Charismatic British conductor Duncan Ward returns to London for two homecoming performances this Autumn with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Known for the passion and insight he brings to an extraordinarily wide range of repertoire, Duncan is sought after by many of the world’s leading orchestras and opera houses. Brought up in a family of non-musicians and state-educated in Kent, Duncan first conducted aged 12 for a school production of his own musical “Alice” and went on to be discovered and mentored by Sir Simon Rattle at the Berliner Philharmoniker. Duncan now lives in Cologne and currently holds the positions of Chief Conductor of philharmonie zuidnederland (South Netherlands Philharmonic) and Music Director of the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra, a new position created by Festival d’Aix in 2020.
Duncan continues his long-standing relationship with the LSO in two very different concerts at the Barbican in November 2023, portraying the diverse sides to his musical personality. Drawing on his early passion for jazz, improvisation and projects with musicians across India and South Africa, the first is a collaboration with cellist Abel Selaocoe at the EFG London Jazz Festival (16 November), featuring the London Premiere of Abel Selaocoe’s much anticipated cello concerto Four Spirits (co-commissioned by philharmonie zuidnederland). The programme features a folk and jazz-infused voyage from Gary Carpenter’s Dadaville and Bartók’s Dance Suite to the meditative opening and frenzied finale of Barber’s Medea’s Dance of Vengeance. There will also be a pre-concert foyer performance by Guildhall Jazz.
Later the same month, Duncan returns with an enticing programme combining Czech and French masterpieces (23 November). Violinist Isabelle Faust stars in Bartók’s First Violin Concerto and Chausson’s Poème. Janáček’s epic rhapsody Taras Bulba with its rousing sonic worlds of Cossack warriors and doomed romance, contrasts with the radiant impressionism of Debussy’s La Mer.
Duncan Ward says: ‘Amazingly, the LSO were the very first professional orchestra I had the chance to conduct, in a masterclass thirteen years ago, and I shall never forget that feeling – the sound, the flexibility, the ultra-responsiveness to any gesture I made. I feel incredibly privileged to have shared many adventures with this legendary orchestra since then, including streamed concerts during the pandemic and Stockhausen’s Gruppen at the Tate Modern and on tour to the Lucerne Festival.
The November concerts, however, will be the first time I get to share the joy of our music making live with our audiences at the Barbican, and I am extremely happy to get to collaborate with two phenomenal soloists and friends in performing this amazing repertoire. Lots of it is music I have been obsessed with since discovering as a teenager – including Taras Bulba that I fondly remember performing on the epic Albert Hall organ with the NYO and Sir Colin Davis in a BBC Prom – which after several busy years performing mostly on the continent or further afield, feels extra special to return to my roots in these homecoming concerts.’