Turn left out of King’s Cross Station, left again, and a train’s length down York Way you’re in musical heaven. The foyer and café at Kings Place have a welcoming gleam; a down escalator, the centrepiece, promises discovery to the novice and delight to the initiated.

Hugo Ticciati, artist in residence for Time Unwrapped
© Marco Borggreve

It’s one of the UK’s most vibrant, daring venues for small- to mid-scale music-making, so why the street directions? Because after a decade of exciting work this busy modern building still has to squeeze its feet under music’s table past the spreading knees of big-name institutions. Kings Place is a complex of flexible spaces, seven in all, that house meetings, talks and lectures alongside a cornucopia of musical events.

The season just ending boasts an aural cavalcade that’s unsurpassed anywhere in the capital. Alongside generous helpings of jazz, folk and world music, the classical and contemporary programmes at Kings Place have explored the outer reaches of musical repertoire including many events that fell within its informal year-long festival, Cello Unwrapped. The great names of our day have appeared in 2017, from Alban Gerhardt last January to Pieter Wispelwey in the pre-Christmas rush, taking in appearances by Gautier Capuçon, David Watkin, Christophe Coin and practically every cellist of note, at the average rate of a concert a week.

Something different is afoot for next year when the wraparound theme will be neither an instrument nor a musical pigeonhole, but the concept of time. As Peter Millican, the venue’s Executive Chair, explains in his introduction to the forthcoming season, “In 2018 Kings Place reaches its tenth anniversary, so it seemed an opportune moment to consider the past, present and future”. Taking its cue from Olivier Messiaen’s tenet that the perception of time is at the root of all music, Time Unwrapped will clock in at 50+ concerts, starting aptly on 6 January with Haydn’s The Creation (“In the Beginning”) with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Ádám Fischer.

Hall One of Kings Place
© Nick White

Time may sound like a convenient hook for art, a catch-all in the making, but across the year’s programming Kings Place is showing remarkable integrity in sticking to to its core tenet. Each concert has its own thematic heading – “Early and Late”, “Book of Hours”, “Before Life and After”, “Time Stands Still” – titles that often provide clues to what lies within (although there is no Vivaldi in the one marked “Four Seasons”). The season’s Artist-in-Residence, violinist Hugo Ticciati, will lead six of the concerts himself, culminating appropriately enough in Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time).

The polished wood contours inside Hall One at Kings Place hold the secret of its satisfying acoustic, and the pleasure of settling down to a concert in its mid-scale auditorium is enhanced by an impression of light and space. The addition of time to these existing perceptions will enrich the listeners’ ambient experience and, very likely, maximise their own sense of participation in each event. They can slow down with Morton Feldman’s mesmerising For John Cage, featuring John Tilbury, or speed up to Louis Andriessen’s De Snelheid (Velocity) or come to a complete stand-still with zen dancer Miyoko Shida’s balance act, performed to the music of Arvo Pärt. It should gladden the heart of Ticciati, a musician who emphasises the crucial distinction between listening and hearing, to know that the physical environment is on his side.

Whereas concerts in the Cello Unwrapped season were often small-scale, as befits the domain of a solo instrument, the 2018 adventure will see a greater emphasis on ensembles. The London Sinfonietta will explore 20th-century experimentation in harmony and linear time via the Einstein-inspired “Radical Ideas in Music and Science”; the Scottish Ensemble and Matthew Truscott have prepared an evening around the notion of “Prophecy”, and long-term Kings Place resident the Aurora Orchestra crops up, well, time and again, not least in a stimulating programme of Thomas Adès et al that’s been curated by the composer Nico Muhly and countertenor Iestyn Davies.

Sanddorn Balance actor Miyoko Shida Rigolo

JS Bach provides rich pickings across the year, but especially in a Bach Weekend led by Martin Feinstein next April that will include the complete Brandenburgs and other concertos, several cantatas and a “Homage to Switched-On-Bach” by the deliciously named Art of Moog. There’s plenty of core repertoire from the classical and romantic eras too, plus polyphony from The Sixteen and a Benedictine Day vocal workshop.

Personal highlights? There’s a Renaissance concert by The Sixteen next June that’s gone straight in my diary, dominated as it is by masterworks of Tomas Luis de Victoria and John Sheppard, while next October Imogen Cooper offers a programme of late sonatas by Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert along with the Dowland-inspired Darknesse Visible by Thomas Adès. Also in that month the Instruments of Time and Truth under Edward Higginbottom give a rare performance of Handel’s eponymous oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth. I guess it had to happen.

If Hall One is best characterised as a concert space, then Hall Two is the recital room. At 200 seats, less than half the size of its big brother, this is where the improbable happens. It will be the location for the more experimental aspects of Time Unwrapped: percussionist Manu Delago’s “Inside a Human Clock”, for instance, and violinist Thomas Gould’s “Time-Line” which will feature recent compositions for strings, electronics and tape, culminating in Steve Reich’s Different Trains.

Hall Two is also where the Aurora Orchestra holds its regular “Lock-ins”: informal post-show events where eclecticism is the key. Sample the night in February when “principal cellist Sébastien van Kuijk and his genre-defying ensemble explore the bold possibilities of instrumental and electronic music”; or in April, “experience an immersive, unsettling journey through night-time waltzes with principal pianist John Reid and illustrator Will Lindley”.

The majority of UK venues launch their annual seasons in September, but Kings Place prefers the more unusual calendar year model. It’s on New Year’s Day, therefore, that the times they are a-changing. And events aren’t confined to classical and contemporary music. Across the year of Time Unwrapped they’ve got ragas and rags, jazz of every stripe and a folk weekend with ballads of the Beltane and May Eve. All of it jostles for space alongside other scheduled concerts by the likes, in January alone, of Lawrence Power, The Tallis Scholars and the Swingles. So mark up a diary, check your watch and set the alarm. It’s about time.

This article was sponsored by Kings Place. Go here to see all the events for Time Unwrapped.