Category Archives: Concert Focus

CLoSer with Rachel Rose Reid

The next CLoSer concert of our RE:Imagine series is just around the corner on Wednesday 17 February. CLoSer: Song of the Earth features Mahler’s epic song of despair Das Lied von der Erde, which  was originally written for a vast orchestra. We perform the piece in a salon arrangement by Schoenberg, written for the Society for Private Musical Performances, which performed scaled-down versions of new music to interested Viennese citizens. (Read more about the twentieth century Viennese cultural landscape here). 

Das Lied von der Erde shows Mahler at his most turbulent and hopeless, reeling from three personal tragedies. We’re so pleased that storyteller Rachel Rose Reid will be on hand to navigate Mahler’s emotional turmoil with us in a specially-commissioned introduction to the piece.

We asked Rachel what we can expect from her story

“It will be lyrical prose which summons Gustav and Alma to us so we can comprehend a little of the context of the composition. Mahler wrote to a friend that he thought this might be his ‘most personal piece’.

“My work is to build a bridge between Mahler, writing this piece, and ourselves, listening to it over a hundred years later.

“Mahler is sitting in nature, where he always sat for inspiration, but not permitted to explore it. Inside a marriage but not at home in his marriage. Inside his society but not at home in society. His music is a place he can inhabit. Meanwhile, Alma struggles to fit in also, with social roles, with grief, with marriage. She struggles with Mahler’s music – in her diary she writes that there are just two pieces of his she really loves. And then she adds, in pencil ‘and the Song of the Earth’.”

Take a look at some of Rachel’s other work…

If you missed Rachel Rose Reid on The Verb earlier this month, celebrating national storytelling week, you can still catch up

Join us on Wednesday for CLoSer: Song of the Earth with storytelling introduction. Can’t make it? The event will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel.

CLoSer: Song of the Earth
Wednesday 17 February 2016, 7.30pm
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, EC2A 3PQ
Tickets £15 (includes a free drink), £5 students / 16-25s
Box Office / 020 7621 2800


1900s Vienna – a who’s who

With the first of our two Vienna-inspired concerts, The Viennese Salon, almost upon us, we take a look at just some of the key cultural players living in the city in the early years of the 20th century…


Richard Strauss, born in Germany in 1864, was descended from a musical family; his father, Franz was one of Germany’s leading horn players. Between 1919 and 1924, Strauss was musical co-director of the Vienna State Opera, where he concentrated on staging new productions, particularly of works by Wagner and Mozart. Strauss returned to Vienna during World War II, after falling foul of the Nazi regime in Germany. It was during this second stretch in Vienna that Strauss wrote his last opera Capriccio, a meditation on the values of art. In it the Countess Madeleine must choose between two suitors, one a composer and one a poet, representing the argument over which is the more important art form, music or poetry.

Gustav Mahler, like Strauss, was influenced by the works of Wagner. When he took up his position as director of the Vienna Court Opera 1897, Vienna had newly elected a conservative, anti-Semitic mayor and the city was in a state of mounting tension. Mahler had to prove himself as Germanic enough, having been born to Jewish parents in Kaliště, a village in the Bohemian part of the Austrian Empire (in the present-day Czech Republic). He converted to Catholicism to secure the role, and staged Wagner’s opera Lohengrin and the Ring Cycle early into his appointment. Mahler remained with the Opera for 10 years, during which time he continued to compose, writing five symphonies and numerous other works. Growing anti-Semitism in Vienna and politicking within the Opera itself eventually forced Mahler out, and he left Vienna in 1907.

Mahler_conducting_caricature 1901
Gustav Mahler conducting, 1901

Arnold Schoenberg was a native citizen of Vienna. He was born in 1874 into a Jewish family, but like Mahler converted to Christianity in the hopes of avoiding the growing anti-Semitism spreading through Vienna at the turn of the century. In 1918 he founded the Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen), in which he presented salon-scale performances of new music to interested members of Viennese society. The programmes for these performances were repeated, both applauding and booing and criticism in the press were forbidden so as to give greater importance to individuals’ understanding the music.

