Classical music in London: 2010 preview

From Chopin to Schumann, Poland to Plácido Domingo - these are the year's classical music and opera highlights

  • Classical music in London: 2010 preview

    Plácido Domingo in 'Tamerlano' © Javier Del Real

  • Poles apart
    While much has yet to be announced, it is fair to say that 2010 is Polska! year, particularly as it is the 200th anniversary of Frédéric Chopin’s birth. The composer is celebrated in individual concerts by fellow Poles, pianists Krystian Zimerman (Royal Festival Hall, Feb 22) and Maurizio Pollini (Royal Festival Hall, Mar 1). Meanwhile Artur Pizarro, who hails from Portugal, is taking on all of the Chopin solo piano works (a similar feat also undertaken by the Greek Cypriot Martino Tirimo) at St John's, Smith Square, Feb 9. Other Polish-related events include the premiere of Polish composer Henryk Gorecki’s Fourth Symphony (Royal Festival Hall, April 17) and Nigel Kennedy’s Polish Weekend (Southbank Centre, May 29-31).

    Aside from Chopin, other major anniversary composers include Robert Schumann (also born in 1810) and Samuel Barber (born 1910), so expect plenty of their music. Of homegrown talent, 2010 marks the fiftieth birthday of composer George Benjamin, who conducts the London Sinfonietta at QEH on Feb 7.

    Born in 1770, Beethoven is honoured at the Southbank with several cycles: Takács Quartet plays string quartets (Jan 26-27; May 12-13), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment the symphonies (Jan 28-May 25), and Daniel Barenboim the piano concertos (Jan 29-Feb 2). It is also 260 years since JS Bach’s death, prompting a Bach Weekend at Southbank (March 19-21).

    The Barbican
    The BBC Symphony Orchestra dedicates a Total Immersion composer weekend to Hans Werner Henze (Jan 16-17), then to Wolfgang Rihm (Mar 12-13). The Great Performers series continues until July, which includes the pianist Emanuel Ax (Feb 26, Mar 5 and 12).

    Southbank Centre

    The International Piano Series has much still to come including Pascal Roge (Apr 29) and Paul Lewis (June 8). Jean Sibelius enjoys a symphony cycle from the London Philharmonic under fellow Finn Osmo Vänskä (Jan 27-Feb 5). Chopin is celebrated with two solo piano recitals – Krystian Zimerman (Feb 22) and Maurizio Pollini (March 1), and ‘Varèse 360’ presents the French composer’s entire works (Apr 16-18). Meanwhile, the London Philharmonic under Marin Alsop also gives the world premiere of Gorecki’s long-awaited Fourth Symphony (April 17). Later, violinist Nigel Kennedy brings his Polish Quintet and Orchestra of Life to play classical and jazz (May 29-31).

    Kings Place

    The King’s Cross venue continues to present mini-festivals and new music. Highlights include Aurora Orchestra’s ‘From Vienna to Weimar’ (Jan 27-30) and a three-part ‘Chopin Unwrapped’ series, in which pianist Martino Tirimo and friends play the complete oeuvre.

    At St John’s Smith Square, Artur Pizarro plays the complete solo piano works of Chopin over nine recitals (Feb 9-Dec 7). And for those who enjoy classical comedy, Hans Liberg amuses at Cadogan Hall (Apr 10-11).

    In March the Royal Opera House boasts Plácido Domingo in Handel’s ‘Tamerlano’. ENO’s Young Vic collaboration is Henze’s ‘Elegy for Young Lovers’ (Apr 24-May 8), and it ends the summer with the world’s leading site-specific theatre company Punchdrunk.


    This year's City of London Festival is themed around music from the Portuguese-speaking world and Chopin. The highlights include a collaboration between Aurora Orchestra and capoeira dance group Cordão de Ouro (July 9). The summer BBC Proms rarely disappoint, so stand by for April’s announcement of artists.

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