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 BBC Concert Orchestra’s podcast, exploring two extreme states; EXSTATICA & H7STERIA

Presenter Christopher Cook introduces the BBC Concert Orchestra’s two concerts exploring extreme emotional states; EXSTATICA & H7STERIA

Experience EXSTATICA on Monday 19 November, 7.30pm at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall when the BBC Concert orchestra explores ecstatic states in music from incandescent bliss to pure, un-paralleled lust.

Find out more/book tickets

And on Monday 3 December, 7.30pm, the BBC Concert Orchestra return to Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall to delve into the depths of the human psyche playing with fear, anxiety, disturbance and madness, in H7STERIA.

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Five questions with composer Juliana Hodkinson

Juliana Hodkinson’s Stills is featuring in the London Sinonfietta’s forthcoming one day festival New Music Show 3 on Sunday 2 December at Southbank Centre. Find out more about Juliana and her work below.

What was the first recording you bought?
A tape cassette of Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen Legends and Swan of Tuonela – after hearing the Legends in Mrs. Parsons’ school music lesson.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you start in composing?
Originally, I guess it was a desire for more pocket money. There was a competition where you could win £50. I think I got second prize, which must have been £25. My violin teacher and his wife played in my piece, for piano and string quartet. Devon County Council ran residential youth-orchestra courses where composition was one of the afternoon activities, so I got my first taste there. The council also employed a composer-in-residence, Christopher Williams, who gave me lessons and pointed me towards Renaissance madrigals, Balinese music and contemporary music. I would never have formulated the idea of composing music if it had not been for these local frameworks, which gave me the opportunity to work with professional musicians on my ideas and get professional feedback, criticism and encouragement.

Who or what inspires you?
That’s an endless list, because it’s always changing. Working together with musicians is a key source of inspiration for each piece in the development process. And the work of other artists; works in other media often provide me with metaphors for compositional concepts or processes that I can then put into sound. I’ve spent the last 14 years chewing over two video pieces I saw in Belgium by David Claerbout. But Varèse’ Ionisation repeatedly packs an immediate punch.

If you could pick a favourite project or personal career highlight to date, what would it be?
That would be All the time, an instrumental theatre production I developed in 2001. It was an extreme meeting between the most reduced artistic material I had ever worked with before, and the most extensive/intensive rehearsal and production process. Together with 4 musicians and a theatre production crew, we spent weeks putting soooo much effort into lighting matches, dropping feathers, splitting near-silent tones, unpacking a clavichord in the dark, tuning, tuning and re-tuning ancient instruments… I was exhausted, I had never spent so many hours in a black-box space before, and my music was getting quieter and more sparse, day by day. By the time the journalists came to interview me for the pre-show PR, I hardly had a score left to put on the coffee-table. It was a low point and a high point at the same time. The delicate and pain-staking production of All the time was the moment I learnt how much artifice and rehearsal is required for the simplest expressions, and how rewarding it is to bring the integration of sound and light under control in the same gesture. The next main production I did after that was a huge, loud orchestral electro-acoustic video extravaganza …

 And finally, name your 3 most listened to pieces of music at the moment…
1. Deep Purple’s Smoke on the water (coming from my son’s bedroom)

2. Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf (a musical toy that hangs over my daughter’s cot)

3. And everything in between: all kinds of radical contemporary music and sound art that I’m researching for my curatorship of Spor Festival in Denmark next May – so I can’t tell you about it, as we want the programme to be A Surprise.

You can hear Juliana Hodkinson’s Stills performed by the London Sinfonietta alongside music by John Cage & Andrew Hamilton on Sunday 2 December, 4.30pm at the Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Find out more about the full day of events / book tickets

The OAE’s Guide to Feisty Females

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s guide to female opera characters returns, with a look at Phaedra…

The fabulous Sarah Connolly will be taking on the role next Thursday at the next Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall, in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie.

Who was she?

Phaedra was the wife of Theseus, king of Athens. Her mother was Pasiphae, mother of the monstrous Minotaur (so yes, she had a bull-man hybrid for a half-brother).

What was she famous for?

