Sunday 19 April

Prelude, Fugue and Riffs

Bartók Hungarian Peasant Songs
Szymanowksi Harnasie
Stravinsky Ebony Concerto
Osvaldo Golijov arr Gonzalo Grau Nazareno
Bernstein Prelude, Fugue and Riffs

Sir Simon Rattle  conductor
Edgaras Montvidas tenor
Chris Richards clarinet
Katia and Marielle Labèque pianos
Gonzalo Grau percussion
Raphaël Séguinier percussion
London Symphony Chorus
Simon Halsey
chorus director
London Symphony Orchestra

Concert recorded in December 2018

Béla Bartók
Hungarian Peasant Songs

1. Ballad – Largamente
2. Hungarian Peasant Dances

Bartók’s relationship with Hungarian folk song was both vast and intimate. Vast in that he became an avid collector of folk song from 1904 when he came across real examples of Hungarian national melodies as opposed to the romanticised ‘Gypsy’ style beloved of customers in the cafés of Vienna and Budapest. Much encouraged by his friend Zoltán Kodály, his enthusiasm for Hungarian folk song led not only to arrangements of the melodies, but to serious collecting trips first in Slovakia, Transylvania and further east in Europe and, in 1913, North Africa.

The intimacy arises from the fact that, along with many contemporaries, such as Vaughan Williams and Janáček, the contact with folk song went well beyond collecting and arranging to a profound underpinning of his compositional style from orchestral music to vocal music and chamber works.

The orchestral Hungarian Peasant Songs of 1933 arose from a piano collection entitled Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs composed between 1914 and 1918, and published in 1920. Although the piano originals were based on folk song, Bartók’s treatment of them results in an extensive suite including variations on the tragic ‘Ballad of Angoli Borbála’. The orchestral version, along with the Transylvanian Dances and Hungarian Sketches, arose in part from Bartók’s publisher’s desire to popularise his music for a wider audience.

The Ballad which initiates these two contrasting movements begins with a rugged modal theme, irregular in rhythm and interspersed with gentler, more quizzical interludes, which returns to dominate the close. The succeeding Peasant Dances begin with a robust, athletic theme adorned with ear-catching orchestral touches. This opening melody frequently returns as the dominant musical idea, but one that is challenged with bold variations and the occasional rhythmic surprise.

Note by Jan Smaczny

Jan Smaczny is the Sir Hamilton Harty Professor of Music at Queen’s University, Belfast. A well-known writer and broadcaster, he specialises in the life and works of Dvořák and Czech opera, and has published books on the repertoire of the Prague Provisional Theatre and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto.

Béla Bartók

Born in 1881 in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary (now Sinnicolau Mare, Romania), Bartók began piano lessons with his mother at the age of five. From 1899 he studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest, where he created a number of works echoing the style of Brahms and Richard Strauss.

After graduating he discovered Austro-Hungarian and Slavic folk music, travelling extensively with his friend Zoltán Kodály and recording countless ethnic songs and dances which began to influence his own compositions. His compositions were also influenced by the works of Debussy, to which he was introduced by Kodály in 1907, the year in which he became Professor of Piano at the Budapest Conservatory. Bartók established his mature style with such scores as the ballet The Miraculous Mandarin (1918–19, completed 1926–31) and his opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (1911, completed 1918). He revived his career as a concert pianist in 1927 when he gave the premiere of his First Piano Concerto in Mannheim.

Bartók detested the rise of fascism and in October 1940 he emigrated to the US. At first he concentrated on ethno-musicological researches, but eventually returned to composition and created a significant group of ‘American’ works, including the Concerto for Orchestra and his Third Piano Concerto.

Throughout his working life, Bartók collected, transcribed and annotated the folk-songs of many countries, a commitment that brought little recognition but one which he regarded as his most important contribution to music. He declined the security of a composition professorship during his final years in America, although he did accept the post of Visiting Assistant in Music at Columbia University from March 1941 to 1942 until ill health forced his retirement.

