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Lockdown Listening with Matthew Hurlock

President of the Philharmonia Foundation Matthew Hurlock wearing a coat and tie

This month, President of the Philharmonia Foundation Matthew Hurlock shares a listening list full of Philharmonia memories.


Esa-Pekka Salonen, Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring

When conducted by Salonen, the Philharmonia Orchestra plays this piece with an intensity and precision that brings out the piece’s subtlety and intense and wild force. Being able to interact with the Orchestra and the piece, as part of the RE-RITE program at both the Southbank and the Science Museum in London, are experiences my wife, children and I will never forget.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique

I heard Salonen conduct this at Chicago Symphony Hall in 2012, as part of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s successful US tour that year. Salonen’s intensity, energy and precision played in the Chicago Symphony Hall’s beautiful acoustics brought this beautiful, rampaging piece to life. It is an evening I have long remembered and enjoyed.

Mikhail Pletnev, Tchaikovsky, Symphony #6 (Pathétique)

Hearing Mikhail Pletnev conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #6 was an unforgettable experience for me as Pletnev encouraged each instrument group to have a slightly distinctive voice that made the whole piece sound like a beautiful conversation among individual voices. This approach gave the Symphony a richness, life and subtle detail that I had not heard before nor since.

Steven Isserlis, Elgar, Cello Concerto

Hearing Steven Isserlis play this piece together with the Philharmonia Orchestra gave me the feeling that I was experiencing English music at its best, between Isserlis’ brilliance with the cello, Elgar’s beautiful composition and the Philharmonia Orchestra’s rich and beautiful sound. It was an occasion I greatly enjoyed.

Riccardo Muti, Beethoven, Symphony #9

Until I saw him conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra, and interact warmly with the orchestra and the audience, I had not known of Muti’s history with the orchestra. I was sorry to learn recently that Muti’s conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in Verdi’s Requiem has been cancelled for this year. Muti is a brilliant conductor, particularly of pieces with vocal accompaniment, like opera and Verdi’s Requiem. Muti’s conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra playing Beethoven’s Symphony #9 is a perfect combination: a brilliant, composer, conductor and orchestra working together to show off their unforgettable skill and ability to create musical beauty.

Hélène Grimaud, Brahms, Piano Concerto #2

I have long enjoyed the Brahms Piano Concertos. I particularly enjoyed listening to Hélène Grimaud perform these pieces together with the Philharmonia Orchestra as there seems to be a connection between the soloist and the orchestra which I greatly enjoyed listening to.

Andras Schiff, Brahms, Variations on a Theme by Haydn and Beethoven, Piano Concerto #4

I particularly enjoyed watching Andras Schiff act as both soloist and conductor. His interactions with the orchestra while playing I found fascinating, not only as a testament to Schiff’s skills but also as evidence of the skill of the Philharmonia Orchestra in following. I remember these pieces not only because they were beautifully played but also because they gave a clear example of the mechanics of the interaction between the orchestra and the soloist and the conductor. It was also unusual to see this combination of roles. I also enjoyed seeing the Philharmonia Orchestra attracting such a range of brilliant and talented people.

Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack

In the context of “Lockdown Listening” this soundtrack is one that has always stayed with me as I listened to it repeatedly while I was living in rural China in 1988-89, ultimately experiencing the chaos of the Democracy Movement there. I always enjoyed the play’s tweaking of theatrical pretences combined with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enjoyable music. This soundtrack has long been an enjoyable distraction to me!

Serge Gainsbourg, De Gainsbourg a Gainsbarre

This album of Greatest Hits, particularly volume 1, I have always enjoyed given Gainsbourg’s creativity and delight in being French jazz and rock music’s enfant terrible. Gainsbourg’s duets with Jane Birkin are entertaining as her English accented French and Gainsbourg’s provocative lyrics evoke so many social tensions.