Watch on demand: Life in Vienna, Death in Venice


Martyn Brabbins – conductor

Steven Osborne – piano


R STRAUSS Festmusik der Stadt Wien

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4

BRITTEN Death in Venice Suite (arr. Steuart Bedford)



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The brass and percussion sections of the Philharmonia are back in full force in this programme of breathtaking soundscapes. Martyn Brabbins, a regular guest with the Philharmonia for twenty years, takes the helm.

Strauss’s Festival Music, written for the combined brass sections of Vienna’s three renowned orchestras, opens proceedings in roof-raising style. There’s more to this piece, though, than brilliant fanfares. It also contains rich antiphonal writing (with the ensemble divided into two ‘choirs’), and lush lyrical passages.

There couldn’t be more contrast between the ending of the Strauss and the simple, hushed opening notes of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, played by the soloist alone. In the central movement, too, the soloist repeatedly interrupts the strings’ forceful chords with a gentle song, eventually reducing the whole orchestra to silence. Beethoven himself gave the first performances of his concerto, and it’s almost as if, right at the heart of the piece, his orchestral colleagues paused just to listen to him play.

“Ambiguous Venice, where water is married to stone” sings Aschenbach, the protagonist of Britten’s last opera. The orchestral passages from the opera paint a haunting picture of this beautiful but claustrophobic city, in the grip of cholera. A glittering array of tuned percussion represents Tadzio, the young object of Aschenbach’s obsession. Hints of Indonesian gamelan music emphasise the unbridgeable gulf between the two characters, and between Aschenbach’s imaginary world and reality.

Filmed as live at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre.

Capture date: Thursday 6 May 2021

Prices & Discounts

£10 to £20

For Friends of the Philharmonia:
Standard ticket: £11
Five-concert subscription: £45
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For other bookers:
Standard ticket: £12
Standard+ ticket: £20
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Five-concert subscription+: £90

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When and where

This concert was filmed at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, and will premiere on Thursday 20 May 2021 at 7.30pm. It was filmed on 6 May 2021

How can I watch

You will get an email on the day of the premiere with a unique link to watch the stream. You can watch as many times as you want after that for 30 days. For further details on how to book and watch, visit our FAQs page

Running time

80 minutes

Is this a live performance?

No. This performance is filmed as live but it took place on Thursday 6 May 2021

Was it produced safely?

Yes. We are working with independent health and safety experts and have robust risk assessment procedures in place drawing from Public Health England advice

Programme notes

Read the digital programme notes for this concert

Streamed from Southbank Centre

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