Gustav Klimt was a founding member and the first president of the Vienna Secession, a group of painters, sculptors and architects who broke away from the Viennese art establishment in the last years of the 19th century. The artists were opposed to the conservative ideologies of the Vienna Künstlerhaus, and set about creating an organisation which was more forward-looking, and embraced many styles of art. Under Klimt, the movement took inspiration from naturalism, symbolism and other contemporary movements, including art nouveau and arts and crafts, particularly the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Secession building, built under Klimt’s leadership, bears the movement’s motto above its doors:

‘To every age its art, to every art its freedom’.


Gustav_Klimt_Adele Bloch Bauer 1907
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt, 1907

Sigmund Freud was a prominent member of Viennese society, a pioneer of psychology and psychoanalysis. Freud, like Schoenberg and the secessionists, sought to break free from the conservative thought of previous centuries. His theories, particularly on the unconscious mind and the expressive nature of dreams, had a profound effect on artists and musicians alike.  Following his wife’s affair, Gustav Mahler sought Freud’s help. Freud observed that Mahler’s domineering personality and prohibition of his wife’s composing has contributed to the situation. Alma Mahler had been a promising musician and composer, but was forced by her husband to abandon her musical pursuits. Following Freud’s advice, Mahler began to encourage and support his wife’s music making and relations between the two began to improve.

Blaues_Selbstportait schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg, self portrait 1910



The Viennese Salon
Sunday 24 January 2016, 2pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, SE1 9DT
Tickets £62 (premium), £15 – £48, £10 (standing)
Box Office / 020 7401 9919

CLoSer: Song of the Earth
Wednesday 17 February 2016, 7.30pm
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, EC2A 3PQ
Tickets £15 (includes a free drink), £5 students / 16-25s
Box Office / 020 7621 2800

Crash Bang Wallop! Frequently Asked Questions

With our next Crash Bang Wallop! concert just round the corner, we thought now would be a great time to answer some of your frequently asked questions about our special family concerts!

What age range are Crash Bang Wallop! concerts aimed at?

Crash Bang Wallop! events are most appropriate for children between the ages of 3 and 8 years old.

How long are the concerts?

Each concert lasts for one hour with no interval. There are always pre-concert creative activities for an hour beforehand too.

What should we wear?

Feel free to wear whatever you like, there is no dress code! For some of our concerts though, we encourage the children to come in fancy dress. Please look at the specific event page on our website to see if the event you’re attending has fancy dress.

Crash Bang Wallop.
Cadogan Hall, Saturday 31 October 2015. © James Berry

When should we arrive?

Our concerts start at 11am and we encourage audience members to get to Cadogan Hall within plenty of time to find their seats. We also offer pre-concert activities, starting at 10am.

Can we go in and out of the hall during the concert?

Yes, you may leave the hall if necessary during the concert, however, as this may disrupt others, we encourage our audience to remain in the concert hall for the full duration if possible.

Do we need to know anything about classical music to enjoy the concert?

Not at all! Crash Bang Wallop! concerts are all about introducing the orchestra in a fun and interesting way for all so no prior knowledge is necessary for children or adults.

ear worm featured pic

How can we find out about future Crash Bang Wallop! events?

Find out more about us and our upcoming events on our website. You can also sign up to our mailing list.

We can’t attend both the creative activities and the concert. Does this matter?

Not at all! Attending both is not compulsory!

I want to go to a Crash Bang Wallop! concert but live outside of London. Are there any opportunities to go to a concert outside of London?

At present, Crash Bang Wallop! is resident at Cadogan Hall in London. However, we run workshops and events for children in the Home Counties and East Anglia too. Sign up to our mailing list in order to find out priority information on these.

Crash Bang Wallop.
Cadogan Hall, Saturday 31 October 2015. © James Berry

After attending Crash Bang Wallop! my child wants to learn a musical instrument. Where can we find a reliable teacher?

