London was in the grip of a freezing winter when Handel’s charming L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato was given its premiere at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in February, 1740. The weather was so bitter the Thames had frozen over, but the theatre assured its audience: “Particular care is taken to have the House secur'd against the Cold, constant Fires being order'd to be kept in the House 'till the Time of Performance.”

Dame Mitsuko Uchida
© Richard Avedon
The warm welcome that today’s audience at Saffron Hall is bound to give renowned Baroque interpreter William Christie and his ensemble Les Arts Florissants when they make their highly-anticipated Hall debut with L’Allegro on Sunday 13 March, will undoubtedly make extra heating unnecessary at what promises to be a highlight of the venue’s impressive Spring season. 

L'Allegro defies categorisation. At the time, Handel was turning away from Italian opera towards English oratorio, but he refused to put a label on the piece – not even to call it an ode, a serenade or a mask. Even its Italian title disguises its English libretto, based on Milton’s reflections on whether we should live in thoughtful moderation or surrender to unbridled good humour. Soprano Rachel Redmond, tenor James Wey and bass-baritone Sreten Manojlovic will help the audience decide.

Another major season highlight is the return to the hall of the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Vladimir Jurowski, in what promises to be an outstanding concert on Sunday 10 April. The great pianist Dame Mitsuko Uchida will play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 4 in G major. Few interpreters can bring such grace and power to arguably Beethoven’s finest concerto. It should be a memorable evening, particularly as Jurowski will follow the Beethoven with a journey through the vast landscape of Bruckner’s mighty Sixth Symphony.

Nicola Benedetti
© Andy Gotts
Another great pianist at Saffron Hall this season is Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who will bring his inimitable style to Book Two of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (24 Preludes and Fugues), which the composer wrote “for the profit and use of the studious musical young, and also for the special enjoyment of those who are already skilful in this study”. If you think that sounds rather earnest, think again: each prelude and fugue contains a whole world of imagination and emotion, which will no doubt be vividly portrayed by this master pianist when he appears on Sunday 20 March.

And there’s more mouthwatering piano repertoire to enjoy when exciting young pianist Alim Beisembayev brings a wide-ranging programme to Saffron Hall on Sunday 3 April. The 23-year-old swept the board at last year’s Leeds International Piano Competition, winning first prize, the audience prize and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society Prize in a performance that set him on the road to stardom. At Saffron Hall he will explore works by Chopin, Ligeti and Ravel and close with three movements from Stravinsky’s spectacular Firebird Suite. Expect encores.

The smiling generosity of violinist Nicola Benedetti, that great musical communicator, ensures a capacity audience wherever she plays. Saffron Hall is sure to welcome her on Saturday 26 February when she joins her friends, the cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and the pianist Alexei Grynyuk, to perform two delightful pieces: Schumann’s Piano Trio no. 1 in D minor and Brahm’s Piano Trio no. 1 in B major. They will also include Wolfgang Rihm’s Fremde Szene III – three “essays” for piano trio that have become classics of the chamber music repertoire since their emergence in the 1980s.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner
© Sim Canetty-Clarke
There’s more exuberant chamber music at Saffron Hall on Saturday 26 March when the Nash Ensemble return with one of the most loved pieces in their repertoire, Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major, “The Trout”. And if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, they will also perform Faure’s gloriously sumptuous Piano Quartet no. 2 in G minor and Haydn’s Piano Trio in G major, “Gypsy Rondo”.

The ultimate in chamber music is, of course, a recital by a single instrumentalist. Saffron Hall will present one of today’s most talked-about individual musicians, the Balkan guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, better known simply as Miloš. Born in Montenegro, he says that he fell in love with the guitar “at first listen” when he found a dust-covered instrument in his childhood home. His talent led him to the Royal Academy of Music, recording deals and international stardom – even selling out the Royal Albert Hall with a solo recital. At Saffron Hall on Sunday 20 February he will play several major pieces from the guitar repertoire, including excerpts from Suite espanola by Albéniz and the wonderfully evocative Five Preludes for Guitar by Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Finally, there are fewer pieces more life-affirming than Mozart’s brilliant Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola in E flat major. It’s good humoured warmth, wit and invention sparkles from the first bar and is guaranteed to lift the heart of every audience member at Saffron Hall on Saturday 30 April, particularly as it will be conducted by that great Mozart exponent, Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Kati Debretzeni (violin) and Fanny Paccoud (viola) will join the English Baroque Soloists, who will also play Haydn’s Symphony no. 103 in E flat major “The Drumroll” and Mozart’s Symphony no. 39, also in E flat major – a glorious programme of 18th-century beauty and sophistication.

Click here to see all upcoming events at Saffron Hall.

This article was sponsored by Saffron Hall Trust.