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January-June 2020 programme for the Barbican’s own-curated classical music season

Budapest Festival Orchestra on stage Ivan Fisher conducting

Barbican Presents is the Barbican’s own-curated classical music season, featuring some of the very best international and national artists.

Please find below an overview of the spring/summer 2020 concerts in the series, divided into visiting orchestras, artist focuses, special projects, Baroque and Classical, and chamber music and recitals. For more detailed listing information, the headlines of the paragraphs are hyperlinked to the respective webpage on the Barbican’s website.

A complete overview of the 2019-20 classical music season at the Barbican can be found here. The overall season press release from February 2019 can be found here.


  • Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner
  • Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer
  • New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden

Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer, featuring pianist Sir András Schiff
23 May 2020 and 24 May 2020
Following two hugely successful and critically-acclaimed performances at the Barbican in November 2019, Sir András Schiff completes his performances of all five Beethoven piano concertos with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer on 23-24 May 2020. These performances are part of the Barbican’s Beethoven 250 celebrations.

New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden
30 April 2020 and 1 May 2020
The New York Philharmonic’s visit to the Barbican in Spring 2020 marks the first London appearances of conductor Jaap van Zweden as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. He leads the Philharmonic in two performances centring around Mahler’s Symphonies No 1 & 2. The orchestra’s relationship with Gustav Mahler goes back to the very early 20th century, when the great composer himself was the orchestra’s Music Director. The visit also features renowned pianist Daniil Trifonov performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 25 on the first night, and soprano Joélle Harvey and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, joining the orchestra and London Symphony Chorus on the second night for Mahler’s Resurrection symphony. Both performances will be preceded by pre-concert talks on Mahler’s New York, given by Barbara Haws, Archivist and Historian Emeritus of the New York Philharmonic.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner: Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies
11-16 May 2020
Part of Beethoven 250
As part of the Barbican’s Beethoven at 250 celebrations, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique will perform a complete Beethoven symphony cycle in a historically informed performance across five days (11-16 May). These electrifying and insightful performances will be part of a global tour that also marks the ORR’s 30th anniversary, visiting prestigious venues in Europe and the United States, including Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, and Carnegie Hall, New York.


  • Alison Balsom – Milton Court Artist-in-Residence
  • Yuja Wang: Artist Spotlight
  • Igor Levit: Featured Artist

Alison Balsom – Milton Court Artist-In-Residence
18 March-14 May 2020

Acclaimed trumpeter Alison Balsom is the Barbican’s Milton Court Artist-in-Residence in the 2019-20 season. The residency started with Gabriel: An entertainment with Trumpet in October and it continues on 18 March 2020 with a performance of Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain (arr. Gil Evans) with Guildhall Jazz Orchestra and director Scott Stroman. The final performance in the series is on 14 May, when Balsom leads Barbican Associate Ensemble, Britten Sinfonia in the world premiere of John Woolrich’s Hark! The echoing air. This will be part of a concert showcasing composers’ fascination with other composers’ music.

Yuja Wang: Artist Spotlight
13 January-31 March 2020

In the 2019-20 season, the Barbican’s Artist Spotlight is on the phenomenal pianist Yuja Wang. She started her series in November with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, performing John Adams’ new piano concerto, followed by an intimate chamber music performance with her critically acclaimed colleague, clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer. In January she will return to the Barbican for a chamber music concert with another renowned colleague, cellist Gautier Capuçon, performing a programme equally virtuosic for both instruments: Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G minor and César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A major arranged for cello and piano. Yuja Wang’s series concludes with a highly-anticipated solo recital in March, in an imaginative an eclectic programme from Bach to Berg, showcasing her thrilling virtuosity combined with an ‘ever-greater depth to her musicianship’ (Financial Times).

Igor Levit: Featured Artist
January-April 2020
Pianist Igor Levit is Featured Artist in the Barbican Presents 2019-20 classical music season. He will perform a series of concerts between January and April 2020, demonstrating the many different sides of his musicianship. The opening concert on 26 January sees Levit in recital, performing Shostakovich’s technically and musically complex 24 Preludes and Fugues, which are rarely played as a full set. For the second concert on 13 February, Levit has chosen some of his friends to perform with him. He says he is ‘honoured’ to be performing with people whom he would ‘trust my house keys with’. The programme includes Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen and a chamber version of Shostakovich’s Symphony no 15, for which he will be joined by Markus Hinterhäuser (piano), Ning Feng (violin), Julia Hagen (cello), Klaus Reda (percussion), Andreas Boettger (percussion), Simon Etzold (percussion) and Jeremy Cornes (percussion). The third concert in the series on 19 February features a performance of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Haydn and Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. In this concert, Levit will be joined by three of his former teachers: Markus Becker (piano) and well as Klaus Reda (percussion) and Andreas Boettger (percussion).


