Idyllic scenery and fiery performances: LuganoMusica’s new season

Perched on the edge of Lake Lugano, with the San Salvatore peak just in the background, Lugano’s LAC is preposterously scenic. Now in its eighth season, the LAC concert hall has quickly established itself as a major centre for chamber and orchestral performance, attracting an array of distinguished soloists and guest ensembles to Ticino.

The hall is the base of the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, whose 2023–24 season boasts much variety. In September, the orchestra’s chief conductor Marcus Poschner leads the sister youth orchestra, from the Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana, in Mahler’s ever-popular First Symphony and the heart-wrenching Strauss Four Last Songs, with soprano Erica Eloff. Later in November, Poschner returns with the mature orchestra and an adventurous programme including music of mystic surrealist Giancinto Scelsi, often dwelling at length on subtle colourations of single pitches. This is combined with the kaleidoscopic, late Romantic Walter Braunfels, as well as the fiery Bruckner 2. Nils Mönkemeyer and Robert Kowalski join as viola and violin soloists.

As well as guest soloists, the orchestra welcomes many guest conductors this season. Principal guest conductor Krzysztof Urbański joins Daniel Müller-Schott in October for Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Then later in November, Robert Treviño joins mezzo-soprano Justina Gringytė (familiar to British audiences from star turns at ENO and WNO) for Berlioz’s balmy Les Nuits d’été. The young Lithuanian conductor Giedrė Šlekytė also joins in December, with violinist Alexandra Soumm, for Lalo’s spirited and underperformed Violin Concerto.

A clear highlight of the autumn concerts will be Martha Argerich’s visit in November, to perform Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Charles Dutoit and the European Philharmonic of Switzerland. Argerich is always a major draw and tickets will sell fast. On this occasion the other items on the programme are Beethoven’s dance-like Seventh Symphony, and Ravel’s Neo-Baroque Tombeau de Couperin.

A seam of Baroque music runs through this season at Lugano, with some very strong guest artists. In October William Christie and Les Arts Florissants present Purcell’s dreamlike Fairy Queen. The following week, renowned Bachian Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra presents the first of a series of concerts featuring Bach’s music this season. Pianist Antonio Ballista and guitarists Thibaut Garcia and Antoine Morinière perform Bach in recital that same week, the latter performing the Goldberg Variations arranged for two guitars. Later in December, renowned pianist Sir András Schiff performs Bach alongside Haydn and Mozart.

On Friday 12th January, there’s a chance to hear Bach’s remarkable late opus The Art of Fugue performed by the Cuarteto Casals, alongside Gubaidulina and the third of Beethoven’s much-loved “Razumovsky” Quartets. This will be the first of a trio of string quartet concerts. On Saturday 13th, the Szymanowski Quartet performs Penderecki’s very late Quartet no. 4 (2016), alongside music by Webern, Mendelssohn and their namesake Szymanowski. Then, on Sunday 14th, Quatuor Ébène perform Haydn, Schubert, and Bartók’s wonderful Third Quartet.

Bartók fans will want to stick around until 8th February, for the brightness and light of his Piano Concerto no. 3, performed by Piotr Andersewski with the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana. Meanwhile, Ravel fans will certainly want to catch Riccardo Chailly’s concert with the Filarmonica della Scala on 16th January, which pairs the classic Daphnis and Chloé suites with Messiaen’s extraordinary wind-and-percussion Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum.

From January, Lugano plays host to a feast of pianism. Arch-Beethovenian Rudolf Buchbinder performs an all-Beethoven sonatas recital, followed shortly by Yoav Levanon and the Lucerne Symphony a week later performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 2, paired appropriately with excerpts from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Then in March, Norwegian piano titan Leif Ove Andsnes arrives for his recital, which includes an under-heard sonata by Norwegian composer Geirr Tveitt, alongside Schubert and Brahms.

Piano fans will certainly not want to miss two significant concerts in the late spring. On 29th May Emanuel Ax performs the Beethoven “Emperor” Concerto with Vladimir Jurowski and the Bayerisches Staatsorchester, certainly Beethoven’s most famous piano concerto. And then in June, the fiery, ursine Grigory Solokov gives a recital, with a programme yet to be announced.

Lugano’s Bach series also continues into 2024, with a performance in March of the powerful St John Passion by I Barrochisti and Diego Fasolis, with the chorus of Radiotelevision Svizzera Italiana. (Moritz Kallenberg sings the Evangelist.) Then in May, Bach is featured in recitals from cellist Julia Hagen and pianist Gils Bae, paired with diverse other selections including music from Gubaidulina and Chopin.

The Kammerorchester Basel make their Lugano debut in March, led by Jonathan Cohen with pianist Alexandra Dovgan, in a classical programme of Mozart and his contemporary Mysliveček. Also making an important debut in late June is Sir Simon Rattle, performing with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Magdalena Kožená.

The Orchestra della Svizzera italiana also continue their series through 2024, including guest appearances from David Zinman conducting Schumann and Beethoven, and Julian Rachlin performing Prokofiev, Mozart and Mendelssohn, together with Veronika Eberle. Krzysztof Urbański also returns to conduct Piazzolla’s lively Aconcagua, Concerto for Bandoneon with soloist Ksenija Sidorova.

The LuganoMusica 2023–24 season offers a great deal of variety, from Baroque to 20th-century music, and a contemporary music series to boot, complementing the idyllic location with some of the finest soloists from across Europe.


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