Orchestral music: Where to start

Orchestral music offers something for everyone, but it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Discover the wonder of live orchestral music with us this season. Enjoy Orff’s thrilling Carmina Burana (think the opening of X Factor), get emotional with heart-on-sleeves music from Tchaikovsky or be transported to Paris with Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

Read on for our selection of concerts that are the perfect introduction to the thrill of live orchestral music. Or, you can browse all our London concerts here.

Carmina Burana | 13 October 2018

If it’s high-octane musical drama you’re after, look no further than Carl Orff’s choral showstopper Carmina Burana. Written for huge forces and chock full of terrific melodies and truly epic moments, it’s no wonder that generations of film composers have turned to this iconic work for inspiration when scoring some of cinema’s most dramatic scenes.

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Moscow nights | 19 October 2018

An all-Russian programme of full-throttle emotions and heart-stopping melodies, including Tchaikovsky’s unashamedly passionate Fifth Symphony. Surrender to the romance and drama of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and it’s not hard to hear why it’s been a firm audience favourite for over a century.

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French fancies | 24 October 2018

Be whisked back to the golden age of Hollywood with Gershwin’s An American in Paris, the original jazz-infused orchestral masterpiece that inspired the Broadway musical, ballet, and iconic film of the same name. Gershwin’s Parisian fairytale is just one part of a programme full of French delights, which also includes a beautiful set of French folk song arrangements, Canteloube’s ravishing Songs of the Auvergne.

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Fantastique! | 14 November 2018

Never one for understatement, Berlioz’s crazily entertaining Symphonie Fantastique really is just that: an opium-fuelled phantasmagoria full of witchcraft and star-crossed romance, and complete with a notorious musical depiction of a public beheading. It’s really got to be heard to be believed, as does Gounoud’s Concerto for Pedal Piano, a delightful one-off written for a piano fitted out with a second keyboard for the pianist’s feet!

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Pictures at an Exhibition | 30 November 2018

Step inside the magical world of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a series of stunningly imaginative miniatures bursting with orchestral colour. Three short pieces by Liadov are also drawn from the mysterious depths of Russian folklore, and presented here alongside what is probably the most-loved of all violin concertos, Bruch’s famous First.

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Spirit of romance | 8 February 2019

Chopin has a claim to being the world’s favourite creator of gorgeous piano music, and tonight’s concert is a chance to discover the timeless romance of his First Piano Concerto. But you won’t stay dewy-eyed for long – in the second half experience the joyful rush of Elgar’s Second Symphony, a rip-roaring shout of delight from Britain’s best-loved composer.

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Elgar's Cello Concerto | 23 March 2019

Tonight Elgar’s elegiac, heartbreakingly beautiful Cello Concerto is paired with Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 1. For Mahler ‘a symphony must be like the world, it must embrace everything’, and sure enough his youthful First Symphony welcomes in a breathtaking array of influences from birdsong to a certain well-known nursery rhyme, creating a musical adventure of mind-boggling cosmic brilliance.

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Opera gala evening | 29 March 2019

What better introduction to the world of opera than a selection of the very best tenor arias performed by one of the great voices of the 21st century? Internationally acclaimed tenor Juan Diego Flórez is unsurpassed on the operatic stage, and in this special gala concert of opera classics and popular favourites you’ll experience all the spectacular power that has made him one of the supreme vocalists of our time.

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