Thursday 28 May

German Requiem



We hope that you enjoy this broadcast from our archives, recorded in March 2013.

Tonight's programme

Szymanowksi Stabat Mater
Brahms German Requiem

Valery Gergiev conductor
Sally Matthews soprano
Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano
Kostas Smoriginas baritone
Christopher Maltman baritone
London Symphony Chorus
Simon Halsey
chorus director
London Symphony Orchestra

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Karol Szymanowski
Stabat Mater Op 53

  1. Stała Matka bolejąca (At the Cross)
  2. I któż, widząc tak cierpiącą (Is there one who would not weep)
  3. O Matko źródło Wszechmiłości (Can the human heart refrain)
  4. Spraw niech płaczę z Tobą razem (Let me share with thee his pain)
  5. Panno słodka racz mozołem (Let me, to my latest breath)
  6. Chrystus niech mi będzie grodem (Christ, with Thou shalt call me)

Sally Matthews soprano
Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano
Kostas Smoriginas baritone
London Symphony Chorus

Although Szymanowski is best-known for his orchestral and chamber music, his contribution to vocal music was far from negligible. His collected songs run to four CDs, he wrote several stage works, notably his opera King Roger, while both the Third Symphony and the ballet Harnasie (Mountain Robbers) include a tenor solo and chorus. Towards the end of his life, he composed choral music on sacred topics, the two short cantatas Veni Creator and Litany to the Virgin Mary. Undoubtedly, however, his vocal-instrumental masterpiece is the Stabat Mater. Despite its modest size and forces, it is one of his most expressive and resonant works and is one of the glories of 20th-century sacred music.

In 1924 Szymanowski was commissioned by the French music patron the Princesse de Polignac. In what might be regarded as a parallel with Brahms’ German Requiem, or Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, his first real thoughts centred on a Polish ‘Peasant Requiem … some sort of mixture of naïve devotion, paganism and a certain rough peasant realism’. In the end this plan came to nothing, but the following year he accepted a different commission which resulted in the Stabat Mater. This more modest project developed his vision for a ‘Peasant Requiem’, its six short movements combining folk elements with archaisms such as Renaissance contrapuntal practices. The orchestra is modest too, not even playing in the fourth movement, while the three soloists (no tenor in this work) sing together only in the last movement.

Szymanowski was spurred on by the Polish translation by Józef Jankowski, whose poetic imagery spoke more vividly to him than did the Latin. The poignancy of the opening bars – its subdued register and keening harmonies – anticipates the text’s pain. But Szymanowski also brings a compelling beauty to Mary’s lament, as the melody for the solo soprano (supported by the choral sopranos and altos) movingly demonstrates. The tolling bass line of the second movement (baritone and chorus) upholds a more declamatory mode, building to a sonorous climax.

The solo mezzo-soprano opens the third movement, in plangent duet with a clarinet. The entry of solo soprano and female chorus, pianissimo, is breathtaking. The prayerful heart of the Stabat Mater is the fourth movement, composed for a cappella chorus joined partway through by the female soloists. This essentially homophonic music, with its wondrous chord sequences, brings to mind the church songs that also inspired Szymanowski, as he once commented:

‘The essential content of the hymn is so much deeper than its external dramaturgy … one should preserve a state of quiet concentration and avoid obtrusive, garish elements’.

The baritone solo of the fifth movement, accompanied by chanting chorus, returns to provide the second climactic moment of the Stabat Mater. The sixth movement brings reflection and an opening for the solo soprano, which Szymanowski described as being ‘the most beautiful melody I have ever managed to write’ (so beautiful that it influenced Górecki in his Third Symphony, often regarded as the Stabat Mater’s natural successor). With soaring melody and deep cadences, as well as a brief return of a cappella singing, the work resolves on a major triad that resonates into silence.

Note by Adrian Thomas
Adrian Thomas is a composer and author specialising in Polish music.

Stabat Mater
Texts & translation

1. Stała Matka bolejąca

Stała Matka bolejąca,
Koło krzyża łzy lejąca,
Gdy na krzyżu wisiał Syn.

A jej duszę potyraną 
Rozpłakaną, poszarpaną 
Miecz przeszywał ludzkich win. 