The London music conservatories all have Junior departments and both Trinity College of Music and Guildhall School of Music & Drama have beginner string programmes which start at age 3- 5. For quality local teachers, contact your borough council or local authority music service. They can usually put you in touch with music teachers on their books or point you toward local Saturday music schools. Also most primary and secondary schools have some form of private or group music tuition delivered by peripatetic music teachers.

When is a good time for my child to start learning a musical instrument?

This depends on what instrument. Your child must be physically capable of holding and playing the instrument (many wind and brass instruments require a lot of lung power that young children do not yet have) and able to concentrate through the lesson and practice sessions. Some children start on the violin or piano when they are as young as 3 years old and later move on to another instrument. Many music teachers start accepting pupils at age 5, but it is often dependent on the individual child. Often brass and wind instruments aren’t taught until children are 10 or 11 years old.

Venice: Darkness to Light

Our RE:Imagine season continues this Wednesday with Venice: Darkness to Light at Southwark Cathedral. We’ve put together this playlist as a little guide to the re-imagined sounds of the concert along with the pieces that inspired them.

Following the journey of the concert, first off, we have Bach’s take on two of Italy’s finest 18th Century composers: the first movement of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and Bach’s version of it as the cantata Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden; and the first movement of Vivaldi’s violin concerto from L’estro Armonico that Bach re-imagined as a keyboard concerto.

Sticking with Bach, we have the movements from Bach’s Mass in B Minor that Ugis Praulins has re-imagined (you’ll have to come to the concert if you want to hear what Ugis has done with it!). Following the Bach, are John Adams’ orchestral re-imaginings of Liszt’s The Black Gondola and Busoni’s Berceuse Elegiaque, and their piano version originals.

The most intriguing of the re-imaginings, however, is the overture to Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. Stravinsky based his piece on music by Pergolesi… except that it wasn’t by Pergolesi at all. Most of it was by a little known Venetian composer by the name of Domenico Gallo, who was little known because his publishers passed off most of his music as being by Pergolesi, because that way they knew it would sell more copies! Gallo is restored to his rightful place here, next to Stravinsky’s re-imagining.


Venice: Darkness to Light
Wednesday 14 October 2015, 7.30pm
Southwark Cathedral, London
Tickets £25, £15, £5* (*restricted view)
£5 tickets available for students and 16-25s (pre-register at Box Office / 020 7377 1362


We can’t wait for the beginning of our new RE:Imagine series with CLoSer: Debussy, Copland and Dance on 22 September, which celebrates music written for dance with works by Bach, Debussy, Rameau and Copland. Our blog series exploring the stories behind the music has looked at Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Rameau’s Pygmalion. It now concludes with Debussy’s stunning Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune…

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

CLOSER: Debussy, Copland and Dance
Tuesday 22 September 2015, 7:30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students and 16-25s (pre-register at available from Spitalfields Music Box Officeor via phone on 020 7377 1362.


The first CLoSer concert of our RE:Imagine series celebrates music written for dance, from Bach to Debussy and Copland. But what about the dancers? In this blog we explore the famous names behind the famous works…

Martha Graham

Martha Graham is often called the “Mother of Modern Dance”. Born in 1894 in what is now Pittsburgh, she was the daughter of a doctor who believed that movement could benefit those suffering with nervous conditions. Despite this, her deeply religious parents forbade the young Graham to learn to dance, and it wasn’t until her father died that she finally began her formal dance training.

Martha Graham in 1948

Graham’s style was known for its violent and jarring movements, and alteration between tension and relaxation which represented a huge shift from the traditional styles which until that point had dominated. Here is Graham presenting her 1930 piece Lamentation, a physical exploration of grief.

Graham’s and Aaron Copland’s collaboration in the early 1940s on Appalachian Spring has produced one of the most iconic American works of the 20th century, distilling into a story of the pioneers the spirit of America’s hope, optimism and aspiration.

