Beethoven and Mendelssohn with Isata Kanneh-Mason at St John’s Smith Square
Friday 3 November 2023
Isata Kanneh-Mason piano
Jonathan Bloxham conductor
Ruth Rogers leader
London Mozart Players (LMP)
Arvo Pärt Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten
Anna Clyne Stride
Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1
Beethoven Symphony No.5
Before our concert together at St John’s Smith Square, we sat down with our soloist Isata Kanneh-Mason and conductor Jonathan Bloxham to talk about the concert, the music, and pre-concert rituals…
- Can you tell us about your favourite moment in the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto?
It’s the opening. It’s so dramatic and exciting and I like the way the piano states its presence. Actually I also have another moment in the second movement where the piano is playing slow chords and there is a solo cello line – the harmonies there are so incredibly beautiful.
- We performed the Mendelssohn two years ago with you at Cadogan Hall. How does it feel to be playing this piece together again?
It’s really lovely to perform this piece with the same group of people. I feel I have developed as a musician over the last two years so it will be nice to be able to bring something different to the performance.
- Do you have a pre-concert ritual, and if so, what is it?
I try not to stick to a specific pre-concert ritual in case I don’t have time. I always make sure I stretch, warm up my fingers and drink water. I don’t tend to eat too much before going on stage as I don’t want to feel full. And I also put away my phone quite a while before a performance as well, so there are no distractions!
- In your role as Conductor in Residence and Artistic Advisor of LMP, you developed the programme for this concert. Can you explain how you chose the pieces and put them together?
Programming is one of the great joys of my work as a conductor, and devising each programme comes with its own intellectual or emotional journey. The inspiration for this concert began with Mendelssohn. Not only a prodigious composer, he was also a virtuosic pianist, and as a young boy he discovered and formed a deep appreciation of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. From then on Beethoven’s music had a huge influence on his own compositions, and Mendelssohn continued to perform the master’s works throughout his life. In 1847, the year of his death, he took his final visit to Britain and performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. This ties in themes of London, Mendelssohn, the piano and Beethoven. Taking the second two of these we arrive at Anna Clyne’s wonderful piece – Stride – a piece for strings based on the themes from Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata. And finally, our opening piece, Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten is not only one of the most atmospheric openings of a concert, but it is also a little nod to the 110th Anniversary of Britten’s birth. This is a programme I adore.
- Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 is such an iconic work. How do you take on the challenge of conducting it?
It is of course an iconic work to play as well as conduct! Even just the opening is an infamously treacherous moment for us all. But what an honour it is to have the chance to perform this majestic piece with LMP. For me personally, it was in the second half of the very first symphonic concert I conducted as a student and so brings back many memories. This piece has taught me a great deal about the craft of conducting.
- You’re also conducting Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto, which will be played by Isata Kanneh-Mason. What’s the relationship like between the conductor, soloist and orchestra when performing this piece?
Every player in the LMP is a fantastic chamber musician. And every time they perform, be it with or without a conductor, they are making chamber music. And so it is no different when a soloist joins. As a conductor in this scenario I feel my role is to help focus all our listening, to facilitate the connection between soloist and orchestra and to be a conduit for the flow of ideas between them…and adding a few of my own now and then too!
LMP, conducted by Jonathan Bloxham, play Beethoven and Mendelssohn with Isata Kanneh-Mason on 3 November 2023. Tickets can be purchased here.
George grew up in the South West and was immersed in music from an early age, singing in his local church choir and later as a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral. He went on to hold a scholarship at Wells Cathedral School, later gaining a place at the Royal Academy of Music where he studied with Garfield Jackson. An alumnus of Southbank Sinfonia, George now freelances with ensembles across the UK and Europe, including us, the Philharmonia, Paraorchestra and Friends, the European Union Chamber Orchestra, La Folia and the Edington Ensemble. George was also a Monteverdi Apprentice – he worked closely with mentors from the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and Sir John Eliot Gardiner on historical performance practice. He now performs with period groups such as the ORR, the Dunedin Consort, Oxford Bach Soloists, Eboracum, Sounds Baroque and Hampstead Garden Opera.
It’s our 75th birthday next year, and our 23/24 season is all about reflecting on how we’ve developed out artistic and community-based work over the years.
Flynn Le Brocq, LMP Chief Executive, commented:
“As we celebrate 75 years of music making, we’re using this season to look back on our past and particularly on our historic connection with Croydon. The Launch of the London Borough of Culture in 2023 gave us a chance to re-establish ourselves firmly in the local community and further develop our partnership with Fairfield Halls and we’re looking forward to another year of adventurous and exciting programmes.
Jonathan Bloxham, LMP Conductor-in-Residence and Artistic Advisor, commented:
“I am thrilled to share the 23/24 season with our audiences today – a programme that celebrates our wonderful musicians and the impressively wide range of work that LMP is known for. In this birthday season, it is exciting to welcome so many top soloists to share the stage with us, many of whom have a long-standing relationship with the ensemble. This season is extra special for me as I begin my first full year as Conductor-in-Residence and Artistic Advisor – I can’t wait to be back on stage with LMP in the Autumn!”