Composer profile by Andrew Stewart

Andrew Stewart is a freelance music journalist and writer. He is the author of The LSO at 90, and contributes to a wide variety of specialist classical music publications.

Karol Szymanowski


Tableau I: In the Mountain Pasture
1. Redyk (The driving in spring of flocks of sheep to mountain pastures)
2. Mimic Scene (Courtship)
3. Tatra Robbers' March
4. Mimic Scene (The Harnaś and the Girl)
5. Tatra Robbers' March (Finale)

Tableau II: In the Inn
6a. Wedding
6b. Capping the Bride
6c. The Song of the Siuhaje
7. The Tatra Highlanders' Dance
8. The Raid of Harnasie. Dance. (Abduction of the Bride)
9. Epilogue

Edgaras Montvidas tenor
London Symphony Chorus
Simon Halsey
 chorus director

The town of Zakopane, which nestles under the jagged peaks of the Tatra mountains, was a sustained site of inspiration for Polish artists in the early-20th century. Szymanowski’s first visit after World War I, in 1922, was a crucial turning point. He became enthralled by Tatra highland culture and sought to embrace its special qualities within a modern musical style which was distinctively Polish yet also of pan-European significance.

During the war, Szymanowski had explored an array of exotic inspirations (Arab, Persian) and though, in the context of the then newly independent Poland, his post-war enthusiasm for highland music may appear of nationalist temper, the composer abhorred insular nationalism. His aim was to bring Polish folk culture into the world of high art European modernism, thereby assuring Poland’s place on the international stage of new musical developments.

In 1923, an initial scenario for what would become the ballet Harnasie was written by Jerzy Rytard, one of Szymanowski’s Zakopane friends. In the following year, Szymanowski published a major essay on Highland (Góral) Music, in which he described its purity and power. His transcription of a highland song appeared in the magazine Pani (Lady). He would turn to this song when composing the ballet score.

Composition of the ballet’s music was frequently interrupted by burdensome administrative duties as Szymanowski took on leadership roles in Warsaw’s main musical institutions. After a summer of intensive composition in 1928 a performance of the first tableau was held in Warsaw in March of the following year. It received a favourable critical response, though Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Szymanowski’s cousin and collaborator on the opera King Roger, was unconvinced by the coexistence of primitivism and sophistication.

Harnasie was finally completed in March 1931. It was first staged 1935 in Prague, and then in Paris in 1936. The full libretto for the stage action is now lost, but a synopsis which Szymanowski wrote in 1934 provides the story. It begins with the forced marriage of a young highland girl who is in love with Harnaś, leader of the highland brigands. Harnaś abducts her during the wedding celebrations and they escape to his mountain hideaway.

The opening evokes the arrival of spring after the harsh Polish winter, when the sheep are taken to mountain pastures. We hear a highland melody (the ‘Sabała’) which had enthralled Szymanowski when the musicologist Adolf Chybiński played it to him in 1921. Around this folk origin elaborate orchestral textures gradually evolve. The combination of folk simplicity with high art complexity is one of Szymanowski’s finest compositional achievements. An old fiddler (a stage version of the celebrity Zakopane violinist, Bartuś Obrochta) is introduced, a figure symbolic of Highland band culture.

The scenes which follow move from the courtship, through various highland songs and dances, to the wedding and the abduction of the bride. In the epilogue we hear distant sounds of Harnaś’ love song, the return of the old fiddler, and an off-stage tenor singing a Tatra folk song on the ecstasy of love.

The combination of spring and wedding rites highlights Harnasie’s relationship to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Les Noces, with which there are several similarities, notably the explosive primitivism. But Szymanowski was always also a lyricist, and elements of Romantic yearning and an idealised view of love persist. Szymanowski’s music moves between quotation, allusion and transformation of folk sources and independent, non-folk material. It is a strategy which reveals his desire to preserve the heritage of highland music and to deploy it in a work of innovation, to bring an ancient Polish tradition into the contemporary world of art.

