoers don’t get to see another of the great pianists of our time, Grigory Sokolov, who also continues to entrance our reviewers every time he performs (we review him regularly in France and Spain). If travel restrictions have been lifted by 29th November, it will be possible to see Sokolov give a recital at LAC, or one could choose a recital from another piano great, Krystian Zimerman, on 11th October (at time of writing, neither programme has been released). On 19th October, there will be a piano recital from the other end of the age range: Alexandra Dovgan is just 14 years old, but apparently “can hardly be called a wonder child, for while this is a wonder, it is not child’s play. What one hears is a performance by a grown up individual and a Person” – words which can’t be taken lightly since they come from Sokolov. Somewhere in the middle of the age range is another star of the piano firmament, Paul Lewis, who completes the recital series on 27th April with a programme featuring two of Beethoven’s big name sonatas – the Pathétique and the Appassionata.

The biggest name on the orchestral roster is the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, which comes to Lugano on 6th February with their Kapellmeister Andris Nelsons and soloist Sol Gabetta to play two favourites of the repertoire: Dvořák’s Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 6 “Pathétique”. Two more big favourites – Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 and Brahms’ Symphony no. 3 – are played by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on 23rd May; it’s heartening to see the all-female combination of conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and pianist Gabriela Montero while concerning that this is a sufficiently rare occurrence across the industry to be worthy of comment in the LAC season brochure. Riccardo Chailly brings his Filarmonica della Scala to Lugano on 21st September to play the Schumann Symphony no. 4 and the Sibelius Violin Concerto: this last promises an interesting cultural mix, being a Finnish symphony played by an Italian orchestra with a young soloist – Emmanuel Tjeknavorian – who is Austrian born of Iranian-Armenian heritage. 

There are visits from the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra (with Myung-whun Chung) and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (with Leif-Ove Andsnes conducting from the piano) and the season opens on September 14th by contrasting the classicism of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony with the neoclassicism of Stravinsky’s Apollo: Daniela Gatti conductos the Orchestra Mozart.

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Gautier Capuçon
© Ann Street Studio

Julia Fischer gives a violin recital packed with favourites – most notably Ravel’s crowd-pleaser Tzigane – on 15th November, while Gautier Capuçon plays Bach, Dutilleux and Kodály in a solo recital on 22nd March. There’s relatively little contemporary music on the bill, the exceptions being a percussion recital from Simone Rubino on 16th March and a varied programme from the JACK Quartet on 28th January (it’s the weekend for string quartet lovers as the Cuarteto Casals play on the following evening).

Finally, baroque lovers get three concerts, starting on 12th December when Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir celebrate Advent with Bach and Handel. Maurice Steger is one of the world’s leading recorder virtuosi, whose sound we’ve described as “like rolling a string of fine pearls”: he performs a selection of early and baroque sonatas on 12th May. Last but not least, the season closes on 16th June with Diego Fasolis conducting his ensemble I Barocchisti together with the Lugano-born Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera Italiana in Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor.

You can see details of upcoming events at LAC here.
This preview was sponsored by LuganoMusica