Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20


The Barbican has announced its 2019-20 classical music season

  • Ground-breaking collaborations and innovative projects
  • Celebrating Ludwig van Beethoven in his 250th birthday year
  • Leading venue for artistic excellence the season includes world-class visiting orchestras
  • Some of the most renowned soloists of our time
  • Premieres and rediscovered music
  • Thousands of discounted tickets to 14 – 25-year-olds through the Young Barbican scheme

Huw Humphreys, Barbican’s Head of Music says: With the world around us changing, I believe the Barbican’s vision of ‘Arts without Boundaries’ is more vital than ever – whether those boundaries be literal or metaphorical. We bring to the capital the best international orchestras, conductors and soloists to complement the unrivalled artistic backbone of our resident and associate orchestras: the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony OrchestraBritten Sinfonia and the Academy of Ancient Music. Close collaborations with our neighbouring Guildhall School of Music & Drama also allow us to develop a vibrant Creative Learning programme whilst enabling the artists of the future to get to work and perform with some of the biggest stars of our time.

The 2019-20 season runs from September 2019 – July 2020.

Tickets go on sale online to Barbican Members Plus from 26 February, Barbican Members on 28 February and to the general public on 5 March. For the detailed listings click here. Thousands of discounted tickets at £5, £10 or £15 are available to 14 – 25-year-olds through the Young Barbican scheme. The scheme launched in 2014 and there are now over 64,000 members.

Always at the forefront of ground-breaking collaborations and innovative projects, the season at the Barbican includes:

  • Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel with iconic jazz pianist Herbie Hancock as part of a major residency celebrating the LA Phil’s centenary (19 Nov)
  • As part of the Barbican’s Life Rewired season, composer Emily Howard, who has a background in mathematics and computer science, curates an evening of new music and talks, inspired by 19th-century computer pioneer Ada Lovelace; featuring world premieres of Barbican-commissioned works performed by Britten Sinfonia as well as music generated by artificial intelligence (2 Nov). In addition, the world premiere of Emily Howard’s Antisphere opens the LSO’s season (14 Sep), and the BBC SO performs Howard’s Torus (1 Nov), a piece that began the geometry-inspired triptych of works that Antisphere completes.
  • As part of their Barbican residency, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis collaborating with London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and Sir Simon Rattle on the European premiere of Marsalis’ The Jungle (Symphony No.4), inspired by the multicultural asphalt jungle of New York City (30 & 31 May)
  • BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBC SO) performing with two great storytellers of our time: bestselling authors David Walliams (2 May) and Neil Gaiman (12 Nov)
  • Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) and Richard Tognetti performing Luminous, a cross-genre musical and visual project devised with visionary photographer Bill Henson, as part of the ACO’s residency at Milton Court (4 Oct)
  • Pioneering composer Steve Reich and Gerhard Richter, one of the most significant visual artists in modern art history, collaborate on a project that examines the intersection between Richter’s formula for his Patterns series, which divides, mirrors, and repeats a single painting, and Reich’s repeating musical structures in a genre-crossing film. Performed by Britten Sinfonia and conductor Colin Currie (23 Oct)
  • Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Philip Glass Ensemble will be revisiting one of Glass’ early masterpieces, the trailblazing Music with Changing Parts, featuring a rare chance to see the composer himself performing with his pioneering group. This new arrangement includes the Tiffin Chorus from the Tiffin School in Kingston upon Thames (30 Oct)
  • BBC SO and the Barbican presenting the UK premiere of Joby Talbot’s opera Everest, based on the tragic climbing disaster on Mount Everest in 1996 (20 Jun); and Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC SO in William Alwyn’s little-known opera Miss Julie (3 Oct)
  • Acclaimed trumpeter Alison Balsom is Milton Court Artist-in-Residence, and recreates Samuel Adamson’s award-winning theatre-piece Gabriel for the concert hall, in collaboration with directorDominic Dromgoole (21 Oct). A theatrical celebration of Baroque music and 17th-century London,Gabriel premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2013.
  • LSO and the Barbican presenting an evening of music and visuals exploring the life of the maverick and eccentric genius Percy Grainger, whose life was as colourful and as unpredictable as his compositions; conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, with Gerard McBurney as creative director
  • BBC SO presenting its first ever Total Immersion for families, inspired by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing (1 Dec), as well as two further Total ImmersionsSemyon Bychkov conducts the main evening concert in a day of work by Detlev Glanert (7 Dec) and Sakari Oramo leads a day exploring composer Anders Hillborg (22 Feb)
  • Bach: A Beautiful Mind explores different aspects of the genius of JS Bach during a weekend of music and talks: Featuring the author James Gaines, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani performing The Musical Offering, baritone Benjamin Appl and the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) in sacred solo cantatas, and Accademia Bizantina in The Art of Fugue (18 & 19 Jan)

