Thank you for joining us online.
Tonight's performance is dedicated to the late Rinat Ibragimov, our beloved Principal Emeritus Double Bass, who passed away in September this year. A superb musician, inspirational teacher and wonderful colleague, he will be much missed by everyone at the LSO, and tonight we remember fondly his generosity, humour and dedication.
A warm welcome to tonight's soloist Alina Ibragimova, Rinat's daughter, and a great friend of the Orchestra since her LSO debut in 2007. We are very grateful to her for stepping in at short notice to perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, in addition to a further four chamber music recordings for broadcast on BBC Radio 3. We send our best wishes to Christian Tetzlaff, who is regrettably unable to perform in this concert, as he has to undergo surgery and cannot travel or perform.
Also stepping in at short notice is conductor Stephanie Childress, who in her early twenties has achieved recognition with a broad range of repertoires and engagements. It is a pleasure to welcome her tonight for her LSO debut, conducting a programme of Sibelius, Mendelssohn and Kaija Saariaho.
Whilst we are currently unable to welcome audiences to join us at LSO St Luke's, we are pleased that the Orchestra can continue to record performances and provide music digitally to everyone during the coming weeks. We look forward to welcoming you back to the concert hall when we are able to. I hope that you enjoy the performance, and that you join us again online soon.
Thursday 5 November
Sibelius, Mendelssohn & Saariaho
Sibelius En Saga Op 9
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor (1845)
Kaija Saariaho Lumière et Pesanteur
Sibelius Cassazione Op 6
Stephanie Childress conductor
Alina Ibragimova violin
London Symphony Orchestra
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The support of our audience has truly never been more important for the Orchestra and its world-class artistic programme. By supporting us now and in the months to come, you will help us to continue to adapt our music-making and activities to meet the challenges of these times, including sharing the gift of music with our local communities through our LSO Discovery programme.
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The LSO’s return to work is supported by Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne and DnaNudge.
This performance is generously supported by our Technical Partner, Yamaha Professional Audio.
Rinat Ibragimov (1960–2020)
'It was my absolute privilege and pleasure to have shared a stand with Rinat for 20 years, an experience I will never forget and always cherish. Rinat had a wonderful sense of humour too and we shared many funny moments both on and off the platform and I’m very proud to have called him one of my closest friends. He was a devoted family man and devoutly religious and will be greatly missed by everyone that knew him or whose lives were touched by him.'
Rinat Ibragimov became Principal Double Bass of the LSO in 1995 after serving as Principal of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra for many years. In 2013 he tragically suffered a major stroke and was unable to perform, although he remained active as a teacher at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He was made Principal Emeritus Double Bass in recognition of the service he provided to the LSO.
News of his passing prompted a flood of tributes from across the music world and beyond, and his Double Bass section colleagues provided their own personal tributes to a wonderful musician.
'A respected Principal and a leading interpreter of the solo Double Bass repertoire, Rinat was among the most serious and dedicated of musical artists. He was also one of the warmest, funniest and most generous people I have ever met. To have been associated with Rinat was a great honour. To have considered myself to be a friend of his, even more so.'
'Rinat was a very special man. He was an extraordinary musician and double-bassist and the kindest and most generous person I've ever met. I can still remember his audition some twenty-five years ago; his playing was superb and we were all mesmerised. He will be much missed.'
Read further tributes from the Double Bass section on our website.
En Saga Op 9
'In none of my other works have I revealed myself so completely.'
As Finland pushed for independence from Russia towards the end of the 19th century, its artists started soul-searching. Painters, writers and composers like Sibelius celebrated the country’s tradition of stoicism – the Lutheran perseverance, meteorological fortitude and collective resolve that had seen them through past struggles and hopefully would again.
That determination rings through En Saga. The title is difficult to translate from the Swedish, but refers literally to ‘a tale’. It conjured up ideas of setting forth into the wild unknown, confronting whatever might come your way.
Sibelius was interested in primitivism when he wrote the piece, particularly in painting. He wanted to combine beauty and brutality – obviousness and subtlety. He did so using layers of patterns and chant-like themes that meld into one another, like the circular songs of the rune singers who told Finland’s ancient stories in song.
En Saga unfurls using the simplest material but soon becomes hypnotic – ‘a state of mind’ in Sibelius’s words. ‘In none of my other works have I revealed myself so completely,’ he also said of the piece, 50 years after he had written it.
Note by Andrew Mellor
As a young boy, Sibelius made rapid progress as a violinist and composer. In 1886, he abandoned law studies at Helsinki University, enrolling at the Helsinki Conservatory and later taking lessons in Berlin and Vienna. The young composer drew inspiration from the Finnish ancient epic, the Kalevala, a rich source of Finnish cultural identity. These sagas of the remote Karelia region greatly appealed to Sibelius, especially those concerned with the dashing youth Lemminkäinen and the bleak landscape of Tuonela, the kingdom of death – providing the literary background for his early tone-poems, beginning with the mighty choral symphony Kullervo in 1892.
