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A LOOK BACK AT 2016

21 Dec 2016

It's been a busy year for us here at the London Sinfonietta, with dozens of concerts spanning two seasons, a successful London Sinfonietta Academy, collaborations with actors, sound artists and audience members, a trip to Venice and a Harrison Birtwistle world premiere to name but a few...

London Sinfonietta at the Proms 

In August we were part of the BBC Proms at the Roundhouse with a performance that took place in and around the mesmerising Curtain Call installation by Ron Arad. Watch this video from the BBC to see more...

Ron Arad’s Curtain Call, an enveloping circular installation of silicone rods, on to which video images were streamed, sometimes beautiful, sometimes hallucinatory. It was mesmerising, and a bit trippy. " The Guardian

LS Travels: Darragh Morgan at the Venice Biennale

In October we were excited to perform in the beautiful, floating city of Venice as part of the La Biennale di Venezia with a programme of Ravel, Stravinsky and Salvatore Sciarrino, which preceded our London performance dedicated to the Italian godfather of contemporary classical music. During the concert  Sciarrino was presented with the 2016 Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement in Music. During the tour, violinist Darragh Morgan documented the weekend for us. Thanks Darragh!

The Italian Avant Garde in Venice

The London Sinfonietta had the privilege of performing music by the great Italian experimentalist Salvatore Sciarrino at the Venice Biennale. In London we rehearsed and were confidently steered in wonderful sonic directions (maybe techniques not so often known to our Rocca and Rogeri fine string instruments) by conductor Marco Anguis, a long term fan and collaborator of Sciarrino.

Arriving at Venice airport is a surprising and unique experience. Not only are you surrounded by water but it must be one of the few airports in the world where a water taxi just outside the terminal is necessary, in order to be whisked off to your hotel. 

As we were staying on the Lido island many of the Sinfonietta players came across to Venice early on the concert day before our rehearsal at Teatro alle Tese. Many had either a favourite restaurant, church, art gallery or piazza to visit . I went to pay homage to Vivaldi at Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pieta where many of his concerti where premiered, a beautiful experience and I wondered what Antonio might make of music of his fellow Italian Sciarrino some 300 years later! After tasting probably the best Tiramisu in the world I briefly soaked up the atmosphere and incredible architecture of St Marks Square where I bumped into Sinfonietta Chief Executive Andrew Burke, a fellow film fan who reminded me of the corner of the square where the famous bank robbery scene in Casino Royal was filmed.

To the Arsenale to meet Sciarrino


I had previously met and worked with Sciarrino, leading Ensemble Modern for the first performances of his Opera Macbeth some 15 years ago. When our conductor Marco reintroduced me to Sciarrino in front of my Sinfonietta colleagues Sciarrino remarked I "must have been a child then, but he was also!" Our rehearsal with this master of the Italian avant garde went really well. He knows exactly what colours and sounds he is looking for and rehearsed with us without a score for any of his works - you just knew with the genius composer that he really could recall everything he had written, and once we were achieving exactly what he was after "perfecto" was exhaled! 

The concert itself, broadcast live on Rai 3 began with an awards ceremony of a life time achievement award to Sciarrino from the Biennale (previous awardees include Boulez and Reich).

A huge capacity audience listened intently to our programme and though a large hall in this fascinating converted old arsenal you could hear a pin drop at the end of every work. Music by Ravel and Stravinsky complimented Sciarrino's own oeuvre perfectly. 

After a typically classy Italian post concert reception (with Prosecco for the entire audience), and another couple of bumpy water taxi journeys we returned to London, tired but happy from a scintillating artistic endeavour, much of which we will repeat at St Johns Smith Square this week.

See what the critics had to say of our 2016 performances...

“Harrison Birtwistle premiere is funny, surreal and poetic in the London Sinfonietta's hands” " The Telegraph
"It would be hard to fault the London Sinfonietta and Exaudi, conducted by the composer, who held us all in thrall as this strange, rich piece unfolded.” " The Times
"Neset launched proceedings with a solo-sax monologue, unfolding the opening Prologue on soprano in high, rising and falling lines, accumulating in density and free-improv abandon before falling back to songlike phrasing as the Sinfonietta’s strings began to glimmer and their woodwinds flit through the mist." " The Guardian
"The Sinfonietta blended rigour with expressive depth in Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee, plus gave striking premieres of works by Morgan Hayes and Simon Holt." " The Guardian
That manic intensity beneath a seemingly static surface is wonderfully captured in Van der Aa’s score, which has bouts of violent, jagged-rhythmed writing following by luscious, saccharine passages of calm. Sadly, only two performances. The Book of Disquiet deserves to be booked for a disquieting reprise. " The Times