Throughout 2020, and in the months leading up to it, the Barbican celebrates Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the most iconic figures in Western classical music, in his 250th birthday year. As a cross-arts venue, the Barbican is perfectly placed to shine a light on different aspects of this complex composer. Some of the highlights include:

  • Beethoven Weekender (1-2 Feb), a weekend that builds on the success of the Barbican’s Sound Unbound festival, giving new and existing audiences the chance to explore the great composer in a fresh and informal way. It features a complete symphony cycle performed by 5 leading UK orchestras and their chief conductors: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/KarabitsCity of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/ Gražinytė-TylaRoyal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/PetrenkoRoyal Northern Sinfonia/Vogt; and Hallé Orchestra/Elder; as well as specially curated chamber music concerts, talks, films, family events and foyer activities.
  • As part of the Weekender there will be a exhibition from Beethoven-Haus Bonn, including objects such as the composer’s ear trumpet, sketch books, an original print by Andy Warhol, and Beethoven’s own violin, performed in concert.
  • New responses to Beethoven’s music: s t a r g a z e, a network of multi-talented and classically-trained European musicians presents Beethoven NEIN! with Matthew Herbert as part of the Weekender; and the BBC SO performs the European premiere of David Lang’s prisoner of the state, a Barbican co-commission, a contemporary response to themes of power and liberty in Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio (11 Jan)
  • Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique performing a complete symphony cycle (11-16 May)
  • Performances by acclaimed soloists Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin sonatas, 8 Apr), Sir András Schiff (all five piano concertos with the Budapest Festival Orchestra), Evgeny Kissin (Pathétique, Tempest and Waldstein sonatas on 6 Feb), and Paul Lewis (Piano Concerto No.4 with the BBC SO on 7 May)
  • LSO and Sir Simon Rattle juxtaposing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the rarely performed oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives with music by Alban Berg (19 Jan) as well as presenting an LSO Discovery Singing Day featuring the oratorio (22 Sep); BBC SO and Chorus performing Missa Solemnis (4 Mar); and the AAM giving a rare performance of the complete incidental music to Egmont (2 Oct).

World-class visiting orchestras:

  • Barbican International Orchestral Partner, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, celebrates its centenary this year and presents a cross-section of its illustrious history and commitment to new commissions during this residency; including the UK premieres of LA Phil centennial commissions from Andrew Norman’s Sustain to a new piano concerto by the LA Phil’s Creative Chair John Adams featuring dazzling soloist Yuja Wang. The programme also includes Bruckner’s Symphony No.4, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, music by Ginastera, new commissions from contemporary Latin American composers Paul Desenne and Gabriela Ortiz, and a collaboration with the legendary jazz pianist, and the Philharmonic’s Creative Chair for Jazz, Herbie Hancock (18-20 Nov). For this orchestra, a centennial is more than a celebration of the past. It is an opportunity to define the future.
  • Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard Tognetti are the Barbican’s International Associate Ensemble at Milton Court. Their 2019 residency features a string arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Tognetti’s arrangement of Bach’s Canons on a Goldberg Ground, music by Adès, Webern and Britten, works by Vaughan Williams and Schoenberg, performed side-by-side with Guildhall musicians, as well as Luminous, a cross-genre musical and visual project devised with photographer Bill Henson, including music by Britten, Janáček, Vasks and REM (3-5 Oct).
  • Barbican International Associate Ensemble, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis comes to the Barbican for a residency, including a collaboration with the LSO and Sir Simon Rattle on the European premiere of Marsalis’ The Jungle (Symphony No.4), inspired by the multicultural asphalt jungle of New York City (30 & 31 May, further residency details to be announced)
  • Jaap van Zweden makes his first London appearance as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in Mahler’s first two symphonies and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.25 with soloist Daniil Trifonov (30 Apr, 1 May)
  • Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Mariss Jansons performing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.22 with Igor Levit (7 Apr)
  • Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer pairing music by Dvořák with a complete Beethoven piano concerto cycle with soloist Sir András Schiff (Nov and May)
  • Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko perform Strauss and Shostakovich as well as Grieg’s Piano Concerto with soloist Leif Ove Andsnes (22 Oct)

Leading venue for artistic excellence, further featured soloists include:

