Life at són-central has been a bit manic lately – after all, it’s not every day a brand new professional orchestra is launched! However, we’ve had a little time to draw breath now, and have already begun publicising what we think is a brilliant series of opening events. And, because we’ve just had confirmation of our rather special official launch concert in November, this seems like a great time to tell you a little more about it.

It’s called Sibelius Unwrapped – and is part of Turner Sims Concert Hall’s recently announced Autumn 2015 season. Hailed as one of the finest music venues in the country, hosting over 150 events each year, Turner Sims has an outstanding auditorium, ideal for a chamber orchestra the size and scale of són. It goes without saying that we’re delighted to be part of the Turner Sims season, and to line up alongside some fabulous names in the musical world. són feature in the calendar just after jazz legend Julian Josephs, and right before Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani.

2015 marks the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Finland’s greatest composer, Jean Sibelius. The chance to celebrate this – just nine days before the exact date of his birth, December 8th – was too exciting to resist. són will join with thousands of other musicians across the globe, as we celebrate this great man’s music, rejoicing in all those things which make Sibelius sound like Sibelius… Those incredible harmonies, dark tone colours – with an extraordinary sense of light, too – the pulsating rhythms and unforgettable melodies. As distinctive now as when it was written, Sibelius’ music has a haunting quality, coupled with a startling clarity of form.

Yet at times, too, the sound seems to inhabit a world of beautiful, naïve simplicity. This doesn’t only happen in his early works – such as in the gorgeous, unelaborate op 5 piano piece he later rescored as the Impromptu for Strings, and with which we open our concert on November 29th. It also occurs in later works such as the masterful Andante Festivo, which closes our concert – elegant, and breathtakingly simple.

Between these pieces, we feature Pélleas et Mélisande, Sibelius’ incidental music written for Maeterlinck’s 1893 play. Sibelius was an expert manipulator of form – not only in the symphony, where he’s rightly famed for taming some of the narrative excess of the post-Wagnerians. He was also a master of the miniature – and these incidental miniatures from Pélleas et Mélisande  demonstrate this with dizzying dexterity.

During the concert’s first half, pianist and broadcaster David Owen Norris introduces aspects of each piece, coupled with details of Sibelius’ life and history. On stage, David is joined throughout by són, conducted by artistic director Robin Browning, sharing well-chosen extracts, aiding the audience to delve ever-deeper beneath the music’s surface. And, because the Impromptu was originally written for piano solo, David Owen Norris treats us to a complete performance prior to the interval. After some free tea and cake (what’s not to like?!), són open the second half with the same Impromptu, now draped in orchestral colours – somehow familiar, yet at times startlingly different. This is followed by a complete performance of all the remaining works, including the ever-popular Valse Triste.

On November 29th, we celebrate not only the birth of a Finnish master, but also the birth of a new orchestra. As a city, Southampton is beginning a journey towards its own cultural rebirth, with a state-of-the-art Cultural Centre due to open in the city centre in 2016. So, at this celebratory launch concert, it feels particularly apt that són embarks on its own journey, too. As we start writing our new story, we hope you’ll be part of it and be with us from the very beginning.

Most definitely an afternoon of celebration – please come and join us as we unwrap the best kind of Sibelian birthday present. Oh yes – did we mention the free tea and cake…?!

Booking opens 2nd July 2015

Turner Sims Box Office: 023 8059 5151

Sibelius Unwrapped – Turner Sims website

Sibelius Unwrapped – són website

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