Extended Concert Programme: London Symphony Orchestra with Barbara Hannigan | Mon 13 March 2023
Bristol Beacon presents
London Symphony Orchestra with Barbara Hannigan
Mon 13 March 2023, 7pm
This evening’s performance:
Barbara Hannigan Conductor
Aphrodite Patoulidou Soprano
London Symphony Orchestra
Olivier Messiaen L’Ascension
Gustav Mahler Symphony No 4
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this concert with the London Symphony Orchestra and Barbara Hannigan at Bath Forum. This is the third time that we have presented this fabulous ensemble during Bristol Beacon’s transformation period and it will be the final time before we reopen the venue at the end of
We’re absolutely thrilled to be embarking on a close relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra is set to become a mainstay of our orchestral programme when we reopen and will also be a key partner in our music education programme. We will be announcing the first orchestral season to grace our new stages in the coming months and we look forward to welcoming you all through the doors for many more concerts very soon.
I’d like to extend a particularly warm welcome once again to the many care homes, their staff and residents, who join us from around the country in a special live broadcast of tonight’s concert, made possible by the generosity of Bristol Care Homes.
If you’d like to find out the latest on Bristol Beacon’s transformation as we near completion and how you can get involved in our reopening, please visit bristolbeacon.org.
Enjoy tonight’s concert.
Chief Executive, Bristol Beacon
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992): L’Ascension
1. Majesté du Christ demandant sa gloire à son Père (‘The Majesty of Christ Demanding His Glory of the Father’)
2. Alléluias sereins d’une âme qui désire le ciel (‘Serene Alleluias of a Soul that Longs for the Heavens’)
3. Alléluia sur la trompette, alléluia sur la cymbale (‘Alleluia on the Trumpet, Alleluia on the Cymbal’)
4. Prière du Christ montant vers son Père (‘Prayer of Christ Ascending Towards His Father’)
No 20th century composer fulfilled the command ‘aim high’ more breathtakingly than Olivier Messiaen. There are many hymns of praise to God in Western music, but few have dared to depict heaven, eternity, infinite love, and to declare their intention boldly in their titles. But that’s exactly what Olivier Messiaen did, without any arrogance or sense of hyperbole, and in its utterly original way the music lives up to its expressed aims over and over again. This is all the more remarkable in the case of L’Ascension (Ascension Day, 1932-3), in that its composer was still in his mid-twenties and only just beginning to build a reputation for himself. While it is in some ways clearly an early work, so many features of Messiaen’s mature style are already in place: the use of unusual scales to add ‘unworldly’ colouring, the complex, systematically organised rhythms, partly to convey the sense of intoxicating, abandoned dance, but also in the slower music to create a feeling of time itself being defied, even transcended.
An intensely devout, if somewhat idiosyncratic Roman Catholic, Messiaen was also influenced by the music and thought of Hindu and Buddhist traditions – as can be heard particularly in the scherzo-like third movement – and by the erotically charged mysticism of Wagner. Yet, even at this stage in his career, what Messiaen makes of it is like nothing before. Where Wagner’s exotic harmonies reach out for resolution, however long delayed, the lush hymn-like wind writing at the start of the first movement seem content simply to ‘be’: progression towards a goal, one of the defining features of traditional Western classical music, is abandoned in favour of a kind of movement that circles upon itself – the demands of human clock-time fade.
Rhythms and scales become freer and more colourful in the ‘Allelujahs’ of the second movement, and there are foretastes in the woodwind of the birdsong that was to be such an arresting feature of Messiaen’s later music. Then the third movement obeys the Biblical Psalmist’s injunction to ‘praise His name with dancing’, evoking complex, mesmerising footwork. Finally comes one of those rapt, intensely slow-moving hymns which stand at the heart of Messiaen’s devotional writing. The strings, previously forced to be silent or play a background role in the orchestral texture, are now centre stage, their song rising slowly but steadily towards the stratospheric final chord as Christ’s ascension into Heaven ends, his mission on earth complete.