  • David Lang: prisoner of the state (European premiere)
  • Beethoven Weekender
  • Max Richter: Voices (World premiere)
  • Kelly Moran and Missy Mazzoli
  • The Lark Ascending: People, Music, Landscape
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, and LSO with Sir Simon Rattle in The Jungle (European premiere)
  • Joby Talbot’s Everest (UK premiere)

David Lang’s prisoner of the state (European premiere)
Staging for the concert hall
BBC Symphony Orchestra
11 January 2020

Part of Beethoven 250
Composer and co-founder of pioneering new music collective Bang on a Can, David Lang’s new one-act opera prisoner of the state receives its European premiere at the Barbican in January in a staging for the concert hall. Lang’s work is a dark, futuristic retelling of the story behind Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio: prisoner of the state tells the story of a woman who disguises herself as a prison guard to rescue her husband from unjust political imprisonment, with a libretto by the composer that refers to Beethoven’s Fidelio. The opera asks searching contemporary questions about the price of liberty and the pursuit of truth in an oppressive state. The concert staging will be directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer, who also directed the world premiere in New York in June 2019, and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers under conductor Ilan Volkov, with soloists Claron McFadden (The Assistant), Jarrett Ott (The Prisoner), Alan Oke (The Governor) and Davóne Tines (The Jailor). prisoner of the state uses original text material written by Lang, as well as scraps of Beethoven's original librettos (but not his music).
Produced by the Barbican and the BBC SO.

Beethoven Weekender
1-2 February 2020
Weekend ticket: £45 plus booking fee
Day ticket: £25 plus booking fee (Young Barbican and under 14s: £10)
Part of Beethoven 250
Sponsored by DHL
The year 2020 marks the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the most iconic figures in music. Building on the success of the biannual Sound Unbound festival, the Barbican’s Beethoven celebrations centre around a Beethoven Weekender which offers a fresh and informal way to experience and explore Beethoven through symphonic and chamber music concerts, talks, and family events. Central to the weekend will be a complete performance of all of Beethoven’s nine symphonies by five of the UK’s leading orchestras with their chief conductors in a single weekend:

  • Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko (Symphonies Nos 5 & 6)
  • Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits (Symphonies Nos 1 & 3)
  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (Symphonies Nos 2 & 4)
  • Royal Northern Sinfonia/Lars Vogt (Symphonies Nos 8 & 7)
  • Hallé Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder (Symphony No 9)

Each symphony will be introduced by Classic FM presenter and Beethoven expert John Suchet, whilst numerous other Beethoven performances take place across the Centre in a relaxed festival atmosphere. The Carducci Quartet performs Beethoven’s string quartets, some of his most profound and intimate music, alongside readings of extracts from Beethoven’s intensely passionate letters. Violinist Daniel Sepec plays Beethoven’s own violin in a chamber music concert also featuring violinist Tai Murray on a modern violin. The performance will be presented by broadcaster Sara Mohr-Pietsch. Pianist Christopher Park performs Beethoven’s bagatelles, short pieces filled with humour as well as profundity, presented by Gerard McBurney. s t a r g a z e, a network of multi-talented and classically-trained European musicians, led by André de Ridder presents a contemporary take on Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 with Matthew Herbert’s Beethoven NEIN! The piece moves from electronic installation to flash mob and culminates in a participatory performance with the LSO Community Choir.
From 27 Jan – 6 Feb, the Barbican hosts Beethoven-Haus Bonn’s exhibition BTHVN on TOUR which includes artefacts from the composer’s birth place, such as the composer’s violin, his sketch books, and ear trumpet – used by Beethoven as a hearing aid as his deafness worsened – as well as one of Andy Warhol’s famous screen-prints of the composer. The exhibition is created by DHL and Beethoven-Haus. The Weekender also features screenings of the 70s kids’ cartoon Ludwig – a surreal, mischievous, Beethoven-playing ovoid – with live soundtrack from Guildhall School’s Electronic Music department, performed by Guildhall Session Orchestra directed by Mike Roberts, and live narration from the voice of the original TV series, Jon Glover. In Beethoven Bites, young composers respond to Beethoven’s conversation books with bite-sized new works, including an installation that reimagines his Pastoral symphony which will be set amidst the greenery of the Barbican Conservatory. Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning will offer children aged five and under and their families a space to discover, touch, play and listen through Beethoven-inspired music in Squish Space in the Level G Studio.
Beethoven Weekender is part of Inside Out, the Barbican’s 2020 year-long programme exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.
Beethoven's Bagatelles is supported by Classical Futures Europe and the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

