LPO announce 2018/2019 season

The LPO’s 2018/2019 season announced today features some cracking guest artists, interesting works, and a thought-provoking festival too.

Vladimir Jurowski, principal conductor and advisor of LPO (pictured above) conducts 12 Royal Festival Hall concerts including Haydn’s The Seasons, Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress, and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. 

Isle of Noises will run throughout 2019 and celebrate the music Britain written over three centuries – music made in Britain, or inspired by the country. The festival will be launched by conductor Marin Alsop and include a brand-new percussion concerto by Helen Grime, a new work by Arne Gieshoff, and Anders Hillborg’s Concerto for Orchestra.

The festival will go on to feature Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, works by Elgar, Walton and Bax. Clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer will also give a rare performance of a piece for clarinet by the early 19th century composer Alice Mary Smith.

Oh. And the cracking artists I mentioned. A string of pianists including Mitsuko Uchida, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Kiril Gernstein, Ben Grosvenor, Stephen Hough, and Jan Lisiecki, plus percussionist Colin Currie, violinsts Janine Jansen and Viktoria Mullova, and cellists Matthew Barley and Kian Soltani.

Move along please

So far so good. Nothing especially thought-provoking. It’s just a festival of stuff.

Well, had the Telegraph’s interview with LPO Chief Exec Timothy Walker not been quite so brutal – Brexit could be ‘opportunity’ for orchestras to escape EU red tape and re-engage with the world – then maybe my attention on the season launch wouldn’t be quite so focussed.

Quite a few people got a little worked up yesterday. I quite understand why.

Walker’s main thrust in the ‘interview’ is that the LPO were experiencing increased costs in dealing with EU ‘red tape’ in the run-up to the referendum and that it could well be the case that pursuing other territories may see opportunities with a smaller logistical overhead.

It’s not an entirely dissimilar view from that which I got a sense of last week at the ABO conference (except for the bit about the EU’s red tape making things difficult before the referendum – I’ve not heard that before).

I left British Council’s Sir Ciaran Devane’s keynote appreciating having the referendum and Brexit re-contextualised: Brexit isn’t what anyone wants, but think first of the people who felt disconnected from society and use the arts to reach out to them; consider external territories as new opportunities.

Unexpectedly, I felt the doom and gloom lift a little when I heard that. Mind you, I’m not running an orchestra, I’m just writing about them.


Thinking of it now and looking at Timothy Walker’s Telegraph appearance I see pragmatism, albeit reported on in a characteristically clod-hopping and shamelessly agenda-driven manner by the Torygraph.

Looked at it from the perspective of 2019 being the year we are supposedly leaving the EU (I’m a proud remainer, by the way) and the UK casting itself off to find new lands aplenty, a two-year festival celebrating British music performed by a band with an international portfolio and a recognisable brand, isn’t a bad strategy. In fact, it could be quite a realistic one.

The Brexit oil-tanker is old, rusty and swaying dangerously from side to side, but it isn’t, sadly, unstoppable or sinkable. Making the best of things may, in years to come, be seen as an admirable strategy.

Timothy Walker’s quote in the press release is quite clear though: “I programmed our survey of British music before the EU referendum was announced, but it’s perfected timed as discussions about Britain’s place in not only Europe but the world dominate the news agenda … LPO is proud of its record of being an international orchestra, from its being the first to play in China/Russia to its present-day touring of Asia, America and Europe and being an orchestra made up of players from 27 countries.”

Grit and relevance

And the more I think about that, I return to one of Sir Ciaran Devane’s points last week, and that made by countless others in recent weeks about influence bubbles – how we’ve all of us got sucked into our own spheres of influence so readily and so unwittingly that anyone who disagrees with us instantly triggers our ire. Isn’t there an argument for people accepting there are other arguments within the cultural sector about Brexit, just as there are other views on the clusterfuck?

What remains vital is safeguarding the talent that have made it possible for the LPO to go from strength to strength in the past twenty years. I wouldn’t normally expect to see that written about in a press release promoting a new season.

What’s really interesting for me is how whether by design or by accident, the LPO have aligned a new season with the news agenda. That means they get more exposure. And in an unexpected way, they’ve given the genre a little more grit and relevance.

  • The season starts on 26 September 2018. General booking opens on 6 February 2018
  • Find out more about the LPO’s 2018/2019 season and book tickets via lpo.org.uk

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