Note by Jan Smaczny

Karol Szymanowski

Karol Szymanowski was born in Tymoszówka (modern-day Ukraine) in the former kingdom of Poland. He was first taught music by his father, who instilled in the young composer an acute and ardent sense of patriotic duty which would influence his entire life and career.

At 19 he began composition and piano lessons in Warsaw but struggled to find a suitable outlet in a city that was, by all accounts, far from a thriving cultural capital. Until 1911 Szymanowski published his own works under the auspices of the Young Polish Composers’ Publishing Company, a group founded by him and some friends in 1905.

He supported Polish music throughout his life and served as Director of the Warsaw Conservatoire from 1927 to 1929. Szymanowski’s output falls loosely into three periods. Before World War I he followed the style of Strauss and Wagner, with big, densely chromatic symphonies. By 1914 he was moving towards an exotic aesthetic similar to that explored by Debussy and Scriabin, which came of his growing fascination with Arabic cultures.

When Poland gained its independence in 1918, this rekindled Szymanowski’s patriotic sentiments and suddenly his works were infused with elements of traditional Polish folklore – the Stabat Mater, Symphony No 4 and Violin Concerto No 2 are prime examples. The enduring characteristic of his works is undoubtedly their intense expressionism, tempered by a deep-seated spirituality

Composer profile by Fabienne Morris

Igor Stravinsky
Ebony Concerto

1. Allegro moderato
2. Andante
3. Moderato – Con moto – Moderato – Vivo – Same tempo

Chris Richards clarinet

In many ways the Russian ballets that had catapulted Stravinsky to international fame earlier in the 20th century – The Firebird (1909–10), Petrushka (1910–11) and The Rite of Spring (1913) – are a lifetime away from this tight-knit jazz concerto grosso of 1945. In between had come Stravinsky’s exile in Europe; the triple blow that brought the deaths of his elder daughter, his wife and his mother in the space of just seven months (1938–39); and his marriage to the dancer Vera Sudeikina, with whom he had been conducting an open affair for the best part of 20 years.

By 1941, Igor and Vera had applied for US citizenship and moved to West Hollywood. With his European royalties frozen during the war, Stravinsky knew his future lay in America. (He even made an orchestral arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner). So he had no hesitation in accepting a $2,000 commission from the clarinettist and bandleader Woody Herman to write a piece for Herman and his band, The Herd – even if the composer admitted to being ‘somewhat unnerved by ... my lack of familiarity with this sort of thing’.

The concerto’s title relates not to the black wood of the clarinet but to Africa, the roots of jazz. Stravinsky studied recordings of Herman’s band and consulted with a saxophonist on fingerings for the instrument. A few weeks after the premiere – given by Herman and his band at Carnegie Hall on 25 March 1946 – Stravinsky conducted the Ebony Concerto’s first recording. ‘What I remember most clearly,’ he later recalled, ‘is the smoke in the recording studio. When the musicians did not blow horns they blew smoke.’


The concerto’s first movement opens with sprightly, rhythmically perilous exchanges between brass and saxophones, and is later coloured by tom-toms, piano, guitar and harp. Its second theme is a strained high-wire melody that leads to a brief cadenza-like passage for solo clarinet, before the spitting brass-and-saxophones return.


The second movement is blues tinged with a dirge, which lightens up with some smooth, close-harmony clarinets and sharp duelling between trumpets and trombones. But smooth wins out in the end. The finale alternates a sombre bass clarinet theme – not unlike an African-American spiritual – with two variations, the first led by tenor saxophone, the second by the energetic solo clarinet, before coming to rest in an austere chorale coda.

Note by Edward Bhesania
Edward Bhesania is a writer and editor who reviews for The Strad and The Stage. He has also written for The Observer, BBC Music Magazine, International Piano, The Tablet and Country Life.

Igor Stravinsky

Third in a family of four sons, Igor Stravinsky had a comfortable upbringing in St Petersburg, where his father was Principal Bass at the Mariinsky Theatre.

In 1902 he started lessons with Rimsky-Korsakov, but he was a slow developer, and hardly a safe bet when Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes commissioned The Firebird in 1909. The success of that work encouraged him to remain in western Europe, writing scores almost annually for Diaghilev.

