Full programme announced for major 2017/18 Philharmonia Orchestra series at Southbank Centre, Voices of Revolution: Russia 1917, conceived and conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy

Series Advisor will be writer and broadcaster Martin Sixsmith, who will lead a series of films, talks, an insights day and the publication of a series magazine

Series Partners, the Royal College of Music, broaden the programme with a series of chamber concerts and a Symphony Orchestra concert at Royal Festival Hall

On 1 September 2017 the Philharmonia and Ashkenazy release a new live recording of Rachmaninov Symphony No. 1

The new album is the inaugural issue of a Rachmaninov Symphony Cycle to be released on partner label Signum Classics over the next 18 months

This autumn, the Philharmonia Orchestra and Conductor Laureate Vladimir Ashkenazy will begin a major exploration of the music and culture of Soviet Russia after the October 1917 Revolution, and release the first album of a Rachmaninov Cycle on Signum Classics.

One hundred years after the Bolshevik Revolution, Ashkenazy, who brings to the podium first-hand experience of a musician’s life in Soviet Russia, opens the series (12 October) with a live screening of Eisenstein’s 1925 film masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin, with an accompanying score arranged from Shostakovich’s symphonic works.

As a prize-winner at the major international piano competitions (the Chopin, Queen Elisabeth, and Tchaikovsky competitions) in the late Fifties and early Sixties, Vladimir Ashkenazy was a valuable cultural figure in the Soviet Union. But he chafed at the suffocating restrictions imposed by the Soviet State and eventually left for self-imposed exile in 1963, not returning until 1989, when the regime was being dismantled.

Vladimir Ashkenazy said: “1917 was the year when Russia experienced one of the greatest cataclysms in the existence of mankind: the revolution which led to the establishment of a society ruled by communism. Every aspect of its existence was to be ruled from the top. And music was no exception. In these concerts I have tried to programme works that I consider relevant to the history of my country as I and many of my compatriots understand it.”

After two chamber concerts at the Royal College of Music (Series Partners) and a concert with the RCM Symphony Orchestra at the Festival Hall on 26 October, the series at Southbank Centre continues in spring 2018, with three programmes exploring themes of propaganda (Workers & the State, 22 March), state control (Fear & Repression, 29 April) and emigration (Exile & Return, 20 May).

These concerts feature major Shostakovich and Prokofiev works alongside music by Soviet composers Reinhold Glière and Alexander Mosolov; guest soloists include James Ehnes (Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1), Pekka Kuusisto (Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1) and Behzod Abduraimov (Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3).

The Philharmonia is delighted to announce that author and broadcaster Martin Sixsmith is to be Series Advisor for Voices of Revolution: Russia 1917. Sixsmith has written and presented widely about Russian politics and culture, including Russia: The Wild East, a 50-part history of Russia for BBC Radio 4, broadcast in 2011.

Sixsmith will present a series of pre-concert talks and will lead an Insights Day (29 April 2018) at Southbank Centre, and will write articles for the Series magazine and present video documentary content created for the series.

Martin Sixsmith commented: “This is one of those genuinely exciting seasons that open new perspectives on music we think we know and music we think we had no interest in. There is familiar repertoire by the great twentieth-century Russians, mixed with little performed examples of socialist realism that turn out to be gems in their own right. I am looking forward to it immensely.”

Ahead of the series opening, the Philharmonia and Ashkenazy – who has a relationship with the Orchestra going back decades, and has been Conductor Laureate since 2000 – release the first of three Rachmaninov albums on partner label Signum Classics.

Rachmaninov Symphony No. 1 will be released internationally on 1 September, and will be followed by the Second Symphony (March 2018) and Third Symphony and Symphonic Dances (September 2018). Each of the four works was recorded live at the Philharmonia’s home, Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.

These three new recordings will bring the Philharmonia’s catalogue with Signum Classics to 30 albums, released over 10 years since the partnership began in 2008.


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