A Tactical Substitute

When the Philharmonia clashed with the start of the World Cup…

Let’s face it; football is not everybody’s idea of fun. So, whilst the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday 12 June, the Philharmonia Orchestra is offering Londoners an escape route, as it has done so often in the past.

Hoping to drown out the samba and shrieks of thousands of soccer supporters, the Orchestra performs a trio of bombastic Russian masterworks at London’s Royal Festival Hall. With the drama of the beautiful game easily rivalled by these kremlin classics, audiences are set to be dazzled by some intricate playing in the middle third before a full-throttle finish.

Hosts of the 2018 World Cup, Russia boasts some of music’s most celebrated talents and, on 12 June, the Philharmonia perform works by three of the country’s finest; Glinka, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. Elaborate and flamboyant, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 was one of the composer’s final Russian compositions before leaving the field after being shown Lenin’s red card,  whereas Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony (favouring the left wing…) is bursting with ideas and diversity, much like Roy Hodgson’s England (ahem…). All eyes will be on Kirill Gerstein as he looks to impress in front of an expectant crowd, whilst conductor Paavo Järvi will be refereeing proceedings; here’s hoping our woodwind don’t blow their tops and get sent to the stands.

There’s a World Cup on?

The Philharmonia has a long history of providing a musical alternative to the footballing festivities. Here is our top ‘when the Philharmonia clashed with the start of the World Cup’ moments:


On 30 May 1962 Viennese audiences missed a Pelé goal and a Brazil victory as they started a title-defending campaign, in favour of a Philharmonia-led all-Beethoven evening at the Musikvereinssaal.


When England kicked off their challenge for the Jules Rimet cup at Wembley, the Philharmonia were further south at St Paul’s Cathedral performing Verdi’s Requiem with Carlo Maria Giulini. (Fortunately for the Orchestra they didn’t have a performance scheduled for the day of the final.)


Rather than watch a lacklustre Argentina kick off Spain 1982, the Philharmonia treated a Royal Festival Hall audience to a performance of Haydn’s The Creation. Would you Adam-and-Eve it?


As in 1962, the Orchestra were on tour with Beethoven when France 1998 commenced, performing his Symphony No. 7 at the Theater im Forum, Ludwigsburg in neighbouring Germany.


As Roy Hodgson and his team go west, the Philharmonia look east on 12 June with a programme of mighty Russian masterworks offering the perfect alternative to the footballing frolics

The Philharmonia's concert on Thursday 12 June starts at 7.30pm