Max Richter: Voices
Mon 17 Feb 2020 & Tue 18 Feb 2020, 8pm Barbican Hall
The Barbican has co-commissioned Voices, a new work by composer Max Richter, known for his style that combines the classical tradition with the experimentalism of contemporary electronica. The world premiere performance will be given by an orchestra featuring a radically reimagined instrumentation. With this new commission, Richter continues his long-established relationship with the Barbican. Most recently he co-curated the Barbican’s marathon weekend of music and film, Sounds and Visions, with artist Yulia Mahr (May 2018), which followed on from a performance of his landmark eight-hour piece Sleep in an overnight event at Old Billingsgate alongside the Max Richter Ensemble in May 2017.

Kelly Moran and Missy Mazzoli
6 Mar 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall
Composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Kelly Moran and composer and pianist Missy Mazzoli bring their new collaboration to the Barbican’s music programme in a concert in the intimate surroundings of Milton Court Concert Hall in March 2020. The evening sees solo sets from both artists with piano, keyboard and electronics, culminating in the UK premiere performance of their new collaborative piece for prepared/unprepared piano. Special guest violinist Etienne Abelin will join Missy Mazzoli for part of her set.

The Lark Ascending: People, Music, Landscape
Tue 24 Mar 2020, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm 

This special evening at the Barbican was conceived by author and cultural historian Richard King during the writing process of The Lark Ascending, published in summer 2019 by Faber. The concert coincides with the paperback publication of his lyrical exploration of the relationships between the people, the music and the landscape of Great Britain, which takes Vaughan Williams’ most celebrated and popular composition, The Lark Ascending, as a starting point.
The performance will feature a seamless blend of music, specially-commissioned audio-visual content, spoken word and dance and will offer Barbican audiences an opportunity to experience an alternative reimagining of the book’s narrative, including appearances by many of the artists mentioned in the text. The performance features musicians Daniel Pioro, James McVinnie, Liam Byrne, Clare O’Connell, Arthur Jeffes, Andrew Weatherall, Vashti Bunyan, Rob St. John, and Deep Throat Choir.

Internationaal Theater Amsterdam – Death in Venice
16–19 April 2020, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Thursday 16 April 2020, 7.45pm
Supported by the Performing Arts Fund NL
An intense infatuation fuels the tension between social expectations and personal desire in a show that deftly combines theatre and music, directed by Ivo van Hove. Celebrated author Thomas Mann is in crisis. He is struggling with writer’s block and a forbidden attraction to a young boy. Secluded in his workshop, he creates a fictional counterpoint of himself: Von Aschenbach, the man he dares not be in real life. A classical score played live by Barbican Associate Ensemble Britten Sinfonia with countertenor Yuriy Mynenko supports the ensuing whirl of emotions portrayed onstage as he sends his alter ego to Venice. Adapted by former Dutch poet laureate Ramsey Nasr, who performs the role of Aschenbach, Death in Venice is based both on Mann’s intimate novella and the author’s own life. Highlighting the inner struggle of an artist who channels his experiences into his literature, the drama also introduces the viewpoint of Mann’s wife. New music by American composer Nico Muhly features alongside Strauss and Schoenberg.
Death in Venice is performed in Dutch with English surtitles. Death in Venice is part of Inside Out, the Barbican’s 2020 year-long programme exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
& London Symphony Orchestra with Sir Simon Rattle 
30 & 31 May 2020
Wynton Marsalis: Symphony No 4 The Jungle
Barbican International Associate Ensemble, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis return to the Barbican for their 5th International Associate Residency. The residency programme includes a collaboration with Barbican’s Resident Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle on the European premiere of Marsalis’ The Jungle (Symphony No. 4), inspired by the multicultural asphalt jungle of New York City (further residency details tba).
Produced by the LSO and the Barbican

BBC Symphony Orchestra: Joby Talbot’s Everest
Sat 20 Jun 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Barbican present the UK premiere of Joby Talbot’s 2015 opera, Everest in June 2020. Based on a true story, Talbot’s opera charts the tragic tale of four climbers confronting the summit of Mount Everest with one life-or-death choice. The opera has a contemporary setting, but an eternal theme: the limits of human courage, and the unbreakable power of nature. Making her debut with the BBC SO, Nicole Paiement conducts the performance.
Produced by the Barbican and the BBC SO.

