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Open Rehearsal: Santtu conducts Elgar’s Enigma Variations

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Sol Gabetta leaning on her cello case and smiling


Santtu-Matias Rouvali – conductor
Sol Gabetta – cello


Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 Listen

Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 Listen

Elgar Enigma Variations Listen

How does a conductor communicate their interpretation of a piece with an orchestra and the soloist as they prepare for a performance?

Our Open Rehearsals give you access to this creative process and allow you to see the Philharmonia at work. Learn more about the pieces and start to listen to your favourites with a fresh pair of ears.

Watch the Philharmonia Orchestra rehearse the 2023/24 season closer with Elgar’s enduringly popular paean to friendship.

Well-known performers of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 include Tom and Jerry (in 1946 Oscar-winner The Cat Concerto), Woody Woodpecker and Rowlf the Dog on The Muppet Show. Santtu has chosen it to get the Philharmonia’s season finale off to a rousing start.

At the heart of the programme is Shostakovich’s fiery Cello Concerto No. 1. Widely considered the height of achievement for a cellist, the piece gives the principal horn, celesta, and indeed every member of the orchestra, the chance to shine too. Sol Gabetta’s last performance of this concerto with the Philharmonia was acclaimed as ‘a compelling account shot through with playfulness and poetic rhapsodising… technically formidable’ (Bachtrack).

The Enigma Variations, Elgar’s tribute to his closest friends, crowns the programme and the season. From the tender grace of the first variation, representing his beloved wife Alice, to the solemn grandeur of ‘Nimrod’, and other character sketches full of warmth and humour, this is the work that launched Elgar on the road to his status as a national treasure.

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Running time

Approximately 3 hrs (subject to change)

Recommended age

From 7+

Programme notes

Digital programme notes available here.

Contact the Friends team

Phone: 020 7921 3906

Concerto and Symphony Friends

Concerto and Symphony Friends members can claim their complimentary pair of open rehearsal tickets by emailing


Open rehearsals are not performances. Playing may be paused at various intervals in order for the conductor, soloist and orchestra to agree on specific styles and dynamics.

Open rehearsals will take place in the auditorium where the concert is due to be performed, unless otherwise specified. Times and repertoire being rehearsed will be confirmed prior to the rehearsal date, as these schedules are subject to change.

Please note that open rehearsals are working processes for the conductor and the Orchestra, we cannot guarantee that pieces will be played in their entirety. Timings are subject to change and every endeavour will be made to let ticket holders know in advance about any such changes. Please check our website for up-to-date information.


Royal Festival Hall

Royal Festival Hall

Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road

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2023/24 London Season

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