The October Revolution of 1917 sealed him off from his homeland; his response was to create a rural Russia of the mind, in such works as the peasant-wedding ballet Les Noces (1914–23). Before that was completed, a ballet based on 18th-century music, Pulcinella (1919–20), opened the door to a whole neo-Classical period, which was to last three decades and more. He also began spending much of his time in Paris and on tour with his mistress Vera Sudeikina, while his wife, mother and children lived elsewhere in France.

Up to the end of the 1920s, his big works were nearly all for the theatre (including the nine he wrote for Diaghilev). By contrast, large-scale abstract works began to dominate his output after 1930, including three symphonies, of which the first, Symphony of Psalms (1930), marks also his reawakened religious observance.

In 1939, soon after the deaths of his wife and mother, he sailed to New York with Vera, whom he married, and with whom he settled in Los Angeles. Following his opera The Rake’s Progress (1947–51) he began to interest himself in Schoenberg and Webern, and within three years had worked out a new serial style. Sacred works became more and more important, to end with Requiem Canticles (1965–66), which was performed at his funeral, in Venice in 1971.

Composer profile by Paul Griffiths

Paul Griffiths has been a critic for nearly 40 years, including for The Times and The New Yorker, and is an authority on 20th and 21st-century music. Among his books are studies of Boulez, Ligeti and Stravinsky. He also writes novels and librettos.

Osvaldo Golijov arr Gonzalo Grau
2000 arr 2009

1. Berimbau
2. Tambor en blanco y negro
3. Guaracha y Mambo
4. Sur
5. Tormenta y Quitiplá
6. Procesión

Katia and Marielle Labèque pianos
Gonzalo Grau percussion
Raphaël Séguinier percussion

It’s tempting to think of the jazz influences in Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto as representing an urban sophistication, but jazz itself has its roots in Africa, and the same is true of Latin American music, which infuses so much of Osvaldo Golijov’s work.

Born to Eastern European Jewish parents in Argentina, Golijov grew up listening to Jewish liturgical and klezmer music as well as to Argentine tango, and his music often reflects these divergent influences. In 2000, his La Pasión según San Marcos (The Passion According to St Mark) was given its world premiere in Stuttgart, commissioned to mark both the turn of the millennium and 250 years since the death of J S Bach. This was a Jew telling a Christian story from a Latin American perspective, drawing on musical styles from Cuba and Brazil. In this audacious re-imagining of the genre, Golijov threw in – as well as orchestra, chorus and solo soprano – three Afro-Cuban vocalists, a Brazilian-style jazz vocalist, an Afro-Cuban vocalist and dancer, and a capoeira dancer.

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. It is known for its acrobatic and complex maneuvers, often involving hands on the ground and inverted kicks. 

In 2008, tonight’s pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque commissioned the Venezuelan multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Gonzalo Grau, who had worked with Golijov on elements of the Pasión, to arrange a suite from the work for two pianos and orchestra. For Grau, the necessary removal of the text for the commission represented a challenge but also opened up ‘possibilities not just for an instrumental version of the original work, but for perhaps a new composition inspired by Golijov’s Pasión’.

The result was Nazareno (the title, meaning ‘Nazarene’, refers to the place of Jesus’ childhood home). Each of its six movements is based on one of the Pasión’s 34 movements.

'Berimbau’ refers to the Brazilian bowshaped single-string instrument, associated with capoeira, which featured in the ‘Visión’ movement of the Pasión. The movement is driven by a percussive rhythm in the bass of the first piano, joined by a colourful array of West African and South American percussion, and later layered by a higher, circling rhythm on the second piano. After reaching their apex the layers slowly recede.

The title of the second movement, ‘Tambor en blanco y negro’, refers to the pianos becoming ‘drums in white and black’ as they take over the batá drum rhythms of the Pasión’s three ‘Anuncios’ (Announcements). Towards the end, the pianos appear to spiral out of control, but three strikes of the claves lead to the ‘Guaracha y Mambo’. This is the Latin-American heart of Nazareno, an exuberant mambo with ripping trumpets, and apparently quoting the late-1950s hit ‘Tequila’ made famous by The Champs.