Julia Holter: The Passion of Joan of Arc
Sat 27 Jun 2020, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm 

In this Barbican film and music event in summer 2020, the emotionally charged sound world of Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, composer and producer Julia Holter meets the intensely expressionistic universe of a landmark of early cinema – director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Commissioned by Opera North Projects, Holter presents her new soundtrack for this silent masterpiece, scored for and performed with the 36-strong Chorus of Opera North, plus her own band.
Commissioned by Opera North Projects, co-produced by the Barbican and the Brudenell Social Club


  • Bach: A Beautiful Mind
  • Bach Collegium Japan: St John Passion
  • Arcangelo: Haydn’s Creation
  • Jean-Guihen Queyras in Bach: Six Suites, Six Echoes
  • The English Concert: Handel’s Rodelinda

Bach: A Beautiful Mind
Sat 18–Sun 19 Jan 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall
Bach: A Beautiful Mind is a weekend that explores different aspects of the genius and unbounded artistic personality of Johann Sebastian Bach through music and talks. Some of the liveliest musical minds of our time will engage with the composer, helping audiences to delve into Bach's inner life over three concerts. This weekend is part of Inside Out, the Barbican’s 2020 year-long programme exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.

Evening in the Palace of Reason: The Musical Offering
Sat 18 Jan 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall

Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and author James Gaines explore Bach’s genius and the astonishing story of Frederick the Great and The Musical Offering. In 1747 an encounter took place of profound symbolic significance in the history of artistic thought. Frederick the Great of Prussia was 35 years old, and the model of an enlightenment monarch – philosopher, atheist, lover of the arts and master military strategist. The ageing J. S. Bach was the provincial child of an older, darker Germany. These two radically contrasting personalities were united only by a love of music, but even in that their tastes represented opposing aesthetics of old and new. According to the story, Frederick challenged Bach to an unwinnable musical duel, giving him a fiendishly complex theme and asking him to use it as a basis for an impromptu three-part fugue. As Bach managed to accomplish the task, the king asked him for a six-part fugue on the same theme. The result of this was the extraordinary Musical Offering. The evening is curated by Mahan Esfahani, based on the book by James R. Gaines, and features a panel discussion led by Bach-specialists Dr Michael Maul from Bach-Archiv Leipzig, and Dr Ruth Tatlow.

The Art of Fugue: Bach The Craftsman
Sun 19 Jan 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall

In the second concert in the series, audiences are introduced to Bach the Craftsman, as Accademia Bizantina performs one of his greatest masterpieces, The Art of Fugue, an unparalleled feat of imagination, intelligence and sheer joy in the act of creation.

Solo Cantatas: Bach and the Divine
Sun 19 Jan 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall

Bach as a devout Christian is explored in the third concert, as the Academy of Ancient Music and baritone Benjamin Appl present Bach’s transcendental and timeless vocal writing in a selection of sacred solo cantatas.

Bach Collegium Japan: St John Passion
Tue 10 Mar 2020 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Renowned for their sublime interpretations of Bach’s music, Bach Collegium Japan under founder, music director and conductor Masaaki Suzuki returns to the Barbican in 2020 to perform one of Bach’s most popular, and profoundly sacred pieces: St John Passion. First performed on Good Friday in 1724, Bach Collegium Japan will give this period instrument performance in the month leading up to Easter, featuring soprano Hana Blažíková, tenor Zachary Wilder, and bass Christian Immler, with James Gilchrist performing the part of Evangelist.

Arcangelo: Haydn’s Creation
Wed 1 Apr 2020, 7.30pm Barbican Hall
Haydn The Creation
UK-based early music ensemble Arcangelo makes its Barbican debut under founder and music director Jonathan Cohen. Founded ten years ago, the ensemble has become synonymous with “historically informed performance at its happiest” and will bring this to the Barbican in a performance of Haydn’s Creation; an oratorio that depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the Book of Genesis. The performance will feature soprano Anna Lucia Richter, tenor Toby Spence, and baritone Thomas Bauer.

