The insider – our new classical podcast is live!

This year, Southbank Centre and our four Resident Orchestras are bringing you a behind-the-scenes guide to the 2012/13 classical season. Each of the orchestras will invite you backstage to meet all the different people involved in getting the show on the road!

In the first episode of The Insider Gillian Moore, Head of Classical Music at Southbank Centre, talks us through the ins and outs of programming the season, and picks out her highlights for the upcoming season.

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An exploration of music, art and film from Turner prize-winning artist Martin Creed and the London Sinfonietta

Take a trip into the world of artist Martin Creed, who gained public fame for his striking attitude to art and film with his Turner prize-winning installation The lights going on and off. Creed has now broadened his unique approach to include music, with a new band and singles such as Thinking/Not Thinking and Where You Go, described by NME as ‘the shortest single… in a long time’.

On Saturday 9 June, 7.30pm at  Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall  join the London Sinfonietta for two sets of music, with a programme featuring Axeman by Anna Meredith, a work that makes a solo bassoon ‘sound as much like a 1980s guitar-god as possible’, and the enigmatically-titled ‘______’ by Gerald Barry.

During the second set, expect words, music and film from Martin Creed and his band, including music from their upcoming album Love to You, and the world premiere of Work No.1375, Martin Creed’s new music for the London Sinfonietta.

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The London Sinfonietta’s first live Facebook Chat with conductor Nicholas Collon

Last week, the London Sinfonietta hosted their very first live Facebook Chat with conductor Nicholas Collon, who answered a range of questions on George Benjamin, conducting, and audiences.

Nicholas Collon joins the ensemble on Saturday 12 May, 7.30pm at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, for a programme of  George Benjamin and Ligeti, as part of Jubilation: the music of George Benjamin.

Here’s a selection of his answers from the chat…

Q: Fantastic to see Nick working with the London Sinfonietta again! I’d be interested to know whether the preparations he makes for conducting contemporary music are different to those for ‘standard ‘ repertoire?

A: I broadly treat my preparation of all scores and all music the same. Be it Beethoven or a totally new piece, I try to imagine I’m looking at it for the first time, even if it’s a piece everyone knows. Of course, some contemporary music takes a lot of working out; a piece like George Benjamin’s Antara is very complicated, and there are some things that the score can’t even tell you, such as what sounds the keyboards will produce. Equally, I’ve just spent all morning learning Ligeti’s Melodien, which starts off as unintelligble (it’s all in handwriting), and slowly becomes lucid.

Q: What made you decide to become a conductor and how did you get into the work?

A:  I have no idea what made me want to be a conductor. I think I have done since I was very little. I remember playing the violin in a youth orchestra aged 10, and I kept on turning round to look at the horns. I’ve just fulfilled my desire to be facing the other way – it’s much more fun!

Q: What excites you about contemporary music?

A: I love the imagination that you have to bring to a score to take it off the page, and the sense of daring and adventure in performance. There’s something thrilling about creating new sounds together with an ensemble, and I find the detail that is necessary in preparing a contemporary score and then realising that, rewarding.

Q: I’m new to the music of George Benjamin and coming to the London Sinfonietta concert in May. Do you have a favourite Benjamin work you’d recommend I listen to before the concert?

A: Hope you enjoy the concert! I’m a viola player, so I’m going to say Viola, Viola. It’s really wonderful. All his music is so imaginative. He said to me the other day that a composer’s job is to write the most beautiful music imaginable.

Q: And finally, what other plans have you got coming up?

A: I’m going to Munich next week for a nice but unusual programme with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, then back for the London Sinfonietta concert, and then I’m working with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for some Strauss and the UK premiere of Philip Glass’ Sixth Symphony. So a busy few weeks. And a lot of time spent learning Ligeti and Benjamin! See you on the 12th May!


Listen to our Classical music blog for May Highlights

In this month’s podcast members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment discuss working with Sir Simon Rattle, and Vladimir Ashkenazy gives his personal perspective on Shostakovich’s Babi Yar Symphony. Plus a member of Spira mirabilis talks about the ensemble’s unique approach to Beethoven’s music.

