Tag Archives: Ljova

“They don’t know where to put it…”

It was kind of satisfying to read Harriet Moss’s comments in the Independent earlier this week about the (not so) unusual situation that faced Nils Frahm’s Barbican concert in the summer. The event sold out, and had lots of support from eclectically minded DJs like Gilles Peterson and Mary Ann Hobbs, but not one classical reviewer came.

No problem, you might think. In a sense, you would be right. The concert sold out. Broadsheet classical reviewers not showing up is just another sign of the changing media landscape.

I should also say that the lack of reviews surrounding the world of contemporary crossover classical is not the fault of the reviewers. They are fighting for column inches, print and online just as orchestras and venues are. As readerships fall, arts editors are increasingly pushed for space, and if something doesn’t have an immediate genre fit it doesn’t go in.

Again, perhaps no problem. There are so many other channels to market available that not having broadsheet coverage isn’t the issue that it was maybe 20 years ago.

The article does highlight a wider issue though: many people in classical music are increasingly looking to break out of perceived genre shackles, and there are plenty of artists from other genres who are keen to help them to do this.

But classical music in the main remains risk averse. I remember that when we invited Ljova to work with CLS a couple of years back. Audiences loved him, our musicians were inspired. Success. Except that no reviewers turned up to see him either, and one promoter friend, who is a fan of Ljova, congratulated me on being so ‘brave’ in promoting him. It was meant as a supportive but I remember feeling terrified when they said it!


CLoSer: Sketches of Miles. 6 April 2016. Village Underground.
Gwilym Simcock performing with CLS in April 2016 Credit: James Berry

When the Jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock joins us, it’s perhaps less of a problem as jazz audiences are keen to hear the expanded tonal palette an orchestra gives someone like Gwilym (although the world of jazz can be as reactionary as some corners of classical music). Gwilym is happy to explore the flexible hinterland between two genres, and has created some memorable concerts with us.

Sam Lee joins CLS on 17 November. Image credit Frederic Aranda


When Sam Lee joins us in November, I imagine that we will face the same problem. Sam is a folk artist, we are an orchestra. Never the twain, etc. Except that classical music has borrowed from folk music for centuries (L’Homme arme anyone?). I think part of what makes CLS what it is is that we can find artists who are prepared to give this tradition of cross genre collaboration some contemporary relevance. It would be too easy with both folk and jazz, and Ljova’s hybrid mix of classical and klezmer to look backwards – we want to create something new in those experimental hinterlands.

Sam’s music is every bit as contemporary as Nils Frahm’s in its own way. Sam borrows ancient Travellers’ songs, but the surrounds he gives them, while definitely folk could not be from any time other than our own. It will be incredible to hear them on an even bigger scale than his albums and usual live shows allow.

We’ll get good audiences – Sam has a great following – but will we get any reviewers? Perhaps if their editors work out where to put it….

Matthew Swann, CLS Chief Executive

Sam Lee joins City of London Sinfonia for CLoSer: Died for Love on 17 November at St John at Hackney. 


Our year in pictures – 2015

It was quite a year at CLS. We began 2015 with our Émigré series, full of music by composers who travelled the globe looking for fame and fortune, new artistic experiences, or just a safe place to call home. We did some travelling of our own when we visited Mexico in the spring, before setting up camp once again with Opera Holland Park over the summer. This autumn saw the beginning of our RE:Imagine series, which explores composers’ new interpretations and perspectives on existing works. Take a stroll with us down memory lane and see some of our highlights from 2015…

With the help of some brilliant cat gifs, we channelled our inner dancers for the tango-inspired CLoSer: To and From Buenos Aires. We also reminded ourselves just how weird cats can be!

The real dancers who joined us for the concert were brilliant, though!


In April, Russian-born New York composer and violist Ljova joined us for a special residency. He delighted us all with his beautiful blend of classical music, Russian folk, Klezmer and jazz, reflecting his own émigré roots. In anticipation of his arrival, we all thought up our favourite viola jokes…

Continue reading Our year in pictures – 2015

Month in Pictures: March and April

With New York musician, Ljova in town for our long-awaited, two-week collaboration, several more concerts as part of our émigré series and lots of education work, particularly with young primary school students, the Spring months at City of London Sinfonia have certainly been jam-packed. 

A unique mix of Klezmer, classical music, Balkan Gypsy and jazz, we’ve loved getting to know New York composer and musician, Ljova’s music over the last two weeks. Travelling over 3500 miles to join us for a two-week period, Ljova has performed alongside our musicians in several projects and concerts, including our recent CLoSer at Village Underground, Key Stage One projects with young children in Harrow and Tower Hamlets and participated in our L’Chaim outreach work with Jewish Care Homes. Just this week, he joined us in a DASH Arts café at Rich Mix, Shoreditch, and we look forward to welcoming him at Cadogan Hall this Saturday for our next Crash Bang Wallop family concert, Bon Voyage! Continue reading Month in Pictures: March and April

Retrospective: CLoSer – Ljova

Our two-week collaboration with the fantastic New York composer and musician, Ljova kicked off yesterday with the final CLoSer concert of our Émigré series at Village Underground. We loved getting to know Ljova and his atmospheric music, as well as his wife and singer, Inna Barmash who joined the Orchestra for some Klezmer-inspired vocal numbers.

