The London Symphony Orchestra has a particularly strong tradition of successful education and outreach projects, and its latest initiative, announced yesterday, continues and broadens that trend. Partnering with BMW, the orchestra has launched Open Air Classics, a series of annual open-air concerts, free to the public, and set to take place initially for the next three years.
Unlike most classical open-air events, which tend to be held in parks or rural areas, these concerts will take place at the very heart of London’s tourist district, Trafalgar Square, and will be conducted by the orchestra’s principal conductor Valery Gergiev. The first event on May 12 this year will focus on works by Igor Stravinsky, including the Firebird Suite and The Rite of Spring. 100 young musicians from the LSO Discovery programme will also play The Lite of Spring alongside LSO players - an interpretation of Stravinsky’s work by Gareth Glyn.
At a press conference held in the Trafalgar Hotel, Gergiev dismissed concerns over the busy, traffic-filled location as mere practicalities which might be overcome in order to ‘take music beyond the concert hall’. ‘Psychologically, it is important for us to go outside into a historical and busy place,’ he said. ‘As wonderful as venues like the Barbican and Carnegie Hall are, classical music should not always hide behind their walls. Audiences come to us, of course, but sometimes we should come to them.’ Citing the success of his Stars of the White Nights Festival, which for the past 10 years has been building young audiences with open-air concerts, Gergiev said, ‘we need to do more to attract young audiences, but experience shows that there is always hope - young people are curious about classical music and will come to such events.’
He was also confident that the all-Stravinsky programme would have little trouble attracting the expected audience of between 5000 and 8000 people to the Square. ‘In New York recently we played 14 concerts of purely Stravinsky in Avery Fisher Hall and one open-air event, and the success of this series encouraged me that we don’t always need to make safe choices of Mozart or Beethoven. Stravinsky is an inspirational and global figure.’
This year’s event will feature LSO animateur Paul Rissman, who will guide the audience through new and unfamiliar repertoire. Large screens will also be mounted on either side of the stage to allow the audience a close-up view of the players. For more information see the LSO website.