Forty years of classical music in London with Time Out

As Time Out turns 40, Time Out looks at the estimable institutions on London’s classical music scene that have come into being in the last four decades

  • Forty years of classical music in London with Time Out

    King's Place © Rob Greig

  • In the same week that Time Out celebrates its 40th, London’s newest concert venue opens its doors. King’s Place, an arts/office complex near King’s Cross, offers classical music aficionados two halls: the more impressive Hall One seats 420 and promises to be an exciting addition to the city’s quality chamber spaces. The centre opens on Wednesday with the first 20 concerts in its ambitious five-day 100-concert series.

    By coincidence, King’s Place is also the new administrative home to two orchestras, both of which were founded in the past 40 years: the London Sinfonietta, exactly 40 years ago, and 18 years later the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The former one of the world’s leading contemporary music ensembles, the latter holding similar status in the milieu of music of the baroque period.

    Another relative newcomer is Cadogan Hall, a former church off Sloane Square in Chelsea. Built in 1907, and now home to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it opened as a classical concert venue in 2004 and can seat 900 in a lovely resonant church space, without all the pillars.

    Speaking of resonant churches, St John’s Smith Square, Westminster, presented its first classical concert in October 1969 and hasn’t stopped since.

    Pleasing orchestral acoustics can also be enjoyed in the heart of the City at the Barbican Hall. Opened in 1982, the near-2,000 seater venue is the home to the London Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra. Its little sister, LSO St Luke’s, was opened in 2003. This beautifully restored baroque church is just up the road on Old Street.

    Another venerable institution celebrating a ruby anniversary is English National Opera. In 1968, the company moved down to the
    West End from its original Islington home, changing its name from Sadler’s Wells Opera. It has been at the Coliseum, a former music hall, on
    St Martin’s Lane ever since and, after a few recent bumpy years, has found a resurgence under its new music director, the talented conductor Edward Gardner.

    Turning to festivals, the Proms may have been going for over a century, but several other notable annual grand slams have flowered in recent years. The Spitalfields Festival, based at Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, was founded in 1976, and now encompasses a three-week festival in June and a ten-day festival in December. Its directors have included the composers Jonathan Dove and Judith Weir.

    Although the Royal Festival Hall opened on the South Bank in 1951 (with the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room in 1967), the Meltdown Festival held there is only 15 years old. Its eclectic nine-day series of concerts has been curated by such luminaries as composers George Benjamin, Louis Andriessen and Magnus Lindberg.

    Mostly Mozart at the Barbican Hall was modelled on the New York festival series and has been celebrating the Son of Salzburg here since 2002.

    The King's Place Opening Festival continues until October 5.

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