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2019 2020

The Planets Symphonie Fantastique Prokofiev’s Symphony No.5 The Poem of Ecstasy The Rite of Spring Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5

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WELCOME The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) proudly returns to London’s Southbank Centre for a series of six concerts featuring the most celebrated symphonic repertoire from the past two centuries. The RPO’s new partnership with Vasily Petrenko (Music Director Designate from August 2020) sees him conduct the RPO in Prokofiev’s momentous Symphony No.5 (3 Apr 2020) and Scriabin’s iridescent The Poem of Ecstasy (3 May 2020), as he begins to take the reins of the RPO in a new and exciting chapter of the Orchestra’s history. American conductor Robert Trevino and Swiss maestro Thierry Fischer present programmes drawing upon the great Russian music tradition, with Robert Trevino conducting Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5, accompanied by Mussorgsky’s illustrative prelude to Khovanshchina (30 Oct 2019). Violinist and former RPO Artist in Residence Esther Yoo brings Tchaikovsky’s passionate Violin Concerto to life, paired with Stravinsky’s revolutionary ballet score, The Rite of Spring conducted by Thierry Fischer (10 Mar 2020).

Other highlights from renowned artists in the series include Khatia Buniatishvili’s performance of Liszt’s scintillating Piano Concerto No.2 (4 Feb 2020), Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme with cellist Alexey Stadler (3 Apr 2020) and soprano Siobhan Stagg’s interpretation of Strauss’ heart-shattering Four Last Songs (31 May 2020). The famed British conductor Sir Andrew Davis makes a welcome return to the RPO conducting Berlioz’s fantastical Symphonie Fantastique (31 May 2020), and Mark Wigglesworth takes us on a musical journey via Holst’s enduring and much loved work The Planets (4 Feb 2020). Don’t forget that you can keep track of this series and the wider work of the world’s most in-demand orchestra at We look forward to welcoming you to our series at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall with concerts that beautifully demonstrate the wonder and endurance of great orchestral music. James Williams Managing Director Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

wed 30 oct 2019, 7.30pm ROBERT TREVINO conducts SHOSTAKOVICH MUSSORGSKY, orch. Shostakovich Khovanshchina: Prelude (Dawn on the Moskva River) RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No.3 SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No.5 Robert Trevino Conductor Alexei Volodin Piano

Conductor Robert Trevino directs the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the opening concert of its 2019-2020 series at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. Opening with Mussorgsky’s Prelude from his unfinished opera Khovanshchina, the composer sets a cold morning scene with shimmering strings in Russia’s capital. Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3 continues with impressionistic imagery, commanding an unparalleled virtuosic power in the piano’s flourishing displays of melodic passion and sensitivity. Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5, written in mid-1937 when Stalin’s paranoia and insecurity was at a fever pitch, proved a triumph for the composer, much to his relief. There is a tangible anxiety felt in all sections during the first movement, especially the strings, which develops in tone to form an invigorating finale, lauded by his contemporaries for fulfilling a militaristic Soviet ideal. Whether Shostakovich truly capitulated to the demands of the era remains debated to this day.

Tue 4 Feb 2020, 7.30pm MARK WIGGLESWORTH conducts HOLST’s THE PLANETS WALTON Portsmouth Point Overture LISZT Piano Concerto No.2 HOLST The Planets Mark Wigglesworth Conductor Khatia Buniatishvili Piano Holst Singers

Fresh from their January tour to the USA, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presents an evening of music that includes gems of the English repertoire, with Walton’s Portsmouth Point Overture bearing the bustling energy of a postcard picture found on a day’s escape to the seaside. Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.2 is performed by Khatia Buniatishvili, the world-renowned concert performer who returns to London to share the stage with the RPO. Liszt’s stylistic choice of composing the work as a single movement with six distinctive sections allows for a unique interpretation of how each fragmentary melody creates a unified whole in a piece that displays Liszt’s typical virtuosic flourish. Holst’s The Planets, a landmark of English Romanticism, explores a new psychological landscape reflected in the astrological field with each movement, personifying characteristics such as peace, war, magic and mysticism, never failing to capture the wonder we project onto the night’s sky.