O, jak smutna, jak podcięta 
Była Matka Boża święta, 
Cicha w załamaniu rąk! 

O, jak drżala I truchlała, 
I bolała,gdy patrzała 
Na synowskich tyle mąk. 

1. At the Cross her station keeping

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole begotten One.

Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.

2. I któż, widząc tak cierpiącą

I któż, widząc tak cierpiącą,
Łzą nie zaćmi się gorącą, 
Nie drgnie, taki czując nóż? 

I kto serca nie ubroczy, 
Widząc, jak do krzyża oczy 
Wzbiła, z bólu drętwa już. 

Za ludzkiego rodu winy 
Jak katowan był jedyny, 
Męki każdy niołsa dział

I widziała, jak rodzony 
Jej umierał opuszczony, 
Zanim Bogu duszę dał. 

2. Is there one who would not weep

Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.

For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:

She beheld her tender Child,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

3. O Matko źródło Wszechmiłości

O Matko, źródło wszechmiłości,
Daj mi uczuć moc żałości, 
Niechaj z Tobą dźwignę ból. 

Chrystusowe ukochanie 
Niech w mym sercu ogniem stanie, 
Krzyża dzieje we mnie wtul. 

Matko, Matko, miłosiernie Wejrzyj. 
Syna Twego ciernie 
W serce moje wraź jak w cel!

Rodzonego, męczonego, 
Syna Twego ofiarnego 
Kaźń owocną ze mną dziel. 

3. Can the human heart refrain

Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?

O thou Mother! Fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.

Holy Mother! Pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Saviour crucified.

4. Spraw niech płaczę z Tobą razem 

Spraw, niech płaczę z Tobą razem,
Krzyża zamknę się obrazem
Aż po mój ostatni dech.

Niechaj pod nim razem stoję, 
Dzielę Twoje krawe znoje.
Twą boleścią zmywam grzech. 

4. Let me share with thee His pain

Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live.

5. Panno słodka racz mozołem

Panno słodka, racz, mozołem 
Niech me serce z Tobą społem 
Na golgocki idzie skłon. 

Niech śmierć przyjmę z katów ręki, 
Uczestnikiem będę męki, 
Razów krwawych zbiorę plon. 

Niechaj broczty ciało moje, 
Krzyżem niechaj się upoję, 
Niech z miłosnych żyję tchnień! 

W morzu ognia zapalony, 
Z Twojej ręki niech osłony 
Puklerz wezmę w sądu dzień! 

5. Let me, to my latest breath

Let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine.

Wounded with His every wound,
steep my soul till it hath swooned,
in His very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
lest in flames I burn and die,
in His awful Judgement Day.

6. Chrystus niech mi będzie grodem

Chrystus niech mi będzie grodem,
Krzyż niech będzie mym przewodem,
Łaską pokrop, życie daj.

Kiedy ciało me się-skruszy, 
Oczyszczonej w ogniu duszy 
Glorię zgotuj, niebo, raj. 

6. Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
by Thy Mother my defence,
by Thy Cross my victory.

When my body dies,
let my soul be granted
the glory of Paradise.

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.

Portrait of composer Karol Szymanowksi

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 1927–29.

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.

Profile by Fabienne Morris


Johannes Brahms
German Requiem Op 45

  1. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen (Blessed are they that mourn)
  2. Denn alles Fleisch ist wie Gras (For all flesh is grass)
  3. Herr, lehre doch mich (Lord, make me to know mine end)
  4. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (How lovely are thy dwellings)
  5. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (And ye now therefore have sorrow)
  6. Denn wir haben hie (For here have we no continuing city)
  7. Selig sind die Toten (Blessed are the dead)

Sally Matthews soprano
Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano
Christopher Maltman baritone
London Symphony Chorus

Brahms was a questioning, subtle agnostic who could not accept any dogmatic form of religion. His German Requiem is not a liturgical work, nor even specifically Christian. There is no mention of sin or redemption, no vision of eternal judgement or plea for divine mercy. Instead, there is an almost pagan sense of inevitable fate, tempered by stoic endurance and a search for consolation and hope. The ‘German’ in the title has nothing to do with nationalism, but refers to the language: Brahms admired the poetry and wisdom to be found in many passages in the Bible and compiled his own texts from the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha in the venerable 16th-century translation by Martin Luther.

