Thursday 20 January 2011

Barbican Centre 2011-12 season announced

The Barbican has announced its 2011-12 season; click here for full details. Immediately standing out is a celebration of Beethoven, for which it is always the right time. Many will enthuse about the prospect of a symphony cycle from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly; I have only heard Chailly in Beethoven once and found the results irredeemably dull, glaringly contrasted with excellent Brahms in the same concert. Still, I am sure there will no difficulty in attracting an audience. Sir Colin Davis, the LSO, and Mitsuko Uchida continue their survey of the piano concertos; I cannot (yet) bring myself to feel enthusiasm for the accompanying Nielsen symphonies, but perhaps they will prove worth another try. I wish we were hearing the Beethoven symphonies from Davis instead though.

The Vienna Philharmonic, the greatest orchestra in the world - at least when it decides to be - appears with Sir Simon Rattle in Brahms, Webern, and Schumann. Other visiting orchestras include a number of concerts from the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert and the Royal Concertgebouw under Mariss Jansons (an all-Strauss programme) and Bernard Haitink (Bruckner's Fifth Symphony). Haitink will also conduct the LSO in two highly attractive programmes: the first of Purcell (yes, you read that correctly), Mozart (with Maria João Pires), and Schubert; the second of Purcell (again), Mozart (again with Pires), and (again) his beloved Bruckner. Both concerts would seem absolute musts to me.

Pianists include Evgeny Kissin and Murray Perahia, programmes yet to be announced, and Martha Argerich as concerto soloist, in a work again yet to be announced. Joshua Bell will also visit - again in a programme to be announced.

There is much else of interest, even for fellow curmudgeons. A rarity immediately leaping out is Honegger's Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher (LSO/Marin Alsop). Fellow Zemlinsky-lovers and the merely curious will surely welcome a performance of Die Seejungfrau (LSO/Xian Zhang).  The latest violinist to turn conductor, Nikolaj Znaider, conducts the LSO for the first time. After this year's - and last's - glut of Mahler, Semyon Bychkov leading the same orchestra in the Third Symphony still sounds promising. Still more enticing is a return from Pierre Boulez, in two programmes: one of Debussy, Szymanowski (with Christian Tetzlaff), and Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy; the second of Bartók (Znaider as violinist this time) and more Szymanowski (the Third Symphony).

I was delighted to see a visit to the Barbican Theatre from Opera North, presenting The Queen of Spades - and there is much more Tchaikovsky to be heard from Valery Gergiev. A mini-'Stravinsky Festival' also augurs well: alas no late Stravinsky, but that in any case might not really be Gergiev's thing. Gergiev will also lead his Mariinsky forces in a concert performance of Parsifal. His Ring seemed to find few if any complimentary voices, though some have spoken well of his Parsifal recording. Who knows...? A far surer bet, I suspect, will be Sir Colin leading the LSO in a concert performance of that echt-Romantic work far too long absent from London stages, Der Freischütz. A must for me at any rate.

Simon Keenlyside singing the title-role in Mendelssohn's Elijah should rightly attract a keen audience. Another great oratorio, The Dream of Gerontius, will resound under the direction of the excellent Andris Nelsons.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra, rarely heard to best advantage under its present Principal Conductor (from whom, you guessed it, yet more Czech music), welcomes back David Robertson in an intriguing combination of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie. Another conductor who has tended to bring out the best from the orchestra, Oliver Knussen, presents a mouth-watering concert, which will include the world premiere of a work by Alexander Goehr and the British premiere of Niccolò Castiglioni's Concerto for Orchestra. Another British premiere from the orchestra, this time under Martyn Brabbins, will be of Jonathan Harvey's Wagner Dream.