The Finns swiftly adopted Sibelius and his works as symbols of national pride, particularly following the premiere of the overtly patriotic Finlandia in 1900, composed a few months after Finland’s legislative rights had been taken away by Russia. The public in Finland recognised the idealistic young composer as a champion of national freedom.
'Well, we shall see now what the new century brings with it for Finland and us Finns.'
Although Sibelius lived to the age of 91, he effectively abandoned composition almost 30 years earlier. Heavy drinking, illness, relentless self-criticism and financial problems were among the conditions that influenced his early retirement. He was, however, honoured as a great Finnish hero long after he ceased composing, while his principal works became established as an essential part of the orchestral repertoire.
Composer profile by Andrew Stewart
Violin Concerto in E minor
Mendelssohn wanted his adopted hometown of Leipzig to have a thriving musical life. One of his key allies in that project was a violinist called Ferdinand David. Mendelssohn hired him as a teacher for his music school and a leader for his orchestra.
David was among the best violinists of his day. His playing was so seductive that it led Mendelssohn to convert a piano concerto he was writing into a concerto for violin instead.
Mendelssohn prized order, balance and sensitivity in music. His Violin Concerto embodies those principles while still managing to sound fervent and joyous. The composer wanted the piece to sound fluent and continuous, like a flowing stream. Unusually, all three movements are linked: the first two by a single note on the bassoon, the second and third third via a short intermezzo.
The Violin Concerto is also a masterpiece of economy. The soloist enters almost immediately with the concerto’s arresting main tune. The middle movement is a distilled ‘song without words’, and the last frolics and celebrates but with the lightness of a soufflé.
Note by Andrew Mellor
Grandson of the influential Jewish Enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn was a remarkable child prodigy. Born in Hamburg, he grew up in Berlin, where the family settled in 1811. His parents converted to Lutheranism and, like his three siblings, Felix was baptised in childhood; nevertheless, he refused to change his surname entirely to his father’s chosen ‘Bartholdy’.
With an intense work ethic, he took great interest in culture of all kinds: he was a fine writer and painter, and corresponded with Goethe while still a boy. He remained close all his life to his elder sister, Fanny, also a prodigiously gifted composer, who was forbidden by their father to follow music as a profession.
Mendelssohn became one of the most significant musical figures of his day, as composer, conductor, pianist and educator. His grandmother presented him, while he was still a teenager, with the remarkable gift of the manuscript of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, which had lain unperformed for decades; the youthful composer resuscitated and conducted it in 1829. He travelled widely, visiting Britain ten times and becoming a personal favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Appointed conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1835, he settled in the city, where he went on to found a music conservatory that became one of the most important in Europe. Somehow he also found time to marry Cécile Jeanrenaud and have five children.
His propensity for overwork nevertheless led to tragedy: he died at the age of 38 in 1847, having suffered a series of strokes, just six months after his sister Fanny had succumbed to the same fate.
Composer profile by Jessica Duchen
Lumière et Pesanteur
This piece is derived from a bigger one: a score for orchestra and singers by Kaija Saariaho titled The Passion of Simone. It is a large-scaled reflection on the life and work of Simone Weill, a philosopher and political activist from France who died young in 1943.
In January 2009, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave a performance of the Passion. As a gift, Saariaho took one section of the piece that she knew Salonen particularly liked – the ‘eighth station’ – and reimagined it for orchestra alone.
'Lumière et pesanteur is a gift for Esa-Pekka Salonen, inspired by his performance of my La Passion de Simone in Los Angeles, January 2009. This piece is an arrangement based on the eight station of the Passion, which I know that he especially likes.'
Generally speaking, Saariaho was inspired by Sibelius’s interest in self-developing textures (as heard in En Saga) and French impressionism’s emphasis on pure beauty and colour. Listening to Saariaho, nothing is ever quite as it seems: her orchestra is thick but translucent, moving imperceptibly like tides, with an oceanic weight and glisten.
Lumière et Pesanteur plays with lightness and gravity. Instruments pass delicate tunes over the top of a shimmering orchestral texture filled with distinctive combinations of instruments.
Note by Andrew Mellor
Kaija Saariaho is a prominent member of a group of Finnish artists who are making a worldwide impact. She studied in Helsinki, Fribourg and Paris, where, at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique, she developed techniques of computer-assisted composition and acquired fluency working with tape and live electronics. These experiences influenced her approach to writing for orchestra, with its emphasis on shaping dense masses of sound in slow transformations.
Her first orchestral piece, Verblendungen
(1984), involves a gradual exchange of
roles and character between orchestra and tape. Furthermore, the titles of her linked orchestral works Du Cristal (1989) and … à la Fumée (1990) suggest her preoccupation with colour and texture.