Bach: Six Suites, Six Echoes
Sat 4 Apr 2020 2pm, 3pm, 4.15pm, Milton Court
Following a performance of two of Bach’s cello suites in 2018, renowned cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras returns to the Barbican’s programme with a new project: during three concerts in one afternoon, he performs all six of Bach’s solo cello suites, and pairs each of them with responses from contemporary composers such as Ivan Fedele, Jonathan Harvey, György Kurtág, Gilbert Amy, Misato Mochizuki and Ichiro Nodaira.

The English Concert: Handel’s Rodelinda
Sat 25 Apr 2020 6.30pm, Barbican Hall
The English Concert and Artistic Director Harry Bicket return to the Barbican in 2020 with Handel’s Rodelinda – often considered one of his greatest works, and composed at the height of London’s first fascination with Italian operas. Following a series of highly acclaimed annual performances at the Barbican as part of international tours, The English Concert once again brings a stylish period performance of a Handel opera to the Barbican, featuring an outstanding international cast: Lucy Crowe as Rodelinda, Iestyn Davies as Bertarido, Joshua Ellicott as Grimoaldo, Jess Dandy as Eduige, Anthony Roth Costanzo as Unulfo, and Brandon Cedel as Garibaldo.



  • Lise Davidsen
  • Joyce DiDonato: Songplay

Lise Davidsen in recital
Mon 10 Feb 2020 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Music by Brahms, Schumann, Sibelius, Grieg, and Strauss
Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen has seen a stratospheric rise over the last couple of years. In her upcoming Barbican recital debut, audiences can experience the warmth of her voice in an evening of lieder by Brahms, Strauss, Sibelius and Grieg, with the programme including Sibelius’s Luonnotar, based on Finnish mythology, as well as Schumann’s Maria Stuart song cycle. Lise Davidsen performs together with South African-born, award-winning pianist James Baillieu.

Joyce DiDonato: Songplay
Fri 26 Jun 2020 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Joyce DiDonato
mezzo-soprano, Chuck Israels double bass, Charlie Porter trumpet, James Madison drums, Lautaro Greco bandoneon
Called “the most potent female singer of her generation” by The New Yorker, Grammy-award winning mezzo-soprano DiDonato takes a creative turn on her most recent album Songplay. It features vocal music from the Baroque and Classical periods, coupled with imaginative interpretations of jazz ballads and selections from the Great American Songbook.


  • Evgeny Kissin
  • Simon Trpčeski
  • Lang Lang
  • Anne-Sophie Mutter
  • Hélène Grimaud
  • Jeremy Denk

Evgeny Kissin plays Beethoven
Thu 6 Feb 2020, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Part of Beethoven 250
Celebrated Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin marks Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a performance of three of the composer’s great piano sonatas: Pathétique, Tempest and Waldstein.

Simon Trpčeski in recital
Tue 25 Feb 2020 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Brahms, Liszt, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev
Following recent performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski returns to the Barbican for a solo recital in February. This will be an opportunity to see the extraordinary virtuoso perform a colourful programme of music touching poetry, history, and even fantasy.

Lang Lang plays the Goldberg Variations
Mon 6 Apr 2020 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Global superstar pianist Lang Lang comes to the Barbican with one of the most iconic works in music: Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Beethoven
Wed 8 Apr 2020 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Part of Beethoven 250
Acclaimed violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday at the Barbican with a performance of Beethoven’s violin sonatas: No 4 in A minor, Op 23, No 5 in F major, Op 24 Spring, and No 9 in A major, Op 47 Kreutzer.

Hélène Grimaud: Memory
Sun 7 Jun 2020 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Silvestrov, Debussy, Satie, Chopin and Rachmaninov
French pianist Hélène Grimaud performs a programme inspired by Memory, from her latest disc of exquisite pianistic miniatures. The concert explores the nature of recollection through a programme that includes romantic and impressionistic piano works from Chopin to Debussy, Satie to folk-like melodies of Valentin Silvestrov, and closes the evening with Schumann’s Kreisleriana.

Jeremy Denk plays Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1
Fri 12 Jun 2020 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
Mr. Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combination’ wrote The New York Times about the acclaimed American pianist Jeremy Denk, winner of a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, and of the Avery Fisher Prize, who was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In his Barbican recital in June he will perform Bach’s complete The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1.


The ECHO (European Concert Hall Organisation) Rising Stars series returns to LSO St Luke’s, presenting emerging young talent tipped for stardom by the directors of Europe’s premier concert halls. Each artist’s performance features a short new work, commissioned by ECHO from a range of international composers.