This is followed without a break by the beautifully songful ‘Sur’, which captures the poignancy of Jesus’ unease as he prays in Gethsemane before coming to terms with his sacrifice: ‘The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.’ This movement also links to the next, ‘Tormenta y Quitiplá’, which Gonzalo Grau describes as:

‘A flashy and virtuosic transition … with a frenetic, ascending climax, where the two pianos and the marimba play an intricate layering of polyrhythms’.
Gonzalo Grau

It’s a high-octane blast that leads directly to the final movement, ‘Procesión’, based on the Crucifixion section of the Pasión. Golijov uses Cuban comparsa and Brazilian samba styles associated with carnival as Christ carries the Cross through the assembled crowds. But while the Pasión will conclude with a Jewish lament (Kaddish) sung in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, Nazareno ends with vivid colours and thrilling energy that are unashamedly Latin American.

Note by Edward Bhesania

Osvaldo Golijov
b 1960

Osvaldo Golijov grew up in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina. Born to a piano teacher mother and physician father, Golijov was raised in an environment of classical chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, as well as the new tango of Astor Piazzolla. His music is known for its seamless integration of a diverse array of musical styles and genres including klezmer and Caribbean influences as well as electronic music and extended instrumental and vocal techniques.

After graduating, Golijov moved to Jerusalem to study at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy with Mark Koytman before completing his PhD in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with George Crumb. He went on to become a Tanglewood fellow, and studied with British composer Oliver Knussen.

Since the early 1990s, Golijov has enjoyed collaborations with some of the world’s leading chamber music ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet and the St Lawrence String Quartet, in addition to relationships with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw and Robert Spano. In 2000, the premiere of Golijov’s La Pasión según San Marcos took the music world by storm. The Boston Globe called it ‘the first indisputably great composition of the 21st century.’ Golijov has also received acclaim for other groundbreaking works such as his opera Ainadamar and the clarinet quintet The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, as well as music he has written for the films of Francis Ford Coppola.

Golijov served as the Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall. He is Loyola Professor of Music at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he has taught since 1991.

Leonard Bernstein
Prelude, Fugue and Riffs


1. Prelude
2. Fugue
3. Riffs

Chris Richards clarinet
Katia and Marielle Labèque pianos

Bernstein was not a natural improvising jazzman – however, composing ‘written-out’ jazz was no problem. Writing fluently for clarinet solo and jazz combo, he set down Prelude, Fugue and Riffs in November 1949, conceiving it as an American riposte to Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto. And yet the jazz musician Woody Herman, who had also commissioned the Stravinsky, appears not even to have acknowledged receipt of Bernstein’s score, his own career in disarray. Its ‘real’ premiere did not take place until October 1955 with the new soloist and dedicatee Benny Goodman, presented in the context of one of Bernstein’s celebrated TV programmes, his second Omnibus show, an enquiry into the nature of jazz. Seemingly destined to remain a pièce d’occasion, it has instead become increasingly familiar in recent years.

As the title promises, the music integrates classical forms and contrapuntal structures with jazz/swing melodies and rhythms, doing so with such naturalness that it sounds sometimes as though the players are improvising. In fact, only at the very end is there some flexibility – the performers themselves decide when the piece should actually stop!

The Prelude is launched on trumpets and trombones, the Fugue on saxophones, the Riffs by the solo clarinet and piano. What remains is a kind of all-embracing, wild yet structured, written out jam session that seldom fails to bring the house down. Shamelessly eclectic as it is, ‘trying everything’ as it does, Bernstein’s idiom is unmistakably his own.

Note by David Gutman

Leonard Bernstein

A gifted scholar, Bernstein took his first piano lessons at the age of ten and continued to study the instrument when he enrolled at Harvard University in 1935. From 1939 to 1941 he pursued graduate studies at the Curtis Institute, emerging as a star pupil in Fritz Reiner’s conducting class.