Although much of her catalogue comprises chamber works, she has turned increasingly to larger forces and forms, for pieces such as Orion (2004), Laterna Magica (2008) and Circle Map (2008). Her notation is highly detailed, using harmonics, microtones and a spectrum of instructions on producing sound, from pure sounds to unpitched noise. She made her first foray into opera in the late 1990s, and with outstanding success, composing L’Amour de loin (2000), Adriana Mater (2005), Emilie (2010) and the oratorio La Passion de Simone (2006).
Saariaho has won major composing awards, such as the Grawemeyer Award, Wihuri Sibelius Prize, Nemmers Prize, Sonning Prize and Polar Music Prize. She also adjudicates, and in 2015 she was the judge of the Tōru Takemitsu Composition Award.
Composer profile by Anthony Burton
Cassazione Op 6
Sibelius wrote Cassazione quickly in early 1904, in order to fill out a concert that would introduce his new Violin Concerto on 8 February in Helsinki. The piece is in one movement but distinct episodes. ‘Cassazione’ or ‘cassation’ is derived from the German for alley (‘Gasse’) and normally refers to music written for performance outdoors.
It starts with a tune that climbs up and down through three notes in a minor key, pre-empting Monty Norman’s famous ‘007’ theme. The entire opening passage has an aura of mountains rather than streets, and could easily introduce a Bond movie.
Nonetheless, Sibelius’s own distinctive style is easy to hear. A circular woodwind tune with echoes of En Saga emerges. It is tightly harmonised before graduating onto brass. Strings labour with fortitude through patterned sequences, as in Sibelius’ recent Symphony No 2.
The woodwind theme then takes on the feeling of a Russian orthodox chant, moving to strings before being reimagined as a waltz and then a pastoral cart-ride that runs into dark clouds. A long oboe solo heralds the work’s culmination: a no-nonsense celebration of a hard-won victory.
Note by Andrew Mellor
Stephanie Childress began her early musical career as a violinist. Now in her early twenties, she is making her mark as a conductor and recently took 2nd place at the inaugural La Maestra competition in Paris. Her remarkable musicianship and command of repertoire has led to engagements with symphony orchestras, contemporary chamber groups and opera house.
This season she has conducted studio concerts with the BBC Philharmonic and will make her debut with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin next month as part of their 200th anniversary season celebrations. In early 2021 she will also make her debut with Orchestre de Paris.
Establishing herself in both symphonic repertoire and opera, Stephanie has already conducted a number of productions, including: Jeremy Sams’ The Enchanted Island with the British Youth Opera, Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at St John’s College, Cambridge, Lennox Berkeley’s A Dinner Engagement for the Cambridge University Opera Society and the world premiere of Anna Semple’s opera The Next Station in Green Park at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire. Childress established her own ensemble, Orchestra Rheia, in 2019, leading them to their make their first public performance of Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem in May of the same year.
She was also appointed to the position of Principal Conductor of the London Lawyers’ Symphony Orchestra for the 2019/20 season.
Performing music from baroque to new commissions on both modern and period instruments, Alina Ibragimova has established a reputation as one of the most accomplished and intriguing violinists of her generation. Born in Russia in 1985, she studied at the Moscow Gnesin School before moving with her family to the UK in 1995 where she studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School and Royal College of Music.
Alina’s latest CD release (May 2020), featuring Shostakovich’s Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2 with the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia and Vladimir Jurowski, attracted unanimous praise and accolades from the international press. Alina’s discography on Hyperion Records includes 18 albums ranging from Bach to Szymanowski and Ysaye.
Recent highlights among Alina’s concerto engagements include appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Sir John Eliot Gardiner), Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Pittsburgh Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (Robin Ticciati), Chamber Orchestra of Europe (Bernard Haitink), London Symphony Orchestra (Nathalie Stutzmann), Swedish Radio Symphony (Daniel Harding), Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Boston Symphony (Vladimir Jurowski), Montreal Symphony and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony.
Alina is a founding member of the Chiaroscuro Quartet. Together they have toured and recorded extensively since 2005 and have become one of the most sought-after period ensembles.
London Symphony Orchestra
© Ranald Mackechnie
© Ranald Mackechnie
Julián Gil Rodríguez
Sofia Silva Sousa
Meet the Members of the LSO on our website.
On Our Label: LSO Live
Our Principal Guest Conductor François-Xavier Roth presents a new album of music by Debussy and Ravel. Released on 23 October, you can order it now from the LSO Live store.
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Friday 13 November 12.30pm GMT
Friday Lunchtime Concert: Live YouTube Broadcast
Fanny Mendelssohn String Quartet in E-flat
Rachel Leach presenter
Available live and on demand for 90 days