Phaedra was most famous for continuing her family’s lack of luck in love- she fell in love with her stepson, Hippolytus. In some versions of the myth, she nobly tries to resist her feelings for him and in others she attempts to seduce him – both with disastrous consequences.

Phaedra’s reaction to her feelings for Hippolytus and the tragic fallout inspired a number of playwrights such as Euripides, Racine (famously portrayed by Helen Mirren at the National Theatre) and the controversial Sarah Kane.

Was she a queen, heroine or ladykiller?

As the wife of Theseus, Phaedra was the first queen of Athens. In the most famous version of the myth, she commits suicide whilst accusing Hippolytus of assaulting her which leads to his death (as Hippolytus’ dad curses him and asks his dad (who happens to be Poseidon) to punish him so a giant bull is sent from the sea to cause a fatal accident with the chariot Hippolytus is riding in. Got that?)

Who will be singing Phaedra and when?

Sarah Connolly will be singing Phaedra from Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie on 8 November in French Exchange at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

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You can listen to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sing Phèdre’s aria Cruelle mere des amours here.

Listen to our Undiscovered India Spotify playlist

Milapfest return with a series of concerts exploring the best in Indian classical music featuring performances from Tarang, Alif Laila, Patri Satish Kumar and Tarun Bhattacharya. We’ve put together a Spotify playlist to give you a taster of what to expect.

Take a listen here.

Listen here

Take a look at Milapfest’s Undiscovered India series from 3 November – 1 December at Southbank Centre. More info and tickets here. 


Hannah Conway will be presenting the first The Works concert of the 2012-2013 Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment season on 6 November at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  The OAE chatted to her in their latest speed interview…

What/when was your big breakthrough?
I’m not sure I ever had one! I have had wonderful opportunities with many fantastic orchestras and opera houses. I suppose my first job, working for two years with the London Symphony Orchestra was instrumental in launching me into the business.

What do you fear the most?
The crazy speed of life – and not being able to slow down.

Which mobile number do you call the most?
My husband’s!

What – or where – is perfection?
Any empty beach on the north Norfolk coast.

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?
Definitely Wonderwoman! I love the boots, the spin and the gold bangles.

What’s your favourite ritual?
A hot bath after a long commute.

Which living person do you most admire (and why)?
I admire many people in my life, but mostly – friends and family who I see giving huge amounts to others.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
I would love to be able to draw or paint really brilliantly – I am still at the ‘stick man’ phase!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Ah ha! There are so many aren’t there! – A good work-life balance is invaluable.

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?
A real mixture always depending on my work – at the moment it is a Tinie Tempah track for a gig that I am conducting at the O2 Arena and also Steve Reich’s Desert Music for an LSO composition project. I don’t listen to much music outside of work. I need my silence!

What’s the best thing about working with the OAE?
The musicians are such lovely, vibrant people who are constantly curious about life and passionate about music.

Hannah Conway presents the Orchestra of the Age of Enligtenment with a programme of Mozart on Tuesday 6 November at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

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The BBC Concert Orchestra runs the gamut from torment to joy with Exstatica on Monday 19 November at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The programme features the maxed-out minimalism of  composer Michael Torke‘s ‘Ecstatic Orange’ and Arnold Schoenberg‘s ‘Transfigured Night’, inspired by Richard Dehmel’s poem where star-crossed lovers experience a moment of incandescent bliss.

Soprano Marie Angel joins the BBC Concert Orchestra to perform Michael Nyman‘s lustful songs ‘I Sonetti Lussuriosi’, which are set to the pornographic poems of Pietro Aretino. Despite being in Italian, their sexually explicit lyrics ensured the CD release wore the ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker more associated with gangsta rap.

Physical and intellectual ecstasy are all wrapped up in a special version of the Pet Shop Boys’ classic dance hit ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing’, where Neil Tennant expressed the immortal desire to ‘take all my clothes off and dance to the Rite of Spring.’

This event contains sexually explicit material and is suitable for audiences aged 18+

£6 tickets available using the offer code FRIENDS

Input the offer code on the event page below before purchasing tickets