© Susesch Bayat, Deutsche Grammophon

© Susesch Bayat, Deutsche Grammophon

Bernstein made front-page news on 13 November 1943 when he deputised for Bruno Walter as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, achieving instant critical success and breaking the mould by being the first person ever to give a public performance with that orchestra wearing a grey lounge suit. His progress as a conductor was rapid, and in 1958 he was appointed Music Director and Chief Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. In the same year he launched a series of televised children’s concerts. Bernstein was also active as a writer and regular broadcaster, although he managed to find time to create a large output of works.

Since his death, the music of Leonard Bernstein has been subjected to close scrutiny under the musicologist’s microscope. Although opinions on his posthumous reputation are divided, it could be reasonably argued that his work as a composer, performer and educator have had a greater influence on current trends in contemporary music than, for example, the avant-garde compositions of Stockhausen or Boulez. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bernstein kept faith with the aesthetic ideals and artistic concerns of composers from an earlier age, reaching audiences with powerful, often dramatic scores and crafting memorable, heart-on-sleeve melodies. Essentially, he posed music that was approachable without being banal, sentimental without being mawkish. Above all, he knew how to write a good tune.

Sir Simon Rattle

Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. From 1980 to 1998, he was Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and was appointed Music Director in 1990. In 2002, he took up the position of Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic where he remained until the end of the 2017/18 season. He became Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra in September 2017.

Sir Simon regularly tours within Europe, North America and Asia, and has long- standing relationships with the world’s leading orchestras. Initially working closely with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestras, Simon has also recently worked with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera. Sir Simon is also a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Founding Patron of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Sir Simon Rattle was knighted in 1994. In the New Year’s Honours of 2014 he received the Order of Merit from Her Majesty the Queen.

Image: Ranald Mackechnie

Katia and Marielle Labèque

Katia and Marielle are regular guests of the Berlin Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Dresden Staatskapelle, Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras, under the direction of Marin Alsop, Semyon Bychkov, Gustavo Dudamel, Gustavo Gimeno, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, Pietari Inkinen, Louis Langrée, Zubin Mehta, Andres Orozco-Estrada, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Antonio Pappano, Matthias Pintscher, Georges Pretre, Sir Simon Rattle, Santtu Matias Rouvali, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas and Jaap van Zweden.

They have had the privilege of working with many composers including Thomas Adès, Louis Andriessen, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Bryce Dessner, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, György Ligeti, and Olivier Messiaen. At Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles they presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s new Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel. Spring of 2019 saw the world premiere of Bryce Dessner’s concerto at Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and John Storgards and, at the invitation of the Philharmonie Hall in Paris, premieres of Amoria, Invocations and their new project with David Chalmin and Bryce Dessner including Don’t fear the Light, a piece written for them by Thom Yorke.

The Labèques’ label KML Recordings joined Deutsche Grammophon in 2016.

Image: Umberto Nicoletti

Edgaras Montvidas

Lithuanian-born tenor Edgaras Montvidas was educated in Vilnius before joining the Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Past opera appearances include Werther (Massenet) for the Opéra Nationale de Lorraine, Nancy and Bergen National Opera, Anatol (Barber, Vanessa) at Glyndebourne, Les Contes d’Hoffman in a new production by Barrie Kosky for Komische Oper Berlin, Flamand (Strauss, Capriccio) for La Monnaie, Brussels, Edgardo (Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor) for Semperoper Dresden, Ruggero (Puccini, La rondine) for Leipzig Opera, Pinkerton (Puccini, Madama Butterfly) for Opéra Nationale de Lorraine, Nancy, as well as Lensky (Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin) for Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. He has also sung at Cincinnati Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Dutch National Opera, Opera Comique Paris, Grand Théâtre de Genêve, Oper Frankfurt, Opéra Nationale de Lyon and Aix-en Provence Festival. Future seasons will see him make debuts at Zurich Opera, La Scala and the Bregenz Festival, and return to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

Edgaras has been awarded the Lithuanian Order of Merit medal by President Dalia Grybauskaite; the Badge of Honour – ‘Carry Your Light and Believe’ by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture and in 2009 was awarded the Theatre Award ‘The Gold Cross of the Stage’ in Lithuania for his performances as Werther.