© Stephen Johnson
Gustav Mahler (1860–1911): Symphony No 4 (1899–1900, rev 1901–10)
1. Bedächtig. Nicht eilen [Deliberate. Not hurried] – Recht gemächlich [Very leisurely]
2. In gemächlicher Bewegung. Ohne Hast [At a leisurely pace. Without haste]
3. Ruhevoll [Restful]
4. Sehr behaglich [Very cosy]
In 1900, just after he’d finished his Fourth Symphony, Gustav Mahler wrote about how the work had taken shape. He had set out with clear ideas, but then the work had ‘turned upside-down’ on him: ‘To my astonishment it became plain to me that I had entered a totally different realm, just as in a dream one imagines oneself wandering through the flower-scented garden of Elysium and it suddenly changes to a nightmare of finding oneself in a Hades full of terrors … This time it is a forest with all its mysteries and its horrors which forces my hand and weaves itself into my work. It becomes even clearer to me that one does not compose; one is composed.’
Mahler’s remarks about ‘mysteries and horrors’ may surprise some readers. Writers often portray the Fourth as his sunniest and simplest symphony: an affectionate recollection of infant happiness, culminating in a vision of Heaven seen through the eyes of a child – with only the occasional pang of adult nostalgia to cloud its radiant blue skies. But Mahler was too sophisticated to fall for the sentimental 19th-century idea of childhood as a Paradise Lost. He knew that children could be cruel, and that their capacity for suffering was often seriously underestimated by adults. There is cruelty in the seemingly naïve text Mahler sets in his finale, ‘Das himmlische Leben’ (Heavenly Life): ‘We led a patient, guiltless darling lambkin to death,’ the child tells us contentedly, adding that ‘Saint Luke is slaying the oxen’. A moment or two earlier we catch a glimpse of ‘the butcher Herod’, on whose orders the children were massacred in the Biblical Christmas story.
What are images like these doing in Heaven? Interestingly Mahler wrote this final movement before he’d written a note of the preceding three. It was one of several settings of poems from the classic German folk collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Youth’s Magic Horn) Mahler had composed in the 1890s. At one stage Mahler thought of including it in his huge Third Symphony; but then he began to see it as more clearly the ending of his next symphony, the Fourth. Even then, Mahler’s ideas changed as the new work took shape. In its final form, the first three movements of the Fourth Symphony prepare the way for the closing vision of ‘Das himmlische Leben’ on every possible level: its themes, orchestral colours, tonal scheme, most of all that strange emotional ambiguity – blissful dream touched by images of nightmare. Far from being Mahler’s simplest symphony, it is one of the subtlest things he ever created.
The very opening of the Fourth Symphony is a foretaste of the finale. Woodwind and jingling sleigh-bells set off at a slow jog-trot, then a languid rising violin phrase turns out to be the beginning of a disarmingly simple tune. There is a note of contained yearning in the lovely second theme (cellos), but this soon subsides into the most childlike idea so far (solo oboe and bassoon). Later another tune is introduced by four flutes in unison – panpipes, or perhaps whistling boys. After this the ‘mysteries and horrors’ of the forest gradually make their presence felt, until in a superb full orchestral climax, horns, trumpets, bells and glittering high woodwind sound a triumphant medley of themes from earlier on. But this triumph is dispelled by a dissonance, underlined by gong and bass drum, then trumpets sound out the grim fanfare rhythm Mahler later used to begin the Funeral March of his Fifth Symphony. How do we get back to the land of lost content glimpsed at the beginning? Mahler simply stops the music, and the simple theme starts again in mid-phrase, as though nothing had happened. All the main themes now return, but dark disturbances keep casting shadows.
