Thursday 19 Mar 2020, 6pmPurcell Room, London

Philharmonia Box Office : 020 7921 3907

Shiyeon Sung conductor

Johanna Vargas soprano

Sara Hershkowitz soprano

Esa-Pekka Salonen Floof (Songs of a Homeostatic Homer)

Helena Tulve Stream 2UK premiere

Esa-Pekka Salonen Five Images after Sappho

Venture into the compositional mind of our Principal Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, alongside Estonian composer Helena Tulve.

First, a piece capturing the madcap energy of Polish sci-fi literature icon, Stanislaw Lem. In Floof, Salonen was inspired by Lem’s story of a man trying to invent a poetry machine – depicting the machine beginning to learn how to write, the soprano’s role across the piece gradually shifts from noises and onomatopoeia to nonsense words and finally to lyrical, rhyming verses. The music underneath follows suit, changing from sharp fragments to recognisable structures as the piece progresses.

By contrast, Salonen’s sensual Five Images After Sappho use lush harmonies, shimmering strings and warm woodwind lines to create an intimate mood that draws the listener in. Four short, dreamy movements – sounding almost like a Sondheim musical in parts - capture the gradual sexual awakening of the character, before a dramatic final movement celebrates her wedding, filled with imposing French horns and energetic percussion that eventually subside to a quiet, sombre finish as the now old couple die in each other’s arms.

Framed by Salonen’s music, Helena Tulve’s Stream 2 presents an ethereal landscape for a sextet of players, from an opening of shimmering sonorities underpinned by clustered notes in the piano that eventually ascend to almost inaudible string flutters in delicate interplay with the percussion. Interspersed are moments of powerful drama, as the entire ensemble rises to a climax.



  • Tickets: This concert is FREE but ticketed
  • Running time: 45 minutes, no interval
  • Concert programme: Free programmes are available upon entry
  • Drinks: You can take drinks from the bar into this evening's performance
  • After the concert: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Mahler and Schumann, with soprano Lise Davidsen, 7.30pm, Royal Festival Hall

This concert is part of the Music of Today series