Image: Tomas Kauneckas

Chris Richards

Chris Richards studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where he reached the finals of the 2001 Shell/LSO Competition, performing as a soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra. After his studies he was appointed Principal Clarinet with the Northern Sinfonia at the Sage Gateshead and in 2010 became Principal Clarinet with the LSO. He has also performed as a guest Principal with most of the UK’s leading orchestras.

Chris has appeared as a soloist with the LSO, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia, English Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with conductors including Robin Ticciati, James Gaffigan, Thomas Zehetmair, HK Gruber and Nicholas McGegan. He has also broadcast as a soloist several times on BBC Radio 3.

A regular performer of chamber music, Chris has played at Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, LSO St Luke’s, The Sage Gateshead and Aldeburgh Festival with artists such as the Elias Quartet, Navarra Quartet, Aronowitz Ensemble, LSO Chamber Ensemble, Ensemble 360, Thomas Adès, Pascal Rogé and Howard Shelley and in 2008 he gave the premiere of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Troubadour Music for clarinet and piano at Wigmore Hall. He is also a regular member of the John Wilson Orchestra and a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music.

Image: Anna Thorbjörnsson

Gonzalo Grau
percussion / arranger

Gonzalo Grau began his musical studies at the age of three in Caracas. Along his musical journey he developed skills in many instruments, from the viola da gamba and the cello to the flamenco cajón and his principal instrument, the piano.

A Berklee College Suma Cum Laude, Gonzalo has established himself as a multi-instrumentalist and his varied credits include performances with Venezuelan music projects like Maroa, Schola Cantorum de Venezuela, Camerata de Caracas and the Simón Bolivar National Youth Orchestra, jazz icon Maria Schneider and the Latin jazz giant Timbalaye. As a music director he leads two projects of his own, Plural (Latin jazz-Flamenco-Venezuelan fusion) and La Clave Secreta (salsa fusion), nominated for the 2008 Grammys in the Best Tropical Album category. As a recording artist, Grau has participated in over eighty productions that bridge both classical and popular music worlds.

His most recent productions include the studio recording of Golijov's La Pasión según San Marcos (winner of the ECHO award 2010), the album México by Rolando Villazón (winner of the ECHO award 2011), and Nazareno with pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque, all released by the German label Deutsche Grammophon; and the production of West Side Story with the Labèque sisters (winner of the Choc de Classica) on the KLM label.

Raphl Séguinier

Drummer and percussionist Raphaël Séguinier’s work sees him cross a range of disparate musical styles from electronic music to rock, pop post-rock, improvised music as well as classical and contemporary music.

His international career has seen him play with prominent musical artists from Rufus Wainright to Saul Williams, Micky Green, Hindi Zahra, Chocolate Genius, Matt Elliott, Emilie Simon, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), and Aaron and Bryce Dessner (The National). He also performs with prestigious orchestras and conductors such as the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle, the Bruckner Orchestra and Dennis Russel Davis, the MDR Sinfonie Orchester in Leipzig and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Miguel Harth-Bedoya. He has played at major festivals including Rock en Seine Festival in France, Hungary’s Sziget Festival, Glastonbury Festival, and Fuji Rock Festival in Japan.

He regularly plays and records with Katia and Marielle Labèque, and has worked on projects including their two piano suite drawn from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, their albums Minimalist Dream House and Moondog, and a project championing the music of American composer Bernard Herrmann. In 2012, he started the duo UBUNOIR with producer, guitarist and composer David Chalmin. He is also part of the trio Triple Sun with David Chalmin and Massimo Pupillo.

Simon Halsey
LSO Choral Director

Simon Halsey occupies a singular position in classical music. He is the trusted advisor on choral singing to the world’s greatest conductors, orchestras and choruses, and also an inspirational teacher and ambassador for choral singing to amateurs of every age, ability and background. By making singing a central part of the world-class institutions with which he is associated, he has been instrumental in changing the level of symphonic singing across Europe.