Tue 10 mar 2020, 7.30pm THIERRY FISCHER conducts STRAVINSKY’S THE RITE OF SPRING BORODIN Prince Igor: Overture TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D major STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring Thierry Fischer Conductor Esther Yoo Violin

Three Russian masterworks form an enthralling programme under the baton of conductor Thierry Fischer. Opening with Borodin’s Overture from his opera Prince Igor, this piece provides the backdrop of a heroic bygone era in a work deeply infused with Russian folk traditions. Former Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Artist in Residence Esther Yoo plays Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major with fire and ferocity, leading the Orchestra in one of the most enduring concertos of the violin repertoire. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is a revolutionary piece composed for ballet that shattered tradition and upended all conventional settings of ballet that came before it. The experimental tonality and relentless rhythm, set to a primitive-like dance at its 1913 premiere, caused a stir that brought on a near riot, and launched Stravinsky to fame and notoriety.

fri 3 apr 2020, 7.30pm VASILY PETRENKO conducts PROKOFIEV BRITTEN Peter Grimes: Four Sea Interludes TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme PROKOFIEV Symphony No.5 Vasily Petrenko Conductor Alexey Stadler Cello

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Music Director Designate from August 2020 Vasily Petrenko conducts a programme of music with a masterful touch. Britten’s operatic music resonates to this day, and his Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes are evocative of a frosty morning on the shores of East Anglia, opening with the peaceful setting of a dawn rising over the stirring waters, which is broken as the timpani and brass conjure up a storm. Cellist Alexey Stadler, who has been praised by The Times for having ‘firm control and the kind of tactile, honeyed tone capable of bringing listeners to the knees’, follows in the first half with Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. Prokofiev composed his Symphony No.5 in 1944 against the backdrop of World War II, and yet it is a work of exuberance and energy which, in the composer’s words, provided a ‘hymn to free and happy Man – his strength, his generosity and purity of soul.’

sun 3 may 2020, 7.30pm VASILY PETRENKO conducts THE POEM OF ECSTASY WAGNER The Flying Dutchman: Overture DEBUSSY La Mer RAVEL Piano Concerto in G major SCRIABIN The Poem of Ecstasy Vasily Petrenko Conductor George Li Piano

Vasily Petrenko conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a series of exquisite musical portraits. Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman Overture complements Debussy’s La Mer, which creates a seascape drawn from powerful childhood memories. Suspended strings create a serene stillness in which the woodwind provide the colours, set into motion by the rising waves of brass which bring the picture to life. George Li, a musician who ‘combines staggering technical prowess, a sense of command and depth of expression’ (Washington Post) performs Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, a piece with jazz-like fluidity and vivacity. Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy is an exploration of the divine nature of creativity itself, using dreamlike harmonies to otherworldly effect. The huge orchestra Scriabin employs reaches a spectacular climax in a blaze of glory that makes this one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable pieces for symphony orchestra.

sun 31 may 2020, 7.30pm SIR ANDREW DAVIS conducts SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE ELGAR In the South (Alassio) STRAUSS Four Last Songs BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique Sir Andrew Davis Conductor Siobhan Stagg Soprano

Sir Andrew Davis concludes the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2019-2020 series with exuberance and flourish, bringing some of the greatest works of the Romantic imagination to life. Elgar’s In the South traverses an Italian landscape and encapsulates the majesty and tranquillity of the coastal mountains the composer came to love during his short stay in Alassio. Strauss’ Four Last Songs, a series of beautiful meditations for soprano and orchestra, sees Siobhan Stagg take to the stage with Strauss’ heart-bursting work, written as the composer was nearing the end of his life. Closing the concert is Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, a work with a gripping, hyper-romantic pull that is tinged with the residue of an intense, idealised and unrequited love. The symphony revolves around this core idea, until it spirals inwards in the final movement and crashes with intense visions in a passionate outcry that blends dream and reality.

RPO RESOUND RPO Resound, the Orchestra’s award-winning community and education programme, uses the transformative power of music to reach the communities the Orchestra serves. Launched in 1993, RPO Resound is still one of the most celebrated programmes of its kind in the UK. RPO musicians travel extensively both nationally and internationally to bring meaningful musical experiences to participants in a range of settings, from hospital wards to homeless shelters, prisons to primary schools and beyond. In the last year alone, RPO Resound reached nearly 10,000 people through a range of inspirational and creative experiences delivered by our musicians. To find out more about this ground-breaking programme visit


‘There was this great vibe in the school and everyone’s spirits were lifted and we’ve all been saying, “we need this every day in our school” because it has made everyone so happy. It’s made everyone work together and created a real team spirit.’ Secondary School Headteacher, Wandsworth

CORPORATE PARTNERS The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra gratefully acknowledges the support and enthusiasm of its Corporate Partners.


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