The immediate stimulus for the composition of the Requiem was the death of Brahms’ mother in February 1865, but its genesis goes back to the early 1850s when the 20-year-old Brahms first met Robert and Clara Schumann. They were amazed at this young genius, and shortly afterwards Schumann published the famous article which proclaimed Brahms to be the long-awaited Messiah who would bring to fulfilment all the best tendencies in German music. Within months Schumann’s mental health collapsed; he attempted suicide and was confined in an asylum, where he died in 1856. In the meantime, Brahms became closely attached to Schumann’s wife Clara, and the music from these years expresses much of the turmoil and stress he experienced.

In 1854 Brahms began a sonata for two pianos, which then turned into a projected symphony in D minor. The first movement of this, in its turn, eventually became the opening movement of the First Piano Concerto (1856–58), while the theme of a slow movement in the triple rhythm of a Sarabande became the basis of the second movement of the Requiem. The dark style of orchestration that Brahms devised for the Concerto certainly influenced the Requiem’s overall sound; and the Concerto’s slow movement marks the first appearance of a particular mood of resigned serenity that is so characteristic of the Requiem, the work which Brahms hoped would be worthy of Schumann’s prophecies and stand as a suitable memorial to him.

After a poorly rehearsed run-through of three movements in Vienna in December 1867, Brahms conducted the first performance on 10 April (Good Friday) 1868 in Bremen Cathedral, just a month before his 35th birthday. The Requiem then consisted of only six movements. Brahms soon added a seventh movement and in February 1869 the final form of the work was premiered under Carl Reinecke in Leipzig. Within a year it had received 20 performances in Germany and Switzerland, and soon made Brahms famous throughout Europe.


The first movement, with divided violas and cellos but no violins or clarinets, establishes a prevailing mood; each of the following movements has its own distinct colouring, its own particular shade of objectivity or intimacy, resulting in an overall arch-like structure. The solo baritone in the third and sixth movements, and the soprano in the fifth, sing passages which are among the most deeply expressive and personal utterances in all of Brahms’ music. It is the chorus, though, that bears the burden of the Requiem, conveying the inner meaning of the words that Brahms had so carefully chosen to express his deepest thoughts on life and death. Not that Brahms himself ever tried to explain in words what he was doing. Whenever he was asked what lay behind his music he would turn away questions with the sort of gruffness he seems to have inherited from his father. After the Bremen premiere of the Requiem, which reduced many in the audience to tears, old Jakob Brahms was discovered taking snuff outside the cathedral, simply muttering ‘It didn’t sound too bad’.

Note by Andrew Huth
Andrew Huth is a musician, writer and translator who writes extensively on French, Russian and Eastern European music.

German Requiem
Texts & translation

1. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getröstet werden.

Die mit Tränen säen, werden mit Freuden ernten.
Sie gehen hin und weinen und tragen edlen Samen, und kommen mit
Freuden und bringen ihre Garben.

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen …

1. Blessed are they that mourn

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
They that go forth and weep, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless
come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.

Blessed are they that mourn …

2. Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras

Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen
wie des Grases Blumen. Das Gras ist verdorret und die Blume abgefallen.

So seid nun geduldig, liebe Brüder, bis auf die Zukunft des Herrn.
Siehe, ein Ackermann wartet auf die köstliche Frucht der Erde und ist geduldig darüber, bis er empfahe den Morgenregen und Abendregen. So seid geduldig. So seid geduldig.

Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras …

Aber des Herrn Wort bleibet in Ewigkeit.

Die Erlöseten des Herrn werden wieder kommen, und gen Zion kommen mit Jauchzen; ewige Freude wird über ihrem Haupte sein;
Freude und Wonne werden sie ergreifen und Schmerz und Seufzen wird weg müssen.

2. For all flesh is as grass

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower thereof falleth away.

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the morning and evening rain. So be ye patient.

For all flesh is as grass …

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

3. Herr, lehre doch mich

Herr, lehre doch mich, daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß,
und mein Leben ein Ziel hat, und ich davon muß. Siehe, meine Tage sind einer Hand breit vor dir, und mein Leben ist wie nichts vor dir.

