OAE’s video on Handel

Watch OAE’s video ahead of their concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall on Saturday 4 June.

Buy tickets / More info

Photos from Lang Lang Inspires!

Massed Piano Day on 22 May!

Photos c Berlinder Lawley

Lang Lang Take Over Day in February 2012

John Cage’s Indeterminacy with Steve Beresford, Tania Chen and Stewart Lee

Comedian Stewart Lee has curated a weekend of gigs and comedy as part of Festival of Britain. On Saturday night we host John Cage’s Indeterminacy performed by contemporary pianists Steve Beresford and Tania Chen alongside Stewart Lee reading Cage’s stories. Here’s a sneak peak:

See John Cage’s Indeterminacy at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room on 28 May as part of Stewart Lee’s Austerity Binge. Get tickets here.

Lang Lang Inspires, a triumph!


Congratulations to all who performed on Sunday as part of the Massed Piano event. A fantastic day by all accounts and reviews are rolling in for the Lang Lang Inspires week.

‘Superb’ says The Guardian. ‘Lang Lang’s solo recital of Chopin’s Op 25 Etudes has been called ‘Technically stupendous, it’s parallel thirds, sixths and octaves flung out with an athleticism that was simply riveting’, his performance of Mendelssohn’s D Minor Trio accompanied by Vadim Repin and Mischa Maisky ‘exquisite’ and his young accompanists at the Massed Piano day ‘outstanding’.’

‘One man who heard him for the first time on Tuesday rushed to share his emotions on Lang Lang’s Twitter feed: “My first experience of a classical concert seeing you tonight,” Jack Squires wrote. “I feel inspired by your talent.”’(Reuters)

We are looking forward to reading more reviews and will keep updating as they come in. Don’t forget, you can buy tickets for the next installment in February 2012: Buy tickets / More info

LANG LANG INSPIRES: Young pianist’s blog

Lang Lang Inspires is a major project with virtuosic pianist Lang Lang from 17 – 22 May aimed at inspiring young pianists. As part of the project Southbank Centre has invited 100 young pianists to join Lang Lang on the Royal Festival Hall stage in a massed piano day event on Sunday 22 May.

Drew Steanson, aged 18 and participant in this event, talks about the project and how it’s inspired him.

‘I hope I speak for everyone when I say this is a great opportunity to be involved in with one of the most eccentric pianists of our younger generation. I shall certainly treasure this event for years to come; hopefully it won’t be my first and last time playing at Royal Festival Hall!

My first inspiration to take up the piano occurred relatively late compared to others my age aspiring to become concert pianists. I was around 12 years old when I began listening to classical music; I then chose the piano because of its encompassing range to imitate a full orchestra or a single instrument (hearing 50 ‘orchestras’ play at the same time on Sunday will certainly be interesting!). I developed my love of piano music and different composers through the form of etudes so I’m very pleased that Lang Lang chose to play Chopin’s Op.25 in his solo recital. My love of studies runs from Chopin to Liszt, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Godowsky, Alkan and many others. Unfortunately I cannot play all of them yet!

I first heard about the Lang Lang project a year ago when I searched on the Southbank Centre website to see the forthcoming concerts. I went through the entire year’s events and noticed the Lang Lang Massed Piano Day near the end. I entered, primarily to be able to meet other pianists my age, and secondly get the chance to play at Royal Festival Hall – although meeting Lang Lang appears somewhere between those two objectives!

There will be a wide variety of repertoire played in the concert, from Bach to Khachaturian. The main piece will be the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. In the rehearsal on Saturday there may be few unexpected difficulties. The first could be getting everyone in time, which may be difficult for pianists who are not accustomed to playing in groups (although metronomes will help here). The second, getting a suitable sound out of every instrument to balance the texture in relation to how it would sound with Beethoven’s orchestration. It will be exciting to be able to learn from, and teach, others about the assortment of instruments the piano can imitate and the colours at the pianist’s disposal. Both Carl Czerny and Anton Rubinstein considered it to be capable of impersonating 100 instruments, and with the development of the piano I would believe it is now more. It will be a thrilling task exploring the sound world of the piano with others, and what better pianos to experiment on than Steinway grands!