He holds positions across the UK and Europe as Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Chorus Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus; Artistic Director of Orfeó Català Choirs and Artistic Adviser of the Palau de la Música; Barcelona; Artistic Director of the Berlin Philharmonic Youth Choral Programme; Creative Director for Choral Music and Projects of WDR Rundfunkchor; Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir; Artistic Advisor of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Choir; Conductor Laureate of the Rundfunkchor Berlin; and Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham. He is also a highly respected teacher and academic, nurturing the next generation of choral conductors on his post-graduate course in Birmingham and through masterclasses at Princeton, Yale and elsewhere.

Halsey has worked on nearly 80 recording projects, many of which have won major awards, including a Gramophone Award, Diapason d’Or, Echo Klassik, and three Grammy Awards with the Rundfunkchor Berlin. He was made Commander of the British Empire in 2015, was awarded The Queen’s Medal for Music in 2014, and received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2011 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to choral music in Germany.

Image: Matthias Heyde

London Symphony Chorus

The London Symphony Chorus was formed in 1966 to complement the work of the London Symphony Orchestra and is renowned internationally for its concerts and recordings with the Orchestra. Their partnership was strengthened in 2012 with the appointment of Simon Halsey as joint Chorus Director of the LSC and Choral Director for the LSO, and the Chorus now plays a major role in furthering the vision of LSO Sing, which also encompasses the LSO Community Choir, LSO Discovery Choirs for young people and Singing Days at LSO St Luke’s.

The LSC has worked with many leading international conductors and other major orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the European Union Youth Orchestra. It has also toured extensively in Europe and has visited the US, Israel, Australia and south-east Asia.

The partnership between the LSC and LSO, particularly under Richard Hickox in the 1980s and 1990s, and later with the late Sir Colin Davis, led to its large catalogue of recordings, which have won numerous awards.

The Chorus is an independent charity run by its members. It is committed to excellence, to the development of its members, to diversity and engaging in the musical life of London, to commissioning and performing new works, and to supporting the musicians of tomorrow. For more information, please visit

The LSO was established in 1904 and has a unique ethos. As a musical collective, it is built on artistic ownership and partnership. With an inimitable signature sound, the LSO’s mission is to bring the greatest music to the greatest number of people.

The LSO has been the only Resident Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in the City of London since it opened in 1982, giving 70 symphonic concerts there every year. The Orchestra works with a family of artists that includes some of the world’s greatest conductors – Sir Simon Rattle as Music Director, Principal Guest Conductors Gianandrea Noseda and François-Xavier Roth, and Michael Tilson Thomas as Conductor Laureate.

Through LSO Discovery, it is a pioneer of music education, offering musical experiences to 60,000 people every year at its music education centre LSO St Luke’s on Old Street, across East London and further afield.

The LSO strives to embrace new digital technologies in order to broaden its reach, and with the formation of its own record label LSO Live in 1999 it pioneered a revolution in recording live orchestral music. With a discography spanning many genres and including some of the most iconic recordings ever made the LSO is now the most recorded and listened to orchestra in the world, regularly reaching over 3,500,000 people worldwide each month on Spotify and beyond. The Orchestra continues to innovate through partnerships with market-leading tech companies, as well as initiatives such as LSO Play. The LSO is a highly successful creative enterprise, with 80% of all funding self-generated.

Image: Ranald Mackechnie

Always Playing

While we are unable to perform at the Barbican Centre and our other favourite venues around the world, we are determined to keep playing!

Join us online for a programme of full-length concerts twice a week, artist interviews, playlists to keep you motivated at home, activities to keep young music fans busy and much much more! 

Visit for the latest announcements. 

In the mean time: 

Join us for our next full-length concert

Thursday 23 April 2020 7.30pm BST
Tippett & Mahler

Tippett The Rose Lake
Mahler comp. Cooke Symphony No 10

Sir Simon Rattle  conductor