Listen to our classical music podcast for April highlights

Colin Currie premieres a powerful and imaginative new Percussion Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, John Wilson conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in a performance Gilbert & Sulivan’s finest operetta The Yeomen of the Guard, and meet a player-piano who is the star of this year’s Nancarrow festival.

Read an interview with countertenor Andrew Watts about Olga Neuwirth’s music

London Sinfonietta talks to countertenor Andrew Watts ahead of his performance of Neuwirth’s music with the ensemble this Saturday at Southbank Centre.

On Saturday 11 February, you’ll be performing as soloist in Olga Neuwirth’s Hommage à Klaus Nomi.  Can you tell us a little about Nomi’s character and how this influences your approach to the role?

Taking on the persona of someone like Klaus Nomi is almost impossible. Unlike such things as Stars in Your Eyes on the television the role is in no way meant to be an impression of Klaus Nomi  (vocally or in a fashion sense!), it is more an evocation of the times and spirits of the period when Klaus Nomi was singing and performing.

My approach to singing this music is to treat it simply in a classical form even though some of the songs are based in the rock genre. Good singing along with a natural performance style is needed for these songs. The arrangements by Olga Neuwirth are incredible and full of musical nuances and detail.

Klaus Nomi used music to adopt a new persona.  If you could be someone else for a day, who would you choose, and why? 

I am fairly happy with being the person I am but if I were to become a person for the day I think I would like to be the President of the United States of America. I have become obsessed with the TV series The West Wing and carry it with me when away from home singing opera around the world. It is incredibly written and has a real insight into the working of politics in the US.  Being President would give me access in to the most secure building in the world. 

Olga Neuwirth has said that she has been intrigued by Klaus Nomi since the age of 13 and “was always a fan of his songs and his personality.”  Which performer or hero, real or imagined, intrigues you?

I guess as a classical singer I am supposed to think of some other singer who has influenced me or who has inspired me. Most of the great singers have had some influence on me; I simply love the human voice. This is my healthy obsession. However if there was a person who intrigues me then I would have to say Diana, Princess of Wales. I had the pleasure of meeting her both publicly and privately and together with the rest of the world I still wonder what went on in her mind behind the smile and the gentle nature.

In Hommage à Klaus Nomi, Olga Neuwirth takes inspiration from 9 Klaus Nomi songs that were originally performed by a great variety of performers, to form a kind of musical collage.  If you were to create your own musical collage of favourites, what songs would you include?

This list can be endless! Looking at my iPod to see what I listen to all the time, I would include the following; The Carpenters We’ve Only Just Begun; The Weather Girls It’s Raining Men, Elton John’s Candle in the Wind,  Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked This is the Moment from the musical Jekyll and Hyde, Isolde’s Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, Whitney Houston’s One Moment in Time and anything by Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson.

And finally… in a previous period of his life, Klaus Nomi worked a pastry chef.  If you hadn’t become a musician, what would you be doing now?

Well I have done many jobs in my time before this music thing took off. I cleaned offices, put the jam in the middle of doughnuts in the local bakery, worked in the local grocers weighting out vegetables, worked in restaurants and pubs, played cocktail piano in a wine bar, and cooked pub food.  I often wonder if I had not been a musician what would I have actually been doing now.

Andrew Watts joins London Sinfonietta on Saturday 11 February at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Find out more / book tickets

Ether 2011: Louis Andriessen on his Ether premiere

Andriessen, photo: Francesca Patella

Louis Andriessen, photo: Francesca Patella

London Sinfonietta’s Sara Mohr-Pietsch visits composer Louis Andriessen in his Amsterdam studio to discuss his work to be performed tonight at Ether 2011, including the UK premiere of Anaïs Nin a new work for singer, ensemble and film and De Staat (The Republic) his 1976 work of jazz-infused politically charged minimalism.


Hear London Sinfonietta play Louis Andriessen at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 14 April as part of Ether 2011. Get tickets here