As an Artistic Partner of Southbank Centre’s year-long festival The Rest Is Noise – a cultural and musical history of the 20th century told through 250 events – the BBC Concert Orchestra gives nine concerts exploring key classical works of the last century in the social and political context which shaped their composition.
The BBC Concert Orchestra’s involvement forms part of a BBC partnership with Southbank Centre for the festival which sees BBC Four screen a new landmark three-part documentary series and BBC Radio 3 offering a complementary programme of broadcasts.
From Kurt Weill to Frank Zappa, and Berlin in the 1930s to Britain in the 1980s, the BBC Concert Orchestra travels through time to tell the tales behind the music that helped define the last hundred years, under the baton of its Principal Conductor Keith Lockhart and guest conductors including André de Ridder and Charles Hazlewood.
The journey starts in Britain at the beginning of the century, exploring the cultural resonances of the First World War. In a programme of music and poetry from before, during and after the conflict, the orchestra conveys a nation’s yearning for its unrecoverable past (Death of Nostalgia, 24 February).
Two concerts profile Kurt Weill, creator of some of the most popular and daring musical theatre of his day. Weill’s work is put under the spotlight in performances of his sung ballet The Seven Deadly Sins (3 March) featuring My Brightest Diamond’s lead vocalist Shara Worden conducted by André de Ridder, and a concert highlighting the range of his musical output, from his Symphony No. 2 to a selection of theatre songs (Kurt Weill Berlin to Broadway, 12 April).
The orchestra is joined by the Nu Civilisation Orchestra as it delves into the cultural melting pot of 20th century America with music from William Grant Still, Henry Gilbert and Duke Ellington. The blues meets orchestral tradition in Still’s “Afro-American” Symphony, which became the first symphony by an African American composer to be performed by a leading American symphony orchestra (Hidden Voices, 24 March).
The role of BBC Radio and British cinema in boosting morale on the Home Front during the Second World War is championed in a programme which includes music from two BBC Radio programmes of the time; Sincerely Yours presented by Vera Lynn and Music While You Work, designed to keep factory workers motivated. Other works include Ireland’s Epic March commissioned by BBC Radio in 1942 and Walton’s Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario (The Home Front, 7 June).
In the twentieth year since his death, the lasting legacy of rock icon Frank Zappa is celebrated in a UK premiere performance of 200 Motels – The Suites, the orchestral score for his 1971 musical surrealist film about life on the road with a rock band. The music which, according to Zappa, was mostly written in motel rooms whilst on tour with The Mothers of Invention, is given this rare performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra, members of Southbank Sinfonia and conductor Jurjen Hempel (200 Motels – The Suite, 29 October).
The orchestra gives a weekend of concerts in November dedicated to musical theatre legend Stephen Sondheim (Sondheim, 9 & 10 November) and rounds up its journey through the musical life of the 20th century with a profile of 1980s Britain’s musical landscape (Britain in the 80s, 30 November).