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 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall and Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, we’re exploring and celebrating composers who found themselves at odds with their societies. It’s easy to forget that Strauss’ An Alpine Symphony, Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto and Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony 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 Chopin, 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 soloists who feel as passionately as we do about this magnificent music – Maxim Vengerov, Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, Yunchan Lim, 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 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
Tuesday 20 May, 7.30pm
Royal Albert Hall
Sunday 25 May, 3.00pm
Royal Albert Hall
Wednesday 25 June, 7.30pm
Royal Festival Hall
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