Ach wie gar nichts sind alle Menschen, die doch so sicher leben.
Sie gehen daher wie ein Schemen, und machen ihnen viel vergebliche Unruhe; sie sammeln und wissen nicht wer es kriegen wird.

Nun Herr, wess soll ich mich trösten? Ich hoffe auf dich.

Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand
und keine Qual rühret sie an.

3. Lord, make me to know mine end

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days,
what it is: that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee.

Surely every man walks in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them.

And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God
and there shall no torment touch them.

4. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen

Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth!
Meine Seele verlanget und sehnet sich nach den Vorhöfen des Herrn;
mein Leib und Seele freuen sich in dem lebendigen Gott. Wohl denen,
die in deinem Hause wohnen, die loben dich immerdar.

4. How lovely are thy dwellings

How lovely are thy dwellings, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yea, even faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cries out for the living God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will always be praising thee.

5. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit

Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit; aber ich will euch wiedersehen und euer Herz soll sich freuen, und eure Freude soll niemand von euch nehmen.

Ich will euch trösten, wie einen seine Mutter tröstet.

Sehet mich an: Ich habe eine kleine Zeit Mühe und Arbeit gehabt
und habe großen Trost funden.

5. And ye now therefore have sorrow

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again,
and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.

Behold with your eyes, how that I have but little labour,
and have gotten unto me much rest.

6. Denn wir haben hie

Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt, sondern die zukünftige suchen wir.

Siehe, ich sage euch ein Geheimnis: Wir werden nicht alle entschlafen, wir werden aber alle verwandelt werden; und dasselbige plötzlich in einem Augenblick zu der Zeit der letzten Posaune. Denn es wird die Posaune schallen, und die Toten werden auferstehen unverweslich, und wir werden verwandelt werden.

Dann wird erfüllet werden das Wort, das geschrieben steht:
Der Tod ist verschlungen in den Sieg. Tod, wo ist dein Stachel?
Hölle, wo ist dein Sieg?

Herr, du bist würdig, zu nehmen Preis und Ehre und Kraft, denn du hast alle Dinge erschaffen, und durch deinen Willen haben sie das Wesen und sind geschaffen.

6. For here have we no continuing city

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written,
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

7. Selig sind die Toten

Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben von nun an.
Ja, der Geist spricht, daß sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit;
denn ihre Werke folgen ihnen nach.

7. Blessed are the dead

Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, from henceforth.
Yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours;
and their works do follow them.

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, the son of an impecunious musician; his mother later opened a haberdashery business to help lift the family out of poverty. Showing early musical promise, he became a pupil of the distinguished local pianist and composer Eduard Marxsen and supplemented his parents’ meagre income by playing in the bars and brothels of Hamburg’s infamous red-light district.

In 1853, Brahms presented himself to Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf, winning unqualified approval from the older composer. Brahms fell in love with Schumann’s wife, Clara, supporting her after her husband’s illness and death. The relationship did not develop as Brahms wished, and he returned to Hamburg; their close friendship, however, survived.

In 1862, Brahms moved to Vienna where he found fame as a conductor, pianist and composer. The Leipzig premiere of his German Requiem in 1869 was a triumph, with subsequent performances establishing Brahms as one of the emerging German nation’s foremost composers. Following the long-delayed completion of his First Symphony in 1876, he composed in quick succession the Violin Concerto; the two piano Rhapsodies, Op 79; the First Violin Sonata and the Second Symphony. His subsequent association with the much-admired court orchestra in Meiningen allowed him freedom to experiment and develop new ideas, the relationship crowned by the Fourth Symphony of 1884.

In his final years, Brahms composed a series of profound works for the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, and explored matters of life and death in his Four Serious Songs. He died at his modest lodgings in Vienna in 1897, receiving a hero’s funeral at the city’s central cemetery three days later.

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.


Valery Gergiev

Valery Gergiev is a vivid representative of the St Petersburg conducting school. His debut at the Mariinsky (then Kirov) Theatre came in 1978 with Prokofiev's War and Peace. In 1988, Valery Gergiev was appointed Music Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, and in 1996, he became its Artistic and General Director.

