Stop us if we've said this before, but our century is already two decades old, and it’s not getting any younger. Beethoven never looked backwards, and as the musical world celebrates his 250th birthday, we’ve been letting his voice interact with the sounds of the 21st century. Just as the defining masterpieces of Beethoven and his contemporaries punctuated the first two decades of the 19th century, we’ve chosen pieces that represent the 21st – each one separated by exactly two centuries from Beethoven. We call it 2020 Vision, and the results, so far, have been revelatory.
So a piece from 1811 encounters a piece from 2011. Beethoven meets John Adams, Henri Dutilleux and Ravi Shankar. Meanwhile the Romantic generation finds its voice: Schubert’s symphonies take up where Beethoven leaves off, and find themselves in conversation with music by Krzysztof Penderecki, Magnus Lindberg and Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Between them comes the generation of 1900–1920: the composers of the fin de siècle who witnessed a century remade in war.
Who realised that just a century after Schubert’s youthful First Symphony, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was waiting to blow classical music sky-high? Or that Lotta Wennäkowski, Elena Kats-Chernin, Szymanowski, Prokofiev and Richard Strauss all form part of the same big picture? 2020 Vision offers a fresh perspective on familiar classics, alongside music we should never have forgotten and the pieces that everyone today needs to hear. Let’s hear what they have to say to one another – and to us.
2003: Fantasy and revolution | 22 February 2020
A mainstay in any list of best symphonies, Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ threatens to overshadow any piece programmed with it. Widmann’s haunting Lied for Orchestra undoubtedly doesn’t allow that to happen, with Ravel’s escapist fantasy Shéhérazade completing the programme.
2004: New visions | 26 February 2020
The late Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Book of Visions brings enchanting warmth to this late February concert, with the dreams of summer lingering in the air and music alike. Sergej Krylov champions Spohr in a show-stopping performance of his Violin Concerto No. 2.
2005: Poetry and belief | 28 February 2020
Revolutions need not be noisy. Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto may not start loud, presenting an enigma that Osmo Vänskä and Jeremy Denk relish in teasing an audience with. A concert of music that - as Beethoven once put it - comes from the heart and goes straight to the heart.
2006: The new Bacchus | 25 March 2020
Harnessing the electrifying energy of two symphonies by Scriabin and Beethoven, Omer Meir Wellber is joined by cellist Johannes Moser for Saariaho’s ravishing Notes on Light.
2007: Beethoven's Fifth | 28 March 2020
The four notes that were heard around the world: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5’s opening is immediately recognisable and precedes a non-stop race to glory. Edward Gardner conducts another illuminating 2020 Vision concert, accompanying Sally Matthews for Dutilleux’s meditation on transience and love.
2008: Landscape and memory | 1 April 2020
A symphony whose storms, bird-calls and hymns conceal eternal truths behind serenity - Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony brings to a close a concert opened by the perennial question of existence in Ives’s The Unanswered Question and an Adès’s adaption of the Book of Genesis in a piano concerto.
2009: The Everest of piano concertos | 8 April 2020
Commended for his interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Nikolai Lugansky performs alongside Wigglesworth’s 2009 modern classic and a fiery 1809 rediscovery - Méhul’s Symphony No. 1.
2010: Crossing cultures | 22 April 2020
A concert of genre-defying musical creativity; Anoushka Shankar returns to reprise her solo part in her father's Symphony, alongside Philip Glass’s balletic Double Concerto and self-descriptive Stomp by John Corigliano.
2011: Storming the heavens | 30 September 2020
John Storgårds conducts Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony – a work of undimmed popularity and power, Simone Lamsma plays Nielsen’s Violin Concerto, and Julian Anderson collides Japanese court music, street sounds and echoes of Janáček in his extraordinary Discovery of Heaven.
2012: Absolute Jest | 3 October 2020
Karina Canellakis conducts Beethoven’s firecracker of an Eighth Symphony – a work that cheerfully booted the Classical rule-book out of the window. Plus John Adams’s Absolute Jest, a one-off concerto for string quartet, and Four Orchestral Pieces, the multi-coloured masterpiece by Bartók.
2013: Rites of renewal | 7 October 2020
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is a work that blew Western music sky-high. Hear this alongside Franz Schubert’s irrepressible First Symphony of 1813, and the UK Premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Cello Concerto No 2.
2014: A Padmore Cycle | 21 October 2020
Thierry Fischer conducts Schubert’s delightful Second Symphony, Nielsen’s volcanic ‘Inextinguishable’ Symphony, and Mark Padmore performs the haunted song-cycle that Thomas Larcher created specifically for Padmore’s voice.
2015: The midnight sun | 11 November 2020
Tonight's adventure begins in 1815 with Schubert’s playful Third Symphony and ends in 2015 with both a punchy concertino for trumpet, by contemporary Polish master Krzysztof Penderecki, and the London premiere of Lotta Wennäkoski’s Verdigris. Sibelius’s beautiful, evocative Symphony No. 5 completes the programme.
2016: Song of the night | 25 November 2020
Thomas Søndergård conducts Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1, and Schubert’s irresistibly witty Symphony No. 5 before tenor Michael Weinius lends his lustrous voice to Szymanowski’s ecstatic, ravishingly beautiful Third Symphony: ‘The Song of the Night’.
2017: Gavrylyuk plays Prokofiev | 28 November 2020
Thomas Søndergård conducts pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk in Prokofiev’s ferocious Third Piano Concerto, paired with Schubert’s ebullient Sixth Symphony and Ravel’s poignant homage to fallen friends: Le tombeau de Couperin.
2018: Jurowski conducts Enescu | 2 December 2020
Enescu’s Third Symphony is a late-Romantic epic on a scale that Mahler would have recognized. Jurowski inspiringly pairs this with Elena-Kats-Chernin’s Bach-inspired Third Piano Concerto performed by Tamara-Anna Cislowska.
2019: All the world’s a stage | 5 December 2020
Phenomenal accordionist James Crabb performs in the world premiere of Brett Dean’s The Players, in a concert opening with Bach’s ‘Brandenburg’ Concerto No. 5, and ending with Stravinsky’s irreverent mock- Baroque extravaganza, Pulcinella.
2020: Christmas Oratorio | 12 December 2020
James MacMillan writes with an energy, a commitment and an imaginative fire that give his music a universal appeal. His Christmas Oratorio will find something utterly original in this gentlest and most joyous of sacred stories.
Look out for related events by the London Sinfonietta during 2020 Vision.