On Wednesday 28 NovemberAncient Roots New Leaves returns for the second and final concert in this series. In this performance we will see a unique collaboration between leading Iranian composer and instrumentalist Hamid Motebassem with the upcoming female vocalist Sepideh Raissadat. We caught up with them ahead of the concert.

What are you particularly looking forward to about your forthcoming performance at Southbank Centre?

Hamid Motebassem: London is a very large and lively city, always buzzing with an array of cultural activities from around the globe. It feels like a global stage and it feels nice to be performing in this global venue. Performing in London, especially at the Southbank Centre, has been the highlight of many of my European tours during the past 20 years and I am really looking forward to performing there again this year.

Sepideh Raissadat: Well this is the first time I am performing in London I am very excited and enthusiastic to be performing at Queen Elizabeth Hall, one of the world’s premium concert halls, in front of a perfectly tuned audience

You’ve been working on large orchestral project, but this is a return to the more traditional small ensemble style. Is this the shape of your future works?
HM: Composers always try to choose the right tools for their works. Sometimes this is in the format of large orchestras, and sometimes it is in the form of small ensembles such as quartets or quintets. My approach to this ensemble is quite different to the more traditional ensembles that I myself have performed with in the past. All the compositions for this performance are arranged and composed for a quintet of four lute-style instruments and percussion, plus a vocalist. Although the music that will be performed is based on classical Persian music, the arrangements and the sounds that will be produced are quite different to the more traditional ensemble.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and the music that you will be performing?
SR: I started to sing the traditional music of Iran at the age of five and my passion for singing was highly appreciated by my parents. At the age of nine I started to study the traditional classical repertoire of Iranian music known as Radif with the famous Persian diva Parisa whose career at moment time was limited to her private teaching activities. In fact she was banned from any public performance, as were the other female vocalists, since the 1979 revolution. My first professional performance was at the age of eleven, when I was chosen by a performer at school to be on national Iranian television. The performance was actually cancelled because television programmers believed that mine was the voice of a mature woman rather than a young girl.

When I was eighteen I recorded my first publicly released album with a great Persian composer Parviz Meshkatian, which considering the political and religious climate in Iran at that time was nothing short of a miracle! It was the first time a female voice was being published as part of a duet after the revolution. Two weeks after the publication of the album, had a concert in a public theatre in Tehran. This was the first time after the revolution that a female voice was heard in a prominent public setting.

After finishing my Bachelor’s degree in painting I applied to study Musicology at the University of Bologna and I moved to Italy. Along with my studies I taught, practised and performed Persian music. I collaborated with several great Italian musicians such as Franco Battiato and Andrea Parodi and I also performed on Italian national television and radio several times. I moved to Canada in 2009 and am currently continuing my academic studies in ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto

How did your musical collaboration come about?
HM: Composing for a female vocalist is always quite significant for a composer. Sepideh Raissadat is one of the young and upcoming female vocalists whose knowledge and capabilities youth and energy brings a special flair to the performance and it’s been a real joy working with her.

SR: I started collaborating with Maestro Motebassem and Mezrab Ensemble approximately 2 years ago following a short tour in Italy. Since then this is our first big tour that takes place in twelve cities of Canada and Europe. We started on October 26 in Toronto and will do our last show in Stockholm

Who or what inspires you?
HM: Every work is inspired differently. Sometimes it is an earthly love and sometimes it is a more divine love. Some works are inspired by past legends and equally some are inspired by present day events.

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
SR: I would invite at least a dozen of the best Iranian female singers who do not have the opportunity to perform in Iran.

What do you listen to in your spare time?
SR: Besides Persian music, I listen to central Asian music. I also enjoy listening to Hindustani music a lot.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
HM: I just try to relax and concentrate on the work and also try to get ready with my outfit, which needs to be in presentable form. That’s basically it! I don’t have any special ritual. I need to have space to relax and concentrate to get myself psychologically ready.

SR: If I’m alone I will close my eyes and possibly meditate. If I’m with the other members of the ensemble, I try to be more quiet and enjoy their presence.

What’s next for you?
HM: After this series I will be going back to Pardis, which is a large orchestral project with vocalists, which has already been performed in London last year at the Cadogen Hall. My plan is arrange a series of concerts in Iran and also to arrange a video and audio recording of that concert.

SR: This year we will continue our tour in our European cities in early 2013 and in the next academic year I will start my PHD studies at the University of Toronto.

Hamid Motessem and Sepideah Raissadat will be performing live with the Mezrab Ensemble at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday 28th November. For a preview of what you can expect to hear at the concert, you can watch the below video footage from their 2012 tour:

For more info and to book tickets for this exciting performance, CLICK HERE

Listen to the International Piano Series podcast with Alice Sara Ott

The young German pianist Alice Sara Ott talks from Japan (via Skype) about Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, her sense of home, and the Rubix cube.

