'Sometimes it’s a good thing to have a connecting line and it can be a wonderful opportunity to explore all kinds of things that you might not usually explore and put things together than you might not necessarily think they might be happy bed mates,' says Music Director Sir Simon Rattle
'First of all we look back to folk music or the music from the land. It can be anything, it can be ländler with Schubert, it can be jazz with Amercian music. It can even be looking back to the music of much earlier times. Like Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia is a quintessentially English piece but it’s also looking back very very far into an earlier period of music.
'Czech music and Hungarian music are both very obvious right from the start of the season, there is the second set of Slavonic Dances by Dvorák, much less played than the first, and the Sinfonietta of Janácek. These are absolutely central works for this kind of theme. In Polish music both the Szymanowski Violin Concertos are in the season and are very different – the second one is particularly folk inflected.
'There’s a wonderful programme in which the entire first half is real hearty folk music from Central Europe – Bartók and Szymanowksi. The second half I’d hardly know how to describe it! It came out of a recent collaboration with the wonderful Labèque Sisters, one of our greatest two piano ensembles. Osvaldo Golijov wrote an extraordinary piece which dealt with all the folk music of his land in a religious setting, and Katia and Mariella asked him to make a version for two pianos and orchestra, which we all then put together in a kind of large ensemble with a lot of brass and percussion and cellos. And it’s linked with Stravinsky’s strange, wonderful, almost unclassifiable jazz piece the Ebony Concerto and finishes with the great classical big band piece of all time, Bernstein's Prelude, Fugue and Riffs. Somehow these pieces together added to this wild middle east European first half should make a fantastic evening.
'There’s Bruckner and Nielsen and Sibelius who all have a kind of kinship between them. I love the programme just before Christmas with Debussy Images, which is an extraordinary travelogue which really quotes folk theme, with the combination of the Brahms Violin Concerto – the last movement is really Budapest, and the Enescu Romanian Rhapsody to finish. This is a programme I’ve done in the past and it looks like it really shouldn’t work, but it really does.
'There are some names people won’t know. Of course François-Xavier Roth and myself both have a passion for French music and I’m sure this theme will go through all the time we work together. I’ve made a French programme going from Rameau in the beginning to Betsy Jolas – she’s an extraordinary lady. She’s recently had her 90th birthday, and she’s a name I’ve always known. I used to see the pieces and think this is probably interesting music, but I’d never heard a note of it. I met her at a dinner party with Julian Anderson, one of our wonderful British composers, and I was sat next to her and fell completely in love with her. And I thought "this is an extraordinary person; if her music is one tenth as extraordinary as she is, then we really have something". And thank god for YouTube because I’m simply thrilled to have discovered a wonderful composer that I didn’t know about. When you start talking to her she talks about when Varèse came to dinner, and when she sung the Verdi Requiem conducted by Toscanini, and it’s like a walking encyclopaedia, but the music is simply wonderful. I’m thrilled in the middle of Poulenc, Ravel and Rameau to introduce a really astonishing lady.
'For me, The Cunning Little Vixen is very personal. It’s the piece that made me want to become an opera conductor. I was lucky to be part of it as a student at the Royal Academy of Music, conducted by Stuart Bedford. I played the celeste and conducted the off stage chorus. I felt it changed my life. Little did I know that years later I would be married to someone who comes from down the road from Janácek, and from Magdelena’s [Kozena’s] house you can walk to the forest that they call the "Cunning Little Vixen forest" in Brno, where the cartoons were made and where Janácek went to get inspiration. Of course it’s very central to the roots idea. It’s full of, if not folk music, music that should be folk music. It’s also full of nature and the circle of life and what you can have in nature that humans so often forget to take advantage of. It’s a deeply moving piece and also it moves at the speed of the fastest thriller.
'It’s the sort of piece that anyone who loves theatre should be at. I am working once again with Peter Sellars, who did such a beautiful Ligeti and Debussy for us, and this is really a new departure for him to go into Janácek. This is a piece I’ve been talking to him about throughout our friendship which is well over 30 years now. I think it will be an astonishing experience. It’s still one of the pieces that reduces me to tears more easily than any other and I hope I won’t be the only one because that’s embarrassing!'