Vaslav Nijinsky

Nijinsky was born in Kiev in 1890, the second son of two touring dancers. Unlike Martha Graham, Nijinsky began his dance education very young, performing professionally by the age of seven.

Vaslav Nijinsky in 1909
Vaslav Nijinsky in 1909

When he was 10, Nijinsky joined the Russian Imperial Ballet School, where his exceptional talent, particularly for spectacular leaps, was soon noted. It was this talent that prevented him from being expelled from the school when his academic performance didn’t match his dancing. By the time he graduated, Nijinsky’s prowess was well known, and he secured a position first with the Mariinsky Theatre, and later guest appearances at the Bolshoi Theatre.

In 1912, Nijinsky began choreographing for the Ballet Russes, for whom he created his interpretation of L’apres midi d’un faune shown above, and garnered a reputation for his outlandish and controversial style. Indeed, his choreography for Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was more than partly responsible for the riots that broke out following its Paris premiere.

Come along to our next CLoSer event on 22 September and see two new urban and contemporary dance interpretations of L’apres midi d’un faune, with choreography by Tony Adigun.

CLOSER: Debussy, Copland and Dance
Tuesday 22 September 2015, 7:30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

Retrospective: Georgian London

Last night marked the final performance of both our Émigré concert series and Spitalfields Music Summer Festival 2015 with our Georgian London concert at Shoreditch Church. Joined by our Principal Conductor, Stephen Layton, choir Polyphony and baritone Ashley Riches, it was a fantastic evening of music by some of classical music’s biggest names, Haydn and Mozart chief among them, who fled to London in the eighteenth century to seek fame and fortune. The whole performance was broadcast live via BBC Radio 3, so don’t forget you can hear it all again for free on BBC IPlayer!

We received some great feedback on the concert, some of which we’ve shared below, along with some of our favourite pics from the evening. But what did you think of the evening? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Either leave us a comment on this post or connect with us on Twitter: @CityLdnSinfonia, Instagram: @cityoflondonsinfonia or Facebook: /cityoflondonsinfonia. Continue reading Retrospective: Georgian London

Interview with Michael Petrov

Ahead of our upcoming concert, From Hollywood to New York on 2 May, we caught up with YCAT artist, Michael Petrov before his performance of Dvořák’s iconic Cello Concerto in B minor. Talking about his journey to the UK from his native Bulgaria, he reflects on the reasoning behind choosing the cello as an instrument and most treasured moments in his career. 

We understand that you were born and brought up in Bulgaria – what brought you to the UK?

It was music that really brought me to the UK. Having been born in Bulgaria, I first came to England when I was 10 for a year to study at the specialist music school, Purcell School. Although the teaching was fantastic, I felt too young to be in a different country and was alienated by the culture so quite quickly moved back to Bulgaria. Then, at the age of 15, I went to study at the Yehudi Menuhin school under Thomas Carroll. It was Thomas who actually arranged the whole thing: we met at a masterclass in Bulgaria and he told me about the school.

Continue reading Interview with Michael Petrov

Love and longing in Dvorák’s Cello Concerto

In advance of our upcoming concert on 2 May, From Hollywood to New York, at Cadogan Hall, we’ve taken a closer look at Dvořák’s ever-popular Cello Concerto, which we perform alongside the fantastic YCAT artist, Michael Petrov.

DVORAK homesick longing

Dvořák wrote his Cello Concerto during his three-year residency in America. Bittersweet and melancholic, the work is infused with his homesick longing for his Czech homeland just like his New World symphony.

Dvorak an expression of love

Continue reading Love and longing in Dvorák’s Cello Concerto

Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Star: Pre-concert Listening!

In preparation for our family concert this Saturday, Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Star we’ve prepared a fun festive playlist to give you a taste of the kinds of things we’ll be playing. Starring special guest Dame Felicity Lott (who, by the way, is appearing on Classic FM’s live webchat at 11am today!), there is plenty of fun festive tunes as well as carols to sing a long to!