All art reflects human society – all that is good and all that is bad in the world. And yet, for centuries, composers have produced some of their most profound work in the most testing times. Societies change, politicians argue, people fight: and yet music endures and evolves, bringing people together, helping us find meaning in our own times and sometimes – hopefully – showing us the way to a better future.

I believe strongly that music has the power to unite us and that whatever our differences, in the concert hall, we all share the same emotions. So this season, in my concerts with the RPO at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, we’re exploring and celebrating composers who found themselves at odds with their societies. Pieces like Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto and Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony are so stirring that we forget that they were composed in the middle of worldwide conflicts. Berg and Stravinsky were both booed when these pieces were first played – but today, they’re true classics, and I can’t wait to conduct them.

Then there are composers who faced exile and adversity and transformed those experiences into pure life force – as thrilling as Korngold’s film scores, as romantic as Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, or as energising as Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. Other great creative spirits faced prejudice simply because of who they were, but I challenge you to find music more communicative or more humane than Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, or Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

These are inspiring stories which challenge us all to build a better world today. Joining us to share this experience are four soloists who feel as passionately as we do about this magnificent music – Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, Paul Lewis, Bruce Liu and Roderick Williams. But even the greatest music is silent if no one hears it, and the most vital element is you. I extend a heartfelt invitation to come and join us at the Southbank Centre this season. In return, we’ll play our hearts out. Music brings people together; let’s share it this season.

VP signature

Vasily Petrenko, RPO Music Director

 Art by Shadric Toop


Read the Series Brochure

Sunday 26 January, 3.00pm
Royal Festival Hall
Sunday 23 March, 7.30pm
Royal Festival Hall
Sunday 27 April, 3.00pm
Royal Festival Hall
Wednesday 25 June, 7.30pm
Royal Festival Hall
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