A weekend of music in London

I spent a fun filled weekend in London, centered around musical events.

First, was a concert of the Oxford Philomusica - http://oxfordphil.com/. In residence at the University of Oxford and usually performing at the Sheldonian theatre in Oxford, this concert was held at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, about an hour drive from London. This concert featured Nigel Kennedy playing Beethoven’s violin concerto. Anyone who’s seen him perform knows that Nigel Kennedy is not your ordinary classical musician. He came on stage wearing a funky jacket and bright color sneakers and after a short monologue with the audience proceeded to play… an encore. That is to say, rather than play the main piece first, he started with an arrangement of a Bach piece for Cello and Violin. Then he invited Marios Papadopoulos, the music director of the Philomusica, to come on stage to conduct the Beethoven piece. It started as usual until the end of the first movement, and the Cadenza (the solo part of the violin). At the point Kennedy gestured to a few musicians – the double-bass player, a guitar player (not part of the Orchestra) and a percussionist with a snare drum to join him, and they started to play a Jazz “Cadenza”! I’ve never seen anything like that in any classical music concert, but the audience loved it (see picture). Kennedy then “sent off” these players and went back to Beethoven’s style and completed this wonderful concerto as written. He then played a few encores, including a short piece that he wrote which included the same musicians of the Cadenza and the orchestra. Quite a spectacle!

The second concert was of the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, on the Southbank Centre in London. The concert, which was broadcasted live on BBC3, featured pianist Denis Kozhukhin in Tchaikovsky’s concerto no. 1 and Dvorak Symphony no. 9 “From the New World”. While not as “eventful” as the previous concert, it was a wonderful performance. The popular piano concerto was masterfully played by Kozhukhin, a winner of the Queen Elizabeth competition in Brussels in 2010. The audience made him come back on stage a few times until he played an encore – an arrangement of a Bach piece. The Dvorak symphony, which is rich and filled with explosive musical phrases, was brilliantly presented under the baton of Yuri Temirkanov, the music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. I had the pleasure of meeting the soloist and a few of the musicians from the Philharmonia after the concert and they were all very pleased with the evening performance.

If you plan to visit London and you like classical music, I recommend that you consider to include the Oxford Philomusica and the Philharmonia Orchestra in your itinerary!