Tchaikovsky is the order of the day as Vladimir Jurowski slides into his second season as Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Joining forces with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the LPO will present a feast of the Russian composer's lesser-known works under the heading Revealing Tchaikovsky.
World premieres of new commissions, the London premiere of the reconstruction of Mendelssohn's Third Piano Concerto, four concert performances of opera and numerous large-scale works form the backbone of the rest of the 2008-09 season, which also heralds the arrival of Yannick Nézet-Séguin as Principal Guest Conductor.
The Tchaikovsky season (supported by Pushkin House and marka:ff) is inevitably appealing because of Jurowski's high reputation in performances of Russian music; the programmes also include music by composers who inspired or were inspired by Tchaikovsky. The First Symphony 'Winter Daydreams' is coupled with Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss on 22 October, and subsequent concerts include the short opera Iolanta (25 October), the Violin Concerto (29 October, conducted by Neeme Järvi), the rarely-heard Third Piano Concerto (1 November), the Manfred Symphony (5 November), the Second Piano Concerto and Third Suite (7 November, conducted by Rozhdestvensky) and the Sixth Symphony (26 November). On the other hand, while there's much to look forward to here, it's only a couple of years since Michael Tilson Thomas did a mini-Tchaikovsky festival with the LSO called 'Rediscover Tchaikovsky', which included a number of the works on offer in the LPO's season. And the delectable Iolanta is less of a rarity than some of the composer's other operas: it received a brief outing at Welsh National Opera (who also took it to the Proms) in 2005 and will be given a new staging at Opera Holland Park this summer. Therefore, the interest of these concerts depends more on the quality of the music-making – which will likely be high, given the participants – rather than most of the repertoire.
Opera plays a key role throughout the LPO's season. In addition to the performance of Iolanta, the orchestra continues its annual residency at Glyndebourne. There will also be two projects with Opera Rara: Donizetti's Parisina starring Patrizia Ciofi (6 December 2008) and Rossini's Ermione with Colin Lee and Patricia Bardon (28 March 2009). Both concerts are conducted by David Parry and will be recorded for release on the Opera Rara label. The collaboration between Opera Rara and the LPO is supported by the John S Cohen Foundation. Also of interest is a performance of Act II of Tristan und Isolde on 13 December alongside the Adagio from Mahler's Tenth Symphony. Jurowski conducts an intriguing cast, including Anja Kampe as Isolde and Sarah Connolly as Brangäne. Most excitingly, on 18 February 2009, Jurowski will conduct singers including Mark Padmore in the world premiere of Martynov's Vita Nuova, based on a collection of verse by Dante. The season brochure promises a fascinating postmodern approach to the piece: Martynov makes the point that Dante's verse is a 'text about texts about love', a self-consciousness to which he has responded musically by making his opera about the history of opera with nods towards everything from Gregorian chant to serialism.
2009 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of Mendelssohn's birth, and the LPO has a number of concerts dedicated to his music. On 24 January 2009, Anne-Sophie Mutter will play the Violin Concerto; 14 March sees Stephen Hough playing the First Piano Concerto; 25 April finds Jurowski conducting music from A Midsummer Night's Dream and Elijah is scheduled for autumn 2009. The focus will inevitably be on the London premiere of Marcello Bufalini and Robert Prosseda's completion of the sketches to the Third Piano Concerto, left unfinished at the composer's death. Prosseda will perform the piece on 4 April 2009.
Complementing these themed series is the usual bevy of appealing mixed programmes. The season starts on 24 September with Jurowski conducting Vaughan Williams' Eighth Symphony, the world premiere of Turnage's Mambo, Blues and Tarantella – Violin Concerto, Ligeti's Atmosphères and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. An all-German programme three days later unites Strauss' Metamorphosen, Hartmann's Gesangsszene sung by Matthias Goerne, and Brahms' Second Symphony. Bass René Pape joins Jurowski for the world premiere of Torsten Rasch's song cycle My Heart is on Fire on 31 May 2009, while Yannick Nézet-Séguin's inaugural season as Principal Guest Conductor includes Dvorák's Seventh Symphony on 27 May and, more excitingly, Brahms' A German Requiem with Barbara Bonney on 4 April. Mark Elder turns up for a couple of programmes including Janácek's Two movements from 'Schluck und Jau', Dvorák's Violin Concerto and Rachmaninov's Symphony 3 on 1 May. Concerts with Temirkanov, Eschenbach, Alsop, Masur, Neeme Järvi and Tortelier complete the best of the season.
There's a lot to celebrate in the London Philharmonic's new season – plenty of new works, a few operatic rarities, and favourites nearly always mixed with something a bit more unusual. Only two complete Mahler symphonies are scheduled, which comes as something of a relief given the composer's over-dominance of the world's concert halls at the moment; not a single Shostakovich symphony in sight, either. The Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn series should be interesting, though performing composers' lesser-known works does not always reveal them at their best. Nevertheless, a strong line-up for the coming months at the Royal Festival Hall.