You can hear Alice Sara Ott in her Royal Festival Hall debut performance on Tuesday 12 February 2013, as part of the International Piano Series.

Find out more/book tickets


With just a few days left to go until the Choir of the Year 2012 Grand Final at Royal Festival Hall, we caught up with show’s presenter Josie d’Arby ahead of the big day.

You’re going to be presenting at the Choir of the Year 2012 Grand Final this Sunday. What are you most looking forward to about the concert?
This is my fourth time presenting on this competition and I think the thing that always impresses me the most is the that the competition always brings out the best in these already excellent choirs. They seem to thrive on the pressure and no matter how well they’ve sung in the heats, something about the final brings out even more. It makes it a joy for the music lover but also a thrilling competition.

Can you tell us anything about the music we can expect to hear being performed?
Let’s just say the ladies are very well represented this year and everyone has gone for a repertoire which will both challenge them and entertain the audience. Should be a gorgeous afternoon.

Have you ever performed as part of a choir / a musical ensemble
I have , I have been in church choirs and I was also part of the choir at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for three years, so I know very well how wonderful it feels to sing as part of an ensemble and how you all lean on each other. And when you get it right: it’s magical.

Did you find performing as part of an ensemble to be particularly rewarding experience?
Incredibly rewarding , being part of any team has its own unique specialness, the friendships forged and of course it’s a lovely social activity but above all playing your part in the whole, is the essence of what teamwork is about and a lovely thing to experience

What other talents or skills would you like to possess?
Haha, I’m something of a jack of all trades and put a lot of effort into a lot of different things – still I would like to be a better singer. I used to sing a lot, it used to be my main thing but I haven’t sung in such a long time that my instrument is somewhat rusty and that muscle very weak. Still I get a thrill listening to others who have honed their craft.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
For a music lover such as myself that is an impossible question. To narrow it down, In terms of choral music, I would say I like the classics, like Handel’s Messiah , it’s so stirring but equally a good gospel choir can send chills down your spine. When the music and the meaning come together wonderful things can happen for the listener.

And is there a work that is for you, emotionally, especially important?
Again so many , when I listen to music I really open myself up and allow it to have the desired effect on me, there are so many pieces that bring to the fore so many wonderful emotions, again it would be impossible to narrow it down. I have a soft spot for strings though, in all their forms….

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
These questions are so hard, my taste is so eclectic but Nina Simone would be there, Van Morrison, Berlin philharmonic Andre Rieu and Yanna.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
Possibly ‘ a love before time’ from the ‘crouching tiger hidden dragon’ soundtrack a lovely song called ‘the promise’ by Yanna and Gold by spandau ballet – random I know.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before appearing on stage?
I like to say a little prayer and give thanks for the opportunity to once again do something I enjoy so much


Limited tickets are still available for the Choir of the Year 2012 Grand Final.
CLICK HERE to buy yours!
To find out more about the competition, you can visit:


Coming up this November, we are very pleased to welcome back Ancient Roots New Leaves, a series of concerts representing two distinct music tranditions in Iran.

The first performance on 4th November in the Purcell Room celebrates Music of Yarsan, the pre-Islamic sufi order, which reflects a millennia-old music tradition from this most reclusive Kurdish culture.Headlining this concert is Maestro Ali Akbar Moradi, who has been praised as ‘one of the top 50 world musicians’ and ‘the best tanbour player alive’ by Songlines.

Maestro Moradi is joined by his two sons Arash and Kourosh Moradi and the talented kamancheh player, Mehdi Bagheri, perform both sacred songs of tanbour as well as new and ancient Kurdish and Iranian compositions.

For a preview of what’s in store, watch the trailer here:

The second performance on 28th November in Queen Elizabeth Hall showcases the talents of the leading Iranian composer and instrumentalist Hamid Motessem, who is renowned for his innovative approach to traditional Persian music.

Performing alongside him is the much-praised young vocalist Sepideh Raissadat. Raissadat left Iran to pursue her career as a solo vocalist and in a short time has become one of the focal points of the world music circuit.

For these performances we are offering a special discount on tickets:
20% off tickets for booking both events
20% off tickets for group bookings of 10 people or more
20% off tickets for unwaged, students and OAPs

To book your ticket call our box office on 0844 847 9910, or CLICK HERE to book tickets online.


Music by Piazzolla, Almeida and Villa-Lobos is being performed by flute and guitar duo Dagmar and Josef Zsapka next week at Southbank Centre. For a taste of what’s in store, just click on the webpage here and listen to clips of their performances!

And to get 50% off tickets, simply quote SOUTHAMERICAN when booking online, by phone or in person.


South American Music by Piazzolla, Almeida and Villa-Lobos

Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Monday 22 October 7.45pm

For more information and to book tickets see here.