With his arrival at the helm, it became a tradition to hold major festivals marking various anniversaries of composers. The Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev has scaled new heights, assimilating not just opera and ballet scores, but also an expansive symphony music repertoire.

Under Gergiev's direction the Mariinsky Theatre has become a major theatre and concert complex. The Concert Hall was opened in 2006, followed in 2013 by the theatre's second stage (the Mariinsky-II), while since January 2016, the Mariinsky Theatre has had a branch in Vladivostok – the Primorsky Stage. 2009 saw the launch of the Mariinsky label, which to date has released more than 30 discs that have received great acclaim from critics and the public throughout the world.

Valery Gergiev successfully collaborates with the world's great opera houses and has led world-renowned orchestras, such as the World Orchestra for Peace (which he has directed since 1997), the Philharmonic Orchestras of Berlin, Paris, Vienna, New York and Los Angeles, the Symphony Orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, Boston and San Francisco, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Amsterdam) and many other ensembles. From 1995 to 2008, Valery Gergiev was Principal Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (of which he remains an honorary conductor to this day), and from 2007 to 2015 of the London Symphony Orchestra. Since autumn 2015, the maestro has headed the Munich Philharmonic.

Valery Gergiev is the founder and director of prestigious international festivals including the Stars of the White Nights (since 1993) and the Moscow Easter Festival (since 2002), among many others. Since 2011, he has directed the organisational committee of the International Tchaikovsky Competition. Valery Gergiev's musical and public activities have brought him acclaimed awards such as the Hero of Labour (2013), the Order of Alexander Nevsky (2016), the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence Arts and Culture Award (2017) and prestigious State awards of Armenia, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, France and Japan.

Image: Alberto Venzago

Sally Matthews

Sally Matthews was the winner of the 1999 Kathleen Ferrier Award. She studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, after which she became a member of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Young Artists Programme.

Sally has appeared regularly throughout her career at La Monnaie, Brussels, Dutch National Opera, Theater an der Wien, the Bayerischer Staatsoper and Glyndebourne Festival Opera in roles including Jenůfa (Janáček), Daphne (Strauss), Anne Truelove (Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress), Rusalka (Dvořák), Madeleine (Strauss' Capriccio), Fiordiligi (Mozart's Così fan tutte), Donna Anna (Mozart's Don Giovanni) and Konstanze (Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail). She made her Salzburg Festival debut in 2016 singing Silvia in the world premiere of Adès The Exterminating Angel, a role repeated in her debut at the Metropolitan Opera and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

She sings regularly with orchestras including the Philharmonia, London Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and Bavarian Radio Symphony with conductors Sir Antonio Pappano, Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Harding, Robin Ticciati and Mariss Jansons. Her repertoire includes Mahler Symphonies Nos 2, 4 and 8, Strauss Vier letzte Lieder, Schumann Paradies und die Peri, Brahms Requiem, Messiaen Poèmes pour Mi, Mendelssohn Lobgesang and Berg Seven Early Songs.

A regular at the BBC Proms, Sally gave the European premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Hibiki in 2017 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Kazushi Ono and performed works by Britten and Barber with the BBC Philharmonic under Juanjo Mena in 2018.

Image: Sigtryggur Ari Jóhannsson

Ekaterina Gubanova

Ekaterina Gubanova has established herself as one of the foremost mezzo-sopranos of her generation, and is a frequent guest at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Bayerische Staatsoper, Wiener Staatsoper, Staatsoper Berlin, Lyric Opera Chicago, Teatro Real in Madrid, Bolshoi Theatre, Mariinsky Theatre and Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona; with the world’s great conductors and orchestras, and at many important festivals.

In 2005 she sang Brangäne in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde at Opera National de Paris to immense critical acclaim. She has since reprised the role in Baden-Baden, Rotterdam, Paris, New York, Berlin, Tokyo, Salzburg, St Petersburg, Munich and Buenos Aires, collaborating with conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Valery Gergiev, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Semyon Bychkov, Sir Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta, Myung-Whun Chung and Kent Nagano. She also became well known for her interpretation of Fricka in both Das Rheingold and Die Walküre (Wagner), which she sung with Daniel Barenboim at the Staatsoper Berlin and Teatro alla Scala, with Kirill Petrenko at Bayerische Staatsoper and with Gergiev for the Mariinsky label. 

