By Vivien Schweitzer
From PlaybillArts.com - 31 Jan 2007
London's Southbank Centre has unveiled the lineup for its first season in the renovated and acoustically improved Royal Festival Hall.Following two years of refurbishments costing a total of £111 million, the RFH will reopen on June 8 with a 48-hour celebration featuring professional and amateur musicians, from choirs to marching bands.
On June 11, the Centre's four resident orchestras — who have, in effect, been homeless during the renovations — will join together to perform a single concert. The London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment will offer, in a three-part event, music from Purcell and Handel to Ravel's Bolero to a new commission from Julian Anderson.
The Philharmonia announced last year that Esa-Pekka Salonen will be its principal conductor starting next season; Vladimir Jurowski takes the baton of the London Philharmonic at the same point. Subsequent concerts at the RFH feature Salonen conducting the Philharmonia; Jurowski conducting the LPO and Daniele Gatti with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The roster of visiting conductors also includes Pierre Boulez, Mark Elder, John Eliot Gardiner, Roger Norrington, Charles Mackerras and Riccardo Muti.
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will celebrate its 21st birthday on June 30 with an extended concert featuring four conductors (Elder, Jurowski, Mackerras and Norrington), two fortepianists (Robert Levin and Richard Egarr), vocal soloists and a choir. The music will range from Purcell odes and Rameau dances to a Haydn symphony and Mozart double piano concerto to the Wolf's Glen scene from Weber's Der Freischütz; Mackerras will close the evening with Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks.
Simon Rattle, who reportedly once declared he would not return to the Royal Festival Hall until it sorted out its dire acoustics, will return at last to conduct the OAE in Schumann. There will also be a 70th birthday concert for the conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.
Other highlights across the Southbank Centre's venues during the following 12 months include Bryn Terfel in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, a Luigi Nono festival, including the U.K. premiere of his opera Prometeo, and Klaus Obermaier's 3D digital staging of The Rite of Spring.
Pianist Alfred Brendel, who played the last recital in the Royal Festival Hall before it closed in 2005, will give the first one after reopening — a program of Haydn, Schubert and Beethoven on June 14.
The piano lineup also includes Daniel Barenboim performing the complete Beethoven piano sonatas during a two-month residency, Pierre-Laurent Aimard performing Messiaen's Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus, and a focus on Richard Goode, in which the pianist will give a recital, master-class, lecture and appear as duo partner and song accompanist.
In addition to the specially commissioned piece by Julian Anderson for the grand re-opening concert, the Centre will host performances of new works by John Tavener, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Thomas Adès and Heiner Goebbels.
The Centre announced one other change this past week: the official "rebranding" of the complex's name from "South Bank Centre" to "Southbank Centre." According to a statement, the spelling alteration is intended to distinguish the Centre itself from the broader South Bank area.
The Independent quoted Jude Kelly, the Centre's artistic director, as saying that the Southbank's renaissance matched the original idealism that led to the building of the complex as a postwar "tonic to the nation" in 1951. "It was 'The People's Place' and it should be 'The People's Place'," she said.
Improved acoustics aside, female visitors to the South Bank Centre will appreciate one major feature of the renovation: there has reportedly been a 70% increase in the number of women's toilets. (The men's toilet count remains as before.)