New Yorker music critic Alex Ross published The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century five years ago, earning himself the Guardian First Book Award and a finalist citation for the Pulitzer Prize. Now London’s Southbank Centre is turning the book into a year of concerts, talks, film screenings, exhibitions and even a three-part BBC4 documentary series in celebration of 20th-century classical music.
The festival marks the centenary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, though Ross plays down the significance of the work’s riotous première in his book: it seems Paris audiences would faire la révolte for just about anything in those days. Less volatile Londoners can look forward to three Rites during the festival, including a jazz interpretation and an official anniversary performance in May by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen. Stravinsky’s chamber works will be showcased in a concert on 10 February directed by the Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan (above), which promises to be an early highlight.
Devotees of the last century’s classical music will have their quibbles (mine: not enough Hindemith), though in fairness only the first six months’ worth of events have so far been announced. The Rest Is Noise already looks as ambitious and wide-ranging as the book on which it’s based.
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