The weekend is soon approaching. The highlight will certainly be getting to play alongside Lang Lang although I only hope this isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity! I do not fully understand the logistics of getting 50 Steinway grand pianos on the Royal Festival Hall stage, but hopefully it isn’t too hard to attempt again! With any luck the partnership between Lang Lang and Southbank Centre continues further into the future.’

Thanks very much for your blog Drew. We look forward to your Royal Festival Hall debut performance on Sunday!

Behind the scenes: Corinthian Chamber Orchestra

In a evening of passion and romance, Corinthian Chamber Orchestra and Adrian Brown pair Dvořák’s much-loved cello concerto and Rachmaninov’s monumental Third Symphony.

It is amazing to think that Dvořák procrastinated for years over an existing commission for a cello concerto, considering the instrument insufficient to carry the solo part. Brahms appears to have thought the same; despite having composed his double concerto for violin and cello in 1887, he is reported as saying of Dvořák’s work, ‘If I had known that it was possible to compose such a concerto for the cello, I would have tried it myself!’

We caught up with the orchestra in rehearsals and have these behind the scenes shots with some of the members.

Catch the Corinthian Chamber Orchestra on Tuesday 28 June at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Get tickets here.

Ardittis prepare for Birtwistle premiere

Even after having hundreds of pieces composed for them, the players of the Arditti Quartet still look forward to the prospect of a world premiere. ‘It’s a challenge to bring a piece to the public, to actually take the dots off the paper and make it sound like something,’ says Irvine Arditti, first violinist and founder of the ensemble. ‘It is still pleasing to give premieres, as it is to give second performances and indeed 29th performances.’ 

This is a reference to The Tree of Strings, Harrison Birtwistle’s second string quartet. The Ardittis have performed the piece a remarkable 28 times since its 2008 premiere, testament to its popularity with both the quartet and audiences. ‘Everywhere we play it people just love the piece. I think it’s amazing because Harry was reluctant to write a string quartet yet he managed to write a masterpiece.’ 

Why would Birtwistle need, as Arditti puts it, ‘a little encouragement from me’ to compose for string quartet? ‘I think that as a clarinettist he felt he didn’t know as much about strings as he does about woodwinds and percussion, but in fact with both of his string quartets he’s proved he knows very much indeed. They’re both extremely well written for the instruments.’

The thirty-minute single-movement work was inspired by Birtwistle’s time on the Scottish island of Raasay, although, as a performer, Arditti doesn’t draw directly from the history of the piece. ‘I don’t know if I can relate to it programmatically, but we certainly never get bored with it. It’s a challenging but hugely worthwhile piece to play.’

Unsurprisingly for such a successful work, a disc is on the way. ‘We recorded it with the 9 Movements [Birtwistle’s first quartet], so there will be a release early next year of both quartets, which shall inspire him to write another one,’ says Arditti wryly.

Returning to world premieres and this evening sees another work added to the Arditti Quartet’s venerable list of first performances: Robert Saxton’s third quartet. ‘I know some of Robert’s music, but not a lot of it well,’ says Arditti. ‘He is, in some ways, a more classical composer than the Arditti Quartet is used to playing. It’s interesting to start a relationship with Robert because we are normally linked with composers like Birtwistle but it’s good to have other associations too.’

With two very different pieces on the programme, the ‘beautiful, classically-orientated’ Saxton which ‘stands out as being in quite a different style to Birtwistle,’ the quartet felt the need to programme an opening work that fell in between. They chose Kaija Saariaho’s Terra Memoria, a work not composed for the quartet. But, as Arditti says: ‘Some music we feel we need to play and this piece is one of them’.

Such musical curiosity is a hallmark of the Arditti Quartet. For Irvine Arditti, performing new music is both a privilege and a duty. ‘I’m aware that what we do is the initial impression of a piece. For many string quartets over the years, our interpretations have been considered authentic and what the composers wanted because we work with them. I think that’s quite an important responsibility for whatever style of music it is we’re playing.’

© Tim Woodall, 2011

The Arditti Quartet gives the London premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Tree of Strings tomorrow, Tuesday 10 May, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Both Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Robert Saxton will take part in a post-concert discussion on stage. Click here to book.