Vladimir Jurowski & John Zorn

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London’s Southbank Centre has made an art of creating festivals with themed programmes filling the concert halls and spilling out into the foyers and streets on subjects covering everything from masculinity to love. 2017’s year-long cross-art programme, Belief and Beyond Belief, sets out to investigate questions surrounding our experience of religion and spirituality and is led by resident orchestra the London Philharmonic, with Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski. Born into a secular Jewish family, Jurowski has described growing up with Judaism only in the context of antisemitism, and the occasional whisper of grandparents who reverted to Yiddish to keep secrets. Belief and practice were never central and perhaps this lack of spiritual adherence to one faith is behind his interest to explore many. On 8 April he leads an almighty force in Mahler’s epic Eighth symphony, with soloists including Sarah Connolly and Matthias Goerne.

The Barbican is no stranger to big questions, and in Call Me God: The Final Speech of a Dictator (23–25 March), the mightiest musical instrument interrogates the megalomaniac tendencies of dictators. Words take on music in the resonant acoustic of London’s Union Chapel for a music theatre piece which pits one actor, John Malkovich, against the force of the organ, performing works by Ligeti, Messiaen and Bach.

Paris Philharmonie hosts a younger radical, John Zorn, for a weekend of his own making (31 March–2 April). It is impossible to predict what will happen. Now in his sixties, Zorn is constantly both creating his own music and providing forums for other avant-garde artists, from his New York venue Stone to his impossible-to-categorise Tzadik record label. And in its chamber music series, the Philharmonie features British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, in a programme covering Oliver Knussen’s Reflection for violin and piano, which was actually written for her.

David Lasserson is Jewish Quarterly’s Music Critic. He has performed with the BBC Philharmonic and writes and broadcasts about music for The Guardian and BBC Radio 4.
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