38 concerts and new digital partnership at Southbank Centre

Digital takeover to feature first major virtual reality (VR) production from a UK symphony orchestra

  • The Orchestra’s award-winning Universe of Sound installation to transform Clore Ballroom Floor at Royal Festival Hall
  • Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals series culminates in Peter Sellars production of Oedipus rex and Symphony of Psalms; BBC Radio 3 to broadcast all five Stravinsky concerts in newly-announced broadcast partnership
  • Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen presents four-concert series with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Inspirations
  • Honorary Conductor for Life Christoph von Dohnányi to conduct two concerts including Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde
  • Philharmonia 2016/17 season to feature visiting artists and composers including Andris Nelsons, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Lawrence Power, Edward Gardner, Herbert Blomstedt, Leonidas Kavakos and Tansy Davies

In 2016/17, the Philharmonia Orchestra presents a digital takeover in partnership with Southbank Centre and performs a season of 38 orchestral concerts at Royal Festival Hall. Alongside, the Orchestra will perform 11 free pre-concert performances at Royal Festival Hall: Music of Today, curated by composer Unsuk Chin, and the second full season of chamber music recitals, programmed and performed by members of the Orchestra.

The Philharmonia’s digital takeover at Southbank Centre will present the Orchestra and Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen in virtual reality (VR). In the first major VR production from a UK symphony orchestra, viewers will be able to experience a 360° 3D video & audio performance via VR headsets, available to view for free in the foyer spaces on the opening weekend of the season (in collaboration with technology company Inition). Users will be transported to a virtual Royal Festival Hall, where they can sit inside the Philharmonia as it performs the third movement of Sibelius Symphony No. 5 on-stage with Esa-Pekka Salonen, plus extra behind-the-scenes footage.

Alongside, the Philharmonia brings its award-winning walk-through installation of Holst’s The Planets, Universe of Sound, on to the Clore Ballroom Floor in the Royal Festival Hall for two weeks (23 September – 2 October). The installation invites the public to step inside another virtual Philharmonia, using giant visual displays, touch screens, unconventional projecting surfaces, movement-based interaction and planetarium-style projections to encourage visitors to participate as musicians, conductors, arrangers and composers. The installation will have an associated participation and outreach programme run by the Philharmonia Orchestra Education team.

Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen said: “The Philharmonia's Digital Projects have taken place all over the world and I am delighted that we are now bringing Universe of Sound to our home at Southbank Centre, and to our London audience. The incredible power of virtual reality is that it is disappointing to leave it - to come back to reality. There is no doubt that for classical music virtual reality will be a very powerful, useful medium, and I am very excited to be taking part in this project.”

Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director David Whelton said: “We are delighted that the shared vision of the Philharmonia and Southbank Centre has led to this exciting digital takeover, which brings together the Orchestra’s experience in digital innovation and Southbank Centre’s unique site and record for creating holistic live experiences.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen opens the 2016/17 season (25 and 29 September) with the final concerts of Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals, culminating in Oedipus rex and Symphony of Psalms, to be directed by Peter Sellars. The Orchestra also announces a partnership with BBC Radio 3 to broadcast all five concerts of the Stravinsky series on the station’s Radio 3 in Concert programme, to be presented by Sara Mohr-Pietsch, alongside other digital collaborations.

Salonen then returns in spring 2017 with Pierre-Laurent Aimard for Inspirations (19 and 23 February, 4 and 7 May), four concerts that explore an extraordinary artistic partnership, with works for piano and orchestra by Ligeti, Beethoven, Debussy and Bartók, alongside music by Mahler, Strauss, Ravel, Boulez and the London premire of Tansy Davies's Concerto for Four Horns and Orchestra, performed by members of the Horn section of the Philharmonia Orchestra. The work has been commissioned by Esa-Pekka Salonen for the Philharmonia Orchestra’s 70th anniversary; other commissioners are the New York Philharmonic and the Warsaw Autumn Festival.

Esa-Pekka Salonen said: "I admire Pierre-Laurent Aimard very much. He is one of the most versatile, intellectually curious and agile pianists in the world. I like the way he thinks: music is music, and all music feeds off other music. Nothing exists in isolation. That philosophy is very close to my own heart."

Christoph von Dohnányi, the Philharmonia’s Honorary Conductor for Life, conducts the first concert following Myths & Rituals: Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with soloists Robert Dean Smith and Matthias Goerne (16 October). Andris Nelsons, who has been conducting the Philharmonia in Bruckner symphonies over several seasons, returns to conduct Bruckner Symphonies Nos. 5 and 9 (19 and 22 January respectively). Paavo Järvi completes his Nielsen symphony cycle with two concerts featuring stellar soloists: Symphony No. 2, with Leonidas Kavakos as the soloist in Brahms’ Violin Concerto (10 November); and Symphony No. 6 alongside Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt (2 February). Vladimir Ashkenazy completes his Rachmaninov Project with Rachmaninov’s First Symphony, alongside Alice Sara Ott performing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto (17 November).

Artists in focus this season are the German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann and British violist Lawrence Power. Zimmermann performs Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto (24 November) and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (9 March). Returning to the Philharmonia, Power performs the Walton (12 February) and Bartók (1 June) viola concertos. To accompany each concerto, Power will perform a solo contemporary piece: Julian Anderson’s Prayer for solo viola to accompany the Walton and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Pentatonic Etude for solo viola alongside the Bartók.

Further highlights include Edward Gardner conducting Verdi’s Requiem (3 November), the return of Herbert Blomstedt to conduct Brahms and Beethoven (25 May) and the debut of Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno (1 June). Philharmonia at the Movies returns with Napoleon: Live Cinema (6 November), the 1927 epic silent film performed with Carl Davis’s incredible score (to coincide with the release of a digitally restored version of the movie on DVD from the BFI National Archive, with Davis’s score recorded by the Philharmonia) and George Fenton: The Lady in the Van, featuring George Fenton’s music for Sir Nicholas Hytner’s hit film, introduced by Alan Bennett (8 December).

A chamber group of Philharmonia musicians will perform at the opening concert of this year’s Darbar Festival (16 September) alongside Matthew Barley (cello) and some of India’s most prolific classical musicians, as part of a ground breaking commission project with Darbar Festival bringing together two great classical traditions.

David Whelton said: “An extraordinary array of artists and music awaits Philharmonia audiences in a season of concerts that reaches right across the orchestral spectrum, from Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms through to Stravinsky, Ligeti and beyond. We are delighted to be welcoming some of the world’s finest musicians as guests, to mention just a few: Christoph von Dohnányi, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Herbert Blomstedt, Andris Nelsons, Edward Gardner, Leonidas Kavakos and Pierre-Laurent Aimard.”

Philharmonia Orchestra 2016/17 London Season