Tag Archives: RE:Imagine

Plan your event night – Sketches of Miles

Our next CLoSer event, Sketches of Miles, 6 April at Village Underground is here, and we are so excited! Whether you’re new to CLoSer or a veteran, we have put together a few things you might like to know. 

About the event

This CLoSer event features the music of Miles Davis, re-imagined for chamber orchestra as the City of London Sinfonia is joined by the legendary jazz-classical crossover artist Gwilym Simcock and the virtuosic vocals of Cleveland Watkiss. Alongside Miles’ music, we’ll also hear an arrangement by Gwilym of a work by Bach, the latest in our Bach RE:Imagined series.

Our CLoSer series is a wonderful way to unwind with great music and great company in an informal and intimate setting. Check out the great blog our Chief Executive penned for a fantastic insight into the CLoSer atmosphere.

Continue reading Plan your event night – Sketches of Miles


Mahler, Schoenberg and superstitions

The world of classical music has seen quite a few characters in its time. From composers prone to violent tantrums (Beethoven, Lully) to singers seemingly out of touch with reality (Florence Foster Jenkins), eccentricities abound. Mahler and Schoenberg, who come together in CLoSer: Song of the Earth, were both fervently superstitious…

Mahler and the Curse of the Ninth

The Curse of the Ninth referred to the ill-fated composers who died after writing their ninth symphonies, before completing a tenth. For Mahler, it was Beethoven who embodied this, though he did not refer to it as a ‘curse’. To say that Mahler was spooked by the idea is an understatement; he so feared dying after composing a ninth symphony, he forwent numbering what would have been his ninth, naming it Das Lied von der Erde and subtitling it instead Symphony for Tenor, Alto and large Orchestra. But Mahler’s preoccupation with his own mortality as he was writing Das Lied von der Erde is understandable – his life had descended into turmoil. Just one year earlier he suffered three great traumas: he lost his position as Director of the Vienna State Opera; his eldest daughter, Maria, contracted scarlet fever and died; and a doctor diagnosed him with a fatal heart condition.

In a twist of irony though, believing that he had cheated fate, he numbered his next symphony his ‘ninth’ and died leaving his ‘tenth’ incomplete.


Schoenberg and 13

Like Mahler’s, Schoenberg’s great superstition was also numbers-based. A life-long triskaidekaphobe, Schoenberg went out of his way to avoid the number 13. It has been suggested that he even went as far as deliberately misspelling his opera Moses un Aron as the correct spelling resulted in the title being 13 letters long. His fear came to a head on Friday 13 July 1951, when Schoenberg was 76 years old. Not only was the date Friday 13, but the digits in his age also added up to 13. Schoenberg spent the day in bed, fearing the worst was to happen, and just before midnight it did. His wife, Gertrud, recalled  “about a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold’s throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end”.

Schoenberg, by Man Ray


Delve deeper into Mahler’s mind on 17 February and explore his life and emotions as he was writing Das Lied von der Erde. Storyteller Rachel Rose Reid joins us for a new commission based on Mahler’s turbulent relationship with his wife, Alma.

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 cls.co.uk / 020 7621 2800

Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

Our next RE:Imagine concert, The Viennese Salon, on 24 January celebrates the golden age of the Viennese salons, the drawing rooms of Vienna’s great and good, which became hotbeds of intellectual and cultural activity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this blog, we take a look behind closed doors and explore the world of turn-of-the-century Vienna.


Vienna in 1900 stood on a precipice of mounting unrest, between centuries of imperial rule and the chaos of war. As the seat of the Habsburg dynasty for more than 400 years, during which time it served as a capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Vienna was well established as a city of aristocrats and nobles. It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that the middle classes took root in the city, and began to make their mark.

A series of revolutions in early 1848 shook the Austrian Empire’s conservative power base. In Vienna, liberal intellectuals gathered in coffee houses and salons to protest press censorship and demand religious and economic freedom, and labour reforms. Beyond Vienna, the numerous national groups which comprised the Austrian Empire fought for their own independence.

The Academic Legion, Viennese students in 1848

In March 1848, the conservative Prince Klemens von Metternich, the State Chancellor and Foreign Minister, and his ministers resigned and were replaced by several short-lived liberal governments. Over the following decades the liberals failed both to gain mass support and to quell the restless populations across the empire. They remained in power, however, by placing restrictions on who could vote.

Towards the end of the century, the new Viennese middle and lower classes demanded a more active role in political affairs and established new social conservative political parties to rival the liberal government. Among these new parties was the Christian Social party, which held deeply anti-Semitic views and swept to victory in Vienna shortly before 1900, the polar opposite of the liberal government it replaced.

Vienna, 1900

Against this backdrop of political uncertainty, Vienna’s coffee houses and salons flourished as spaces for the city’s writers, artists, musicians and thinkers. Indeed, among those living in Vienna at the turn of the century and in the early years of the twentieth century were Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler (whose wife, Alma, was herself a prominent salon hostess), Arnold Schoenberg and many other revolutionary figures in art and beyond. Women in Vienna, much like elsewhere, were mostly excluded from public life, and hosting salons served as one of the only ways in which they could engage with and shape contemporary issues and trends. These society hostesses provided the environment for much of the Modernist developments of the early 1900s, particularly the move towards a more psychological focus, drawing on the new ideas proposed by Freud.

Arnold Schoenberg, 1917. By Egon Schiele


Join us in January at our very own salon with our wonderful patron, Dame Felicity Lott for an afternoon of music, dance and that very Viennese speciality Kaffee und Kuchen. On 17 February, CLoSer returns to Village Undergound with a rare opportunity to hear Mahler’s great Das Lied Von der Erde re-imagined for salon ensemble.

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 shakespearesglobe.com / 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 cls.co.uk / 020 7621 2800

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

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 www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) Box Office / 020 7377 1362


Bach RE:Imagined is a thread which ties together our new season of concerts. We’re incredibly proud to continue the tradition of re-imagining great works and we have commissioned seven wonderful composers to re-arrange the works of JS Bach. At our CLoSer concert on 22 September we heard our wonderful principal conductor, Michael Collins’ clarinet transcription of Bach’s Cello Suite in D Minor. On 14 October, we present Ugis Praulins’ Bach re-imagining at Southwark Cathedral during Venice: Darkness to Light, and so we’ve put together a little guide to this marvellous Latvian composer…

Ugis Praulins

We’ve put together a short playlist of Praulins’ work to give you an idea of his unique sound:


Join us for an exciting concert of the music of Venice. We bring the atmosphere of this breathtaking city to the banks of the Thames, with music by Vivaldi, Liszt, Stravinsky and more, including a performance of Pergolesi’s dark and mournful Stabat Mater with Elin Manahan Thomas.

We hope to see you soon!

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 www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) 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 www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Officeor via phone on 020 7377 1362.