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Stravinsky: Myths and Rituals series in London

(March 2016)

StravinskyPhilharmoniaNews.jpg Esa-Pekka Salonen's new Stravinsky series with the Philharmonia Orchestra, exploring the full range of the composer's output, is launched with a series of concerts in May and June, with further performances in September.

Across five concerts of music, dance and drama, the Philharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen explore the storytelling that lies at the heart of the music of Igor Stravinsky. From familiar masterpieces to rarely performed repertoire, Salonen's aim is to lead audiences to fully understand the wide-ranging genius of Stravinsky, a composer who holds a special position in the Finnish conductor's musical life.

In addition to four all-Stravinsky orchestral concerts at the Southbank Centre in London, the series sees Salonen conducting a programme of his religious-themed works at St John's Smith Square. The series is expanded with concerts by students at the Royal College of Music, and a rush-hour concert by the Southbank Sinfonia. Artists in the Philharmonia's concerts include director Peter Sellars, pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and singers Katarina Dalayman, Joseph Kaiser and Willard White, soloists from the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and the Philharmonia Voices. All of the Philharmonia's concerts will be broadcast by BBC Radio 3.

The opening concert on 15 May features three ritualistic works, moving from the stark instrumental theatre of Symphonies of Wind Instruments, through Agon with choreography by 'punk ballerina' Karole Armitage, to Stravinsky's most iconic work The Rite of Spring, with its theme of human sacrifice foretelling the carnage of World War I. As an upbeat to the concert, Stravinsky biographer Jonathan Cross presents What you Need to Know: Stravinsky, an in-depth session at the Royal Festival Hall exploring the composer's music.

On 26 May Salonen conducts three distinctively Russian theatre works, the pantomime animal burlesque Renard, the Pushkin-inspired opera buffa Mavra, and the peasant wedding rites in his ballet Les Noces. The faith-themed concert at St John's Smith Square on 2 June combines three ecclesiastical works, Requiem Canticles, Mass and Cantata, with three musical farewells to TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas and John F Kennedy.

Greek myth and neo-classicism are central to all three works on the 25 September programme which launches the Philharmonia's 2016/17 season. Orpheus and Apollon musagète were both created as ballets for George Balanchine, while the rarely-performed Perséphone is a retelling by poet André Gide of the goddess's abduction to the Underworld and return to herald the spring, fashioned by Stravinsky as a hybrid between ballet, melodrama and choral cantata. The final concert on 29 September combines the classic tragedy of Oedipus Rex in a semi-staging by Peter Sellars, with his choral masterpiece Symphony of Psalms, concluding the festival with its eternal Hallelujahs.

Concerts by the Royal College of Music on 18 May, 23 and 26 June focus on string-based chamber works, music for mixed ensemble and an orchestral programme conducted by Diego Masson with Symphony in Three Movements, Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, Song of the Nightingale and The Firebird Suite. The rush-hour concert by Southbank Sinfonia on 30 June at St John's Waterloo includes two works composed by Stravinsky in the USA, Scènes de ballet and Jeu de cartes, conducted by Jonathan Berman.

Two concerts in the series are toured by Salonen and the Philharmonia to the Festival d’Aix en Provence in July, including The Rite of Spring and Oedipus Rex. The Philharmonia's series mini-site, now live, includes an interactive timeline of Stravinsky’s life, with a series of video podcasts, original imagery and archive photography. The series is supported by The Meyer Foundation.

For full details and tickets visit the Philharmonia website:

> View Esa-Pekka Salonen introducing the Stravinsky series 

>  Further information on Work: Persephone

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