  • A season-long Artist Spotlight on pianist Yuja Wang, featuring the London premiere of John Adams’Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? with the LA Phil, a recital, and chamber music concerts
  • Trumpeter Alison Balsom as Milton Court Artist-in-Residence performs Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain with Guildhall Jazz Ensemble (18 Mar) and leads Britten Sinfonia in the world premiere of John Woolrich’s Hark! The echoing air in a concert showcasing composers’ fascination with other composers’ music (14 May)
  • Antoine Tamestit, one of the world’s great viola players is the subject of the season’s LSO Artist Portrait
  • Known for his intellectual drive and technical brilliance, pianist Igor Levit is this season’s Barbican Featured Artist and performs four concerts including Shostakovich’s complete Preludes and Fugues
  • Superstar pianist Lang Lang performing the Goldberg Variations (6 Apr)
  • Further pianists include Tamara Stefanovich exploring The Art of the Etude (10 Nov); Hélène Grimaud (27 May); Jeremy Denk (12 Jun); Simon Trpčeski (25 Feb)
  • Multi-Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato presents her project Songplay with music from the Baroque and Classical periods coupled with jazz ballads and music from the Great American Songbook
  • Sopranos including Angela Gheorghiu (10 Dec), Pretty Yende (25 Nov), Rowan Pierce with the AAM for a programme of music for soprano and trumpet (24 Oct); Lise Davidsen (10 Feb); Mary Bevan and Jennifer France exploring Handel’s heroines with the AAM (19 Mar).
  • Mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and tenor Stuart Skelton perform Oskar Fried’s Verklärte Nacht with the BBC SO, and Skelton returns to the BBC SO to perform in Lehár’s Fieber, a tone poem for tenor and orchestra
  • Harpsichordist Jean Rondeau makes his much anticipated AAM debut (20 Feb)
  • Violinist Vilde Frang joins Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo to perform Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto with the BBC SO (22 May)
  • Two of the UK’s most admired musicians, pianist Benjamin Grosvenor and Britten Sinfonia leader, violinist Thomas Gould perform in a programme of Bach, Mozart, and a new commission by Robin Haigh (26 Nov)
  • Cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras pairs Bach’s cello suites with contemporary works, commissioned to echo the originals (4 Apr)

 Further premieres and rediscovered music:

  • The LSO’s season opens with the world premiere of Emily Howard’s Antisphere, commissioned for Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO by the Barbican, and part of the Centre’s Life Rewired season. The LSO’s season also includes works by composers from the current Panufnik Composers SchemeSophya Polevaya and James HoyleJerwood Composers+ Daniel Kidane and Amir Konjani, and eight further new composers, who will hear their work rehearsed by the LSO and François-Xavier Roth, guided by mentors Colin Matthews and Christian Mason.
  • AAM and Music Director Richard Egarr combine Beethoven’s Egmont with the Mass by his Czech contemporary, Jan Ladislav Dussek. Recently rediscovered by Egarr, and following extensive research and preparation, the Mass will receive its first performance in modern times (2 Oct).
  • As part of AAM’s ongoing From Her Pen project, revealing the work of female composers of the baroque and classical eras, the ensemble performs a lesser known gem of early orchestral repertoire, the Sinfonia from Maria Grimani’s oratorio Pallade e Marte (20 Nov)
  • The BBC SO, conducted by newly appointed Principal Guest Conductor Dalia Stasevska, performs the UK premiere of a new violin concerto by Helen Grime, featuring soloist Leila Josefowicz (17 Apr), and Sakari Oramo leads the world premiere of a violin concerto by Victoria Borisova-Ollas featuring soloist Baiba Skride (3 Apr).
  • The BBC SO also performs the world premiere of Detlev Glanert’s Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (7 Dec), one of 15 world and UK premieres in their 2019-20 season.
  • Britten Sinfonia and tenor Allan Clayton give the UK premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Refugee, based on poems by Emily Dickinson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Warsan Shire, Brian Bilston and W H Auden (20 Sep)
  • Britten Sinfonia joins The Sixteen for the London premiere of James MacMillan’s Symphony No.5, Le grand inconnu, commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen (14 Oct)
  • The Barbican has co-commissioned Voices, a new work by composer Max Richter, known for his style that combines the classical tradition with the experimentalism of contemporary electronica. The world premiere performance will be given by an orchestra featuring a radically reimagined instrumentation (16 & 17 Feb)
  • Third Coast Percussion will give the UK premiere of Perpetulum, a new percussion piece by Philip Glass, in a concert also featuring UK premieres of music by Devonté Hynes and Gavin Bryars (21 Sep).

1 thought on “Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20”

  1. I don’t think the Barbican are correct in claiming that the BBC performance of Glanert’s Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (Dec 7) is a world premiere. The first performances took place in the Netherlands in 2016 and a live recording is already available on the RCO Live label.

    The BBC performance will presumably be the UK premiere and it’s great news that this astonishing score will be heard and broadcast in the UK


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