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Sir Antonio Pappano conducts and smiles with the LSO at the Barbican

Sir Antonio Pappano: The 2024/25 Season

Our Chief Conductor introduces his 2024/25 season, from brand new works to British symphonies and opera classics.


5-minute read

‘I’ve been conducting the LSO since 1996, and we’re embarking on a new chapter together – and it’s a gift from heaven. The LSO has an innate energy, an ambition, and a desire to conquer any challenge. Each musician on their own represents excellence, but together the combined efforts of each musician, their emotional and intellectual intelligence, is extraordinary. The sky is the limit when you are working with musicians like this.

I have a lot of threads that are pulling at me as a conductor, whether they are dramaturgical, musical or cultural. I was born in England, grew up here until I was 13, moved to the States, have Italian heritage, studied French, learned German, and have been in the opera field for many years. I think that you have to tap into these things. I want to explore music that I really, really love – and, the hope is, that the Orchestra will really love with me.

Jump to the 2024/25 season concerts

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Season Opening in September

In my first concerts as Chief Conductor we have a new piece – a world premiere of James MacMillan’s Concerto for Orchestra – and music by Sibelius, Nielsen, Elgar and Saint-Saëns, with Vilde Frang, Anna Lapwood and Yuja Wang as soloists.

Any conductor will tell you that putting together programmes is one of the most fascinating parts of the job. Finding the right combination is so important. For instance, in James MacMillan’s new piece, it’s a Concerto for Orchestra, so everybody in the Orchestra is going to be very busy. He’s from the north, from Scotland. I thought Sibelius would go wonderfully with that, and I’ve chosen the First Symphony, where I hear those typical Sibelian evocations of nature and primeval history of that land. I imagine MacMillan will conjure up similar elements in his music. The other piece in the programme is Nielsen’s Helios Overture, which was inspired by a visit to Athens and the sunrise over the Aegean Sea. It’s a beautiful picture. So you see how in my mind that combination works – light, sky, sun and nature.

I wanted something brilliant to open the third programme, and the sparks will be flying right away in Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture. This piece was a favourite of Sir Colin Davis, the inimitable interpreter of Berlioz’s music and a former Principal Conductor and President of the LSO. One has to be absolutely faithful to the history of the Orchestra; you want to go into the archive, to see that original energy, that original spark.

The British Symphonists

I love English music. I love the turn of the century – the end of the 19th century going into the 20th century – and I love the whole beginning of the 20th century, this incredibly fertile period of time for composers of all nationalities. What I love about English music in general is that it reveals such a depth of character, which is a little bit at odds with the cliche of the Englishman, frankly. This music sings, and has anguish and beauty and romance. And it soars, it has tranquility and agitation.

British music will always come up when you are dealing with an orchestra like the LSO, which has premiered so many pieces by the great British composers, and music by Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Walton and Maconchy will be a thread throughout the season. A lot of this music is very emotional: deep, troubled, exciting, even violent. Elgar was a master craftsman, and I’m really looking forward to conducting his Violin and Cello Concertos. And we continue our cycle of Vaughan Williams’ symphonies with the two extremes of his journey over 50 years – the First and the Ninth. Together we’re going to be opening our eyes to new vistas and opening our ears to new sounds.

Opera in Concert

I have a history of opera with the LSO in the recording studio. I met the LSO for the first time in 1996 at Abbey Road Studio Number One, and that’s where we recorded Puccini’s opera La rondine. I haven’t conducted that opera since, and I’m very much looking forward to returning to it again in my first season as Chief Conductor, in a concert performance with a wonderful cast. It’s music that has a certain perfume. It’s light on it’s feet, rhapsodic, romantic – it’s just gorgeous.

We’ll close the season with something completely different, a concert performance of Richard Strauss’ Salome. Based on a play by Oscar Wilde, it has a lascivious, lurid quality to it, and was a great scandal when it premiered. But it showed the way forward for theatre. It’s tumultuous, heroic, scandalous, a kaleidoscope of colour, and a virtuoso vehicle for the orchestra. I’ve conducted the piece about 50 times, but not for years. So it’s a return for me, and I can’t wait.

Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben

Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben is a challenge for any orchestra. It is a wonderful storytelling piece, about a composer, his wife, music critics who wound the artist with their opinions. It’s about conquering the difficulties of life. Life is tough, and I think this piece in that way is very modern, psychologically speaking.

We will return to Ein Heldenleben over and over again in our relationship. I conducted it several years ago with the Orchestra, and again relatively recently, and we will perform it again. For me, as the incoming Chief Conductor, it’s important to have a list of piece that are ‘ours’, and to build up a library of pieces which become second nature to us.’

The Concerts

Header Image © Mark Allan