Thursday 28 Feb 2019, 7.30pmRoyal Festival Hall, London

Philharmonia Box Office : 020 7921 3907

Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor

Marianne Crebassa mezzo soprano

Debussy Images: 2. Ibéria

Berio Folk Songs


Franco Donatoni ESA (In cauda V)

Ravel Shéhérazade

Respighi Pini di Roma

Personal connections and striking musical paintings mark an evocative programme conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Opening the programme with a mosaic of illusions and dream-like fragments, Ibéria sees Debussy at his most Impressionist, hinting with richly expressive colours at the intoxicating atmosphere of hot nights in Andalusia – folk dances and the sounds of village life float like echoes in the air.
Debussy’s luxurious orchestral palette caught the imagination of a young Ravel, who builds a world of mystery and desire in Shéhérazade, capturing his fascination with the exotic Arabian tales through tranquil but sensuous soundscapes. Soprano Marianne Crebassa returns following her acclaimed performance in her Philharmonia debut at the BBC Proms: “I’ve rarely heard a singer make a more poised, polished or delectable Proms debut than the young French mezzo Marianne Crebassa did in this sensuous song cycle. She seems to have everything.” The Times.
Outside the world of veiled French Impressionism, Respighi’s masterpiece paints four musical scenes in thrilling detail. From an innocent beginning of children playing, the music suddenly takes a turn to the dramatic, with an ominous melody depicting gloomy catacombs moving to a gentle nocturne and the recorded sound of a nightingale. Finally, a musical celebration: a victorious Roman legion returning home along the pine-lined road, as the huge orchestra is joined by additional jubilant brass.
Before, Berio’s Folk Songs are an intimate reflection on love, written as “a tribute to the extraordinary artistry” of his then-wife, singer Cathy Berberian. Starting in America with Black Is the Colour (Of My True Love’s Hair) the music travels the world with an almost improvised feel, showing Berio’s emotional attachment to folk music “When I work with that music I am always caught by the thrill of discovery.”
At the heart of the programme, ESA, by Berio’s contemporary Franco Donatoni has a deeply personal significance. Dictated to his students on his deathbed, Donatoni’s piece, dedicated to and named after Salonen, dances with an unexpected positivity, before simply fading away with a witty gesture. In Salonen’s words, this is “goodbye, but leaving with a smile rather than in tears”.



  • Prices: £58 (premium); £45; £36; £28; £19; £12
  • Discounts: Subscription discounts available; under-18s and concessions discounts available; £8 tickets for students via Student Pulse one month before the concert (limited availability)
  • Running time: 150 minutes, including 20-minute interval
  • Staging: Surtitles will be displayed - please note these are not visible from the choir stalls

This concert is part of the Salonen Series series