Japanese violin player Mayuko Katumura will perform later this month in the Purcell Room alongside Noriko Kawai on the piano. We caught up with Mayuko ahead of the concert:

You grew up in Japan, but studied in London and have since gone on to perform all over the world. Can you tell us a bit more about your musical background?

My grandfather (my mother’s side) was a great classical music lover and every weekend at the family-get-together since I was a baby, I used to listen to LPs of all the major violin concertos. From this very early introduction to classical music,  I have never thought of any other profession than as a violinist.

When I studied at the music high school in Tokyo, I was lucky to have a wonderful violin teacher who studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He recommended I study with Professor Yfrah Neaman at the Guildhall, who was his teacher.  So I came to London when I was 19 and studied with Yfrah for 6 years. It must have been difficult for him to talk with me at first as I did not speak English at all then. However, I was surrounded by kind, generous English friends at the Guildhall and I soon got used to all the aspect of living in London

What’s your earliest musical memory?
At my grandparents at the weekends, when my mother was trying to make me have an afternoon nap, she always play the LP of Schubert’s string quartet “ Death and Maiden “. When she let me listen to this, I always knew I was going to be left on my own while everybody else was together in the other room. I was only 2 years old. However, this memory stays very clear in my mind, and I still feel the same loneliness whenever I listen to this quartet!

What are you particularly looking forward to about your forthcoming concert at Southbank Centre? 
It is first time for me to perform at the Purcell Room, and I am very excited about it, as ever since I came to England and attended concerts at the Southbank Centre, I was saying to myself that I want to perform in this small and intimate hall in the future.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written? 
I would say Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita no. 2

What other talent or skill would you like to possess? 
I always imagine what would happen if I could speak French and German when I woke up next morning! It took 14 years for me to learn English, so I really wish I had a talent for languages!

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
Henryk Szeryng (I am a big fan) presented by Mr. Bean

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
Currently it is Henryk Szeryng playing Handel’s Sonata in D. His playing is really heavenly.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform? 
I always stretch out my legs like a Sumo wrestler before wearing my concert dress. This action is called “Matawari “in the Sumo world, and is very important in preparation for the fight!

We are a very limited number of tickets available at 50% discount. Simply quote the word ‘MAYUKO’ over the phone or online into the promo-code box on the event page before choosing your seats.

For more information about the concert and to book your tickets  click here


On 2nd July Southbank Centre welcomes David Braid to the Purcell Room to present his new album of chamber and instrumental music. The evening will include performances from The Erato Piano Trio, pianist Sergei Podobedov and clarinettist Peter Cigleris.

Steve Reich said of David’s work: “ ‘Morning’. Integration of voice with string quartet beautifully done – Very honest stuff”.

We catch up with David ahead of the concert.

What are you particularly looking forward to about your forthcoming concert at Southbank Centre?
It’s been a few years since I had something played here, it will be good to return as I love the atmosphere – it’s very relaxed and ‘human’. As a composer I suppose I should say I’m looking forward to the performance itself. However, it can be rather stressful to be honest, being stuck in the stalls while others play, as it’s out of one’s hands, so I’m looking forward to it being over and getting back to work on my new piece – I much prefer composing to having concerts, although I’m extremely pleased to be having them of course!

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
Well there are the obvious ones by the big three composers, discussed a great deal by others I expect, so I’ll avoid those and say Sibelius’ 5th Symphony – What to say about it though? – too much, it speaks for itself really, but in brief: such unbelievably perfect structure plus its powerful and somehow inevitable geometry across time – music that tells you something/everything about spacetime that cannot be even slightly approached by using language – also his 7th Symphony of course, plus a great number of John Dowland’s lute songs, clearly in the same class as Schubert’s, but a lot closer to home for me; Lutoslawski’s 4th symphony also – transcendent!

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
Time travel obviously – facing forward of course! I would like to have a chat for a few hours with someone from 15,000-20,000 years in the future (I’d have to bring an army of linguists and philologists with me of course – he/she/it would have to bring historians too so we could understand each other). It would need to be someone who is very well-informed on the then-current scientific, artistic and ethical developments. I would risk blowing a mind-fuse for this.

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
I’d get Bach to come and improvise on the organ! If he was busy that day I’d ask Dowland to come and play the lute.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
I only really listen to vinyl these days and I have no mp3 player as I can’t listen to music that much as it distracts from composing, so I never bought one. So, most-played? Glenn Gould’s record of Byrd and Gibbons, (I’ve actually got two copies of this so when the first wears down I have a spare) followed by Beecham’s Sibelius’ 7th (only one copy of this unfortunately – hence its 2nd place).

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
I’ve not performed for many years so not as such. However, before a performance of my stuff I tend to worry a lot and drink a couple of beers to be quite honest.

For more info and to book tickets, click here