We received some fantastic feedback on Twitter and Instagram from the concert, which we thought we’d share post-concert, as well as some of our favourite snaps! And don’t forget – the whole concert is available to watch for free via our live stream until Wednesday 6 May on our website and YouTube channel

Continue reading Retrospective: CLoSer – Ljova

Ljova on BBC Radio 3 In Tune

The final CLoSer concert of our Émigré series is tonight, and we’re really looking forward to performing with the wonderful Ljova, who was a guest yesterday evening on BBC Radio 3 In Tune with Suzy Klein. Ljova played three of his own works, and talked about his music, experiences of leaving Russia for New York, and of the continual struggles of forming an émigré identity.

Ljova on In Tune
Lev ‘Ljova’ Zhurbin on BBC Radio 3 In Tune, 28 April 2015. Taken from @BBCRadio3 Twitter page.

The episode is still available to listen to on catch up, and you can find Ljova from around 1hour 14mins in.


CLOSER: Émigré – Ljova 
Wednesday 29 April 2015, 7:30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.



Whenever you hear a classical music joke, chances are the punchline is something negative about the viola or violists. Whole websites are devoted to viola jokes, and it has been a source of contention for hundreds of years. It is generally believed that the viola joke tradition originated c.1700 when viola parts were normally very simple (and therefore normally taken up by the lesser talented players!). Poor violists, they’ve had to put up with it for over 300 years!

Ahead of our CLoSer concert with New York violist, Ljova next week, we thought it would only be right to show our respect to this long-standing tradition and to collect our favourite viola jokes. We called on our Twitter followers to share the best ones they could come up with too and we’ve collated our favourites below. Enjoy!

Continue reading #ViolaJokes


We’re really excited to be joined by composer and violist Ljova for our next CLoSer concert, Émigré – Ljova, at Village Underground on 29 April. Whether you’re new to the CLoSer concerts, a CLoSer veteran, or preparing to settle in and watch the concert on live-stream (visit our website for more details), we have put together a few things you might like to know. Don’t forget you can still get your hands on some tickets from Spitalfields Music Box Office, or by calling 020 7377 1362.

About the event

This CLoSer concert is the next in our Émigré series, celebrating the music of composers who left their homes for a brighter future abroad. Ljova and his family left Moscow in 1990 to start a new life in New York City, where he has remained since, and has created his own unique sound that is a haunting and seamless mix of classical, Russian folk, jazz, Balkan Gypsy, and Klezmer music. Ljova and City of London Sinfonia will be performing a mixture of new works, alongside pieces from his recent albums, including the beautiful Melting River.


Ljova: things you should know

Who is Ljova and what is his sound? Before our upcoming concert with the Russian-born, New York composer, Ljova, we’ve put together a short infographic on the things you should know about this fantastic musician. Just scroll down to find out more about his music, life and career, and listen to a few of the pieces he’ll be performing alongside the orchestra on 29 April!

Ljova infographic


We’re excited that Ljova will be taking over our Twitter handle @CityLdnSinfonia next week! Play the interviewer by connecting with us on Twitter and find out more about his life, background and unique sound that blends classical music with Klezmer, Balkan Gypsy and jazz!


CLOSER: Émigré – Ljova 
Wednesday 29 April 2015, 7:30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

The challenges and gains of presenting an established New York-based musician to an entirely new city

Combining classical music with his own unique blend of Balkan Gypsy, Russian folk, jazz and Klezmer, New York composer and musician Ljova joins the orchestra on 29 April to perform as part of our informal concert series, CLoSer.  Hailed by the New York Times as ‘dizzingly versatile… an eclectic with an ear for texture’, Ljova’s glittering reputation across the Atlantic has not yet reached London’s cultural scene, although there is no doubt that his unique sound will resonate with the hearts and ears of any music-lover. But how do you convince an audience to experience his music, when it is so hard to describe in words what it actually sounds like?! In our latest blog, our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann, explained a few of the challenges and gains of presenting this fantastic composer and musician to an entirely new city. 


There is always a risk when presenting any artist who’s (relatively) new to audiences, but particularly so in London – the main risk being that people won’t buy tickets!

Londoners are spoilt for cultural choice. We pride ourselves on our willingness to take risks on new artists, but the simple fact is that there is so much new music around us all the time that getting one particular artist or performance to stand out is very difficult. Why should I go see your amazing musician, when 20 other promoters are telling me about their amazing musician on the same night? Never mind that concurrent offerings in theatre, art, comedy, film, food, bars, dance, sewing classes, going home and watching telly with a bottle of wine and goodness knows what else are all competing for your attention.

Continue reading The challenges and gains of presenting an established New York-based musician to an entirely new city

Composer Journeys – Ljova

Emigration has been a constant theme for musicians throughout history, with composers moving between countries and continents for a wide range of reasons. In our current concert series, we explore the journeys émigré composers have made through their musical output, whose sounds and atmospheres often reflect and have become associated with their life travels. As part of our blog series, Composer Journeys, and in the weeks and months around our exciting ÉMIGRÉ concert series, we’ve been mapping out the journeys the émigré composers have made.

For our second concert of the series, CLoSer: Ljova on 29 April 2015, we focus on the life and music of New York composer and musician, Ljova (Lev Zhurbin)A modern-day tale of immigration from Russia to the USA, Ljova’s musicians parents moved from Moscow to New York as communism fell in 1990. Ljova’s unique musical voice that combines classical music with Russian folk, jazz, Balkan Gypsy and Klezmer is very much indicative of his combined Russian and New York background.

Composer Journeys: Ljova. Ljova moved from Moscow to New York when he was young. His music is influenced from genres from all around the world.


To experience his sound, you can listen to our online playlist or just click one of his tracks below!

CLOSER: Émigré – Ljova 
Wednesday 29 April 2015, 7:30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.