The second movement proceeds at a leisurely pace (really fast music is rare in this symphony). Mahler described the first theme as ‘Freund Hain spielt auf’: the ‘Friend Hain’ who ‘strikes up’ here is a sinister figure from German folk-lore: a pied piper-like figure whose fiddle playing leads those it enchants into the land of ‘Beyond’ – death in disguise? Mahler evokes Freund Hain’s fiddle ingeniously by having the orchestral leader play on a violin tuned a tone higher than normal, which makes the sound both coarser, and literally, more highly-strung. Death doesn’t quite have the last word, though the final shrill forte (flutes, oboes, clarinets, glockenspiel, triangle and harp) leaves a sulphurous aftertaste.
The slow movement is marked ‘restful’, but the peace is profoundly equivocal. Mahler wrote that this movement was inspired by ‘a vision of a tombstone on which was carved an image of the departed, with folded arms, in eternal sleep’ – an image half consoling, half achingly sad, and clearly related to the Freund Hain/Death imagery in the second movement. Mahler explore facets of this ambiguity before springing a wonderful surprise: a full orchestral outburst of pure joy. This passage looks forward and backward: horns anticipate the clarinet tune which opens the finale, then recall the whistling boys’ flute theme from the first movement. Then the movement slips back into peaceful sleep, to awaken in …
… Paradise – or, at least, a child’s version of it. Sleigh-bells open the finale, then the soprano enters for the first time. Possibly fearing what adult singers might get up to if told to imitate a child, Mahler adds an NB in the score: ‘To be sung in a happy childlike manner: absolutely without parody!’. At the mention of St Peter, the writing becomes hymn-like, then come those troubling images of slaughter. The singer seems unmoved by what she relates, but plaintive, animal-like cries from oboe and low horn disturb the vision, if only momentarily. At last the music makes its final turn to E major, the same key as the heavenly vision near the end of the slow movement. ‘No music on earth can be compared to ours’, the child tells us. Then the child falls silent (asleep?), and the music gradually fades until nothing is left but the soft low repeated tolling of the harp.
© Stephen Johnson
LSO Associate Artist
Soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan is an artist at the forefront of creation. Her artistic colleagues include Sir Simon Rattle, Sasha Waltz, Kent Nagano, Vladimir Jurowski, John Zorn, Andreas Kriegenburg, Andris Nelsons, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christoph Marthaler, Sir Antonio Pappano, Katie Mitchell, Kirill Petrenko and Krzysztof Warlikowski. The late conductor and pianist Reinbert de Leeuw greatly influenced her development as a musician. Hannigan has collaborated extensively with composers including Boulez, Zorn, Dutilleux, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Sciarrino, Barry, Dusapin, Dean, Benjamin and Abrahamsen.
The past two seasons presented both challenges and opportunities, and Hannigan continued at her own speed of light, premiering a new live video production of Poulenc’s La Voix humaine in which she both sings and conducts (created in collaboration with video artist Denis Guéguin), which she has since performed throughout Europe. She gave the world premieres of John Zorn’s Split the Lark and Star Catcher, as well as Zosha di Castri’s In the Half Light with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Hannigan performed across Europe with colleagues including Sir Simon Rattle and Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, LSO, Danish Radio Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony and Munich Philharmonic, and at festivals in Ludwigsburg and Aix-en-Provence, and celebrated her 50th birthday at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
Projects and performances in 2022/23 include her conducting debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Montreal Symphony and Orchestre Chambre de Lausanne, a European tour with the London Symphony Orchestra and a new multimedia project with pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque and composers David Chalmin and Bryce Dessner, inspired by Hildegard von Bingen, and designed and directed by Netia Jones/Lightmap.
Hannigan’s fruitful relationship with Alpha Classics began in 2017 with Crazy Girl Crazy, which won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal album. Her subsequent recordings for Alpha are Vienna: fin de siècle, La Passione featuring works by Nono, Haydn and Grisey, Dance With Me and a recent programme of Berg and Mahler in arrangements for chamber orchestra entitled Sehnsucht (Live in Rotterdam).