Our season opens with Story of the Fair Field (Saturday 7 October 2023, Fairfield Halls), featuring Matilda Lloyd, one of our Education Ambassadors, as the soloist for Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat. The live narrator and music in this concert, which includes Malcolm Arnold’s inaugural composition for the opening of Fairfield Halls in 1962, The Fair Field, traces through Fairfield Halls’ history as a bustling medieval fair and our history as an orchestra set up to play Haydn and Mozart.
Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason joins us for Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No.1 in Beethoven and Mendelssohn (Friday 3 November 2023, St John’s Smith Square). Jonathan Bloxham also conducts our orchestra through Beethoven’s Symphony No.5, Anna Clyne’s Stride and Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten.
Isata Kanneh-Mason commented:
“Performing with LMP is always something I look forward to and this next season is no exception when I’m thrilled to be playing Mendelssohn’s brilliant Piano Concerto No1. It’s an immediately engrossing work with its explosive start and wonderfully captivating melodies threaded through the flamboyant piano part – I can’t wait to start playing it to a live audience!”
In the leadup to Christmas, we’re presenting A Very Croydon Christmas in partnership with Fairfield Halls (Friday 8 December 2023, Fairfield Halls), featuring a festive selection of music with local choirs and performers taking to the stage.
Mozart: The Mixtape (Saturday 10 February 2024, Fairfield Halls) celebrates our birthday with a recreation of the Mozart’s ‘playlist’ concert from 1783. Pianists Imogen Cooper and Martin James Bartlett and soprano Anna Prohaska join us as the soloists for this concert. This concert will also include a selection of short videos which reflect on our legacy and look forwards to their future.
Imogen Cooper commented:
“My history with LMP goes back a long way – I won the Mozart Memorial Prize, now revived, in the late 60s, which lead me to many wonderful concerto performances with Harry Blech; I could safely say that my early Mozart performing experience came almost solely through this collaboration, and I learned a lot from it. Happily the association continued with Jane Glover, with whom I now play regularly in the US. So LMP has been only a source for the good, and I am happy to be playing with them again – not least the gorgeous K415 in C major!”
Tasting Notes, our musical wine tasting experience, returns to St John’s Smith Square with three dates this season (11 October 2023, 16 February 2024, 4 April 2024). In each event, we will pair a selection of wines with music for string quartet, accompanied by lively talks from a wine expert and LMP Leader, Simon Blendis, followed by live jazz music in the Crypt.
Continuing his 48-year-long relationship with LMP, Howard Shelley returns for another series of Mozart Explored at St Paul’s Knightsbridge (January 2024-May 2024). Howard directs the orchestra from the piano through Mozart’s final five Piano Concertos (No.23 – No.27), preceding each Concerto with an insightful talk about the music.
Our community residencies in in Upper Norwood and the South East coast continue in this season. The winning composer of our new award, the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Prize, will have their work performed as part of Music Through the Ages (Saturday 27 January, St Johns, Upper Norwood). The prize, which is part of our Equal Play campaign, has been created to support young composers from underrepresented backgrounds.
Other concerts in our Upper Norwood series include a children’s concert, The Musical Adventures of Stan the Dog & Mabel the Cat (Saturday 8 June 2024, St John’s, Upper Norwood), and Eleanor Alberga’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Musical Revolting Rhyme (Saturday 6 April 2024, St John’s, Upper Norwood).
We’re working with Create Music, the lead partner of the Music Education Hub in Brighton & Hove and East Sussex, to deliver education projects in the South East. Students from Create Music perform alongside us in Christmas Crackers with LMP (Thursday 14 December 2023, De La Warr Pavilion) and Marvellous Maestros includes a selection GCSE set-works to help local students prepare for their exams (Friday 22 March 2024, De La Warr Pavilion).
Full details of the season can be found on this page.
Alan is a former Principal Trumpet of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performing under Conductors Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelson’s. He is also a member of two of the countries leading brass chamber groups in Onyx Brass and Septura Brass Septet.
He is a Trumpet Professor at the Royal College of Music and Tutor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He is also a trumpet tutor to the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
During his studies Alan was Principal of the European Union Youth Orchestra and a winner of the Shell/LSO Scholarship where he performed the Hummel Trumpet Concerto with the LSO in the final at The Barbican.
During the Covid Pandemic Alan joined Royal Air Force Music Services and is currently Principal Trumpet of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. During this time he’s been part of the State Funerals of HM Queen Elizabeth and HM Duke of Edinburgh, The Platinum Jubilee Celebrations and was in the RAF Fanfare Team in Westminster Abbey for The Coronation of King Charles III.
In any spare time Alan loves keeping fit, running and cycling, being outdoors and spending time with his very patient wife Amy (a viola player in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) and three sons.
Sunday 2 April
Free performances from 2-6pm
As part of the opening weekend celebrations for Croydon’s year as London Borough of Culture we’re hosting a free afternoon showcase in the public open spaces of Fairfield Halls featuring local talent from across Croydon, including choirs, sea shanties, solo performances, dance groups and bands.