She is well known for her interpretation of Verdi's Requiem, which she has sung on numerous occasions under, among others, Riccardo Muti, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta and Valery Gergiev. Her concert repertoire includes Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Rückert Lieder, the Second and Third Symphonies, French and of course Russian music.

Ekaterina Gubanova was born in Moscow and began her musical studies as a pianist. An Honorary graduate in choral conducting, Ekaterina studied opera singing at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire and Sibelius Academy (Helsinki), and was a member of the Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Image: Alexander Karnaushenko

Kostas Smoriginas

Kostas Smoriginas is one of the most promising bass-baritones of today. He made his debut at the Staatsoper Berlin as Escamillo (Bizet's Carmen) and has since performed the role with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle (recorded for EMI Classics), at the Salzburg Easter Festival, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Santa Fe Music Festival, Dresden Semperoper, and with Beijing’s National Centre for Performing Arts.

Smoriginas made his US opera debut in 2010 as Figaro (Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro) at Washington National Opera, a role he later performed at San Francisco Opera. He has recorded as Pietro (Verdi's Simon Boccanegra) alongside Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Ildar Abdrazakov and Barbara Frittoli. In addition to various other roles, Smoriginas has performed Colline (Puccini's La bohème) at Covent Garden. Other operatic engagements have included the title role of Mozart's Don Giovanni at Teatro Municipal Santiago, Chile and in Toulouse; Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Opera de Bordeaux; Tomsky (Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades) with the New Israeli Opera; the title role in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Guglielmo (Mozart's Così fan tutte) and Scarpia (Puccini's Tosca) at Vilnius City Opera; and Masetto in Don Giovanni for his Teatro alla Scala, Milan debut and in a new production by Dmitri Tcherniakov conducted by Marc Minkowski at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

Smoriginas is in high demand on the concert platform. His repertoire includes Verdi, Brahms, Mozart and Faure’s Requiems, Beethoven’s Symphony No 9, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Dvořák’s Te Deum and Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater, which he sang with Edward Gardner and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and with the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev. He won rave reviews for his BBC Proms debut in Stravinsky’s Les Noces at the Royal Albert Hall. In the 2017 Prague Spring Festival he performed Shostakovich’s Symphony No 13 with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2018 he performed Beethoven No 9 with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Smoriginas studied at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy before representing his country at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. He spent two years at the Royal College of Music and was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House for two years.

Image: Monika Penkūkū

Christopher Maltman

Following his degree in Biochemistry, Christopher Maltman studied singing at the Royal Academy of Music. A globally-renowned Don Giovanni (Mozart), he has sung the role in London, Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Salzburg, Amsterdam, Toulouse, San Sebastian, Beijing and Chicago. Increasingly in demand for Verdi roles, he has sung Posa (Don Carlos), Ford (Falstaff), the title role of Simon Boccanegra, Conte di Luna (Il trovatore), Guy de Montfort (Les vêpres siciliennes) and will soon add Don Carlo di Vargas (La forza del destino), the eponymous Rigoletto and Germont (La traviata).

He won the Lieder prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World early in his career and has continued to delight audiences with his sensitive and engaging song performances, many of which are documented in acclaimed recordings. His vast and varied discography, from Purcell to Adès includes John Corigliano’s Grammy award-winning Ghost of Versailles from the Los Angeles Opera.

Image: Pia Clodi

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

London Symphony Orchestra © Ranald Mackechnie

London Symphony Orchestra © Ranald Mackechnie

The London Symphony Orchestra 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.

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Join us online for a programme of full-length concerts twice a week plus much more, including ‘Coffee Sessions’ with LSO musicians, playlists, recommendations and quizzes.

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Join us for our next full-length concert:

Sunday 31 May 7pm BST
Berlioz The Damnation of Faust

Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Karen Cargill
Bryan Hymel
Gerald Finley
Gábor Bretz
London Symphony Chorus
Tiffin Boys’ Choir
Tiffin Girls’ Choir
Tiffin Children’s Chorus
Simon Halsey
chorus director
London Symphony Orchestra