Hannigan created both the mentoring initiative Equilibrium Young Artists and Momentum: Our Future Now, an initiative which encourages other leading artists and organisations to support and mentor younger professional musicians. Recent awards include the Dresdener Musikfestspiele Glashütte Award (2020) and Denmark’s Léonie Sonning Music Prize (2021). She has also received the Order of Canada (2016) and Rolf Schock Prize for Musical Arts (2018). In autumn 2022 she received France’s Officier des Arts et des Lettres distinction and was named Gramophone Magazine’s 2022 Artist of the Year.
Originally from Nova Scotia, Hannigan resides in Finistère, on the northwest coast of France.
Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, Aphrodite Patoulidou is a celebrated soprano, who is also a songwriter and photographer, and passionate about painting and poetry. As a soprano, Patoulidou appears for opera companies including Berlin State Opera, La Monnaie, Brussels, Teatro Real, Madrid and Greek National Opera; at concert halls such as the Berlin Philharmonie, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Gothenburg Konserthuset and Snape Maltings; as well as at music festivals such as Ojai in California, Aldeburgh and Ludwigsburg. She has received international acclaim for her interpretations of the roles of Anne Trulove (Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress), Elle (Poulenc’s La voix humaine), Susanna (Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro), Belinda (Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas), Sophie Scholl (Udo Zimmermann’s Weiße Rose) and of Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child. She has collaborated with conductors such as Kirill Petrenko, Barbara Hannigan, Christopher Moulds, Tito Ceccherini and Manuel Nawri, and with orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Southwest German Radio
Patoulidou was one of the first artists to take part in the Equilibrium Young Artists initiative led by Barbara Hannigan. She is also a guest artist in
the company Sasha Waltz & Guests and was lead singer on tour with the heavy metal band Igorrr. As a songwriter, Patoulidou composes in many different genres; she is also a keen visual artist, interested in painting, drawing and photography.
Now based in Berlin, Patoulidou studied at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki (with Angelica Cathariou), the Royal Flemish Conservatorium of Brussels (with Dinah Bryant) and the University of the Arts Berlin (with Aris Argiris), and in Sweden. Patoulidou has been a bursary recipient of the Opera Awards Foundation, Onassis Foundation, Musikfonds e.V. and Manfred Strohscheer Stiftung. She has studied folk singing, plays the piano and guitar and is currently learning the nyckelharpa.
London Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Orchestra was established in 1904, as one of the first orchestras shaped by its musicians. Since then, generations of remarkable talents have built the LSO’s reputation for uncompromising quality, and inspirational repertoires. The LSO is Resident Orchestra at the Barbican in the City of London. The Orchestra reaches international audiences through touring and artistic residencies – in cities including Paris and Dortmund, at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and with the Music Academy in Santa Barbara – and through digital partnerships and an extensive programme of live-streamed and on-demand online broadcasts.
Through a world-leading learning and community programme, LSO Discovery, the LSO connects people from all walks of life to the power of great music. LSO musicians are at the heart of this unique programme, leading workshops, mentoring bright young talent, performing at free concerts for the local community and using music to support adults with learning disabilities. LSO musicians also visit children’s hospitals, and lead training programmes for music teachers.
In 1999, the LSO formed its own recording label, LSO Live, and revolutionised how live orchestral music is recorded, with over 150 recordings released so far. Overall, the LSO has made more recordings than any other orchestra, and it also uses streaming services to reach a worldwide audience totalling millions of music-lovers who listen online every month. Through inspiring music, educational programmes and technological innovations, the LSO’s reach extends far beyond the concert hall.
Sofia Silva Sousa
Diego Incertis Sánchez
Fabian van de Geest
Sir Simon Rattle OM CBE
Principal Guest Conductors
Michael Tilson Thomas
Andre J Thomas
Simon Halsey CBE