• Salonen conducts the most ambitious Philharmonia Session to date: an animated performance of the full ballet of The Creatures of Prometheus, presented in the month of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth
  • A creative team brings the piece to life: Stephen Fry reads Gerard McBurney’s script telling the Prometheus story in-between symphonic movements, with animator Hillary Leben’s visuals bringing the story to life on screen
  • The project represents the move from live to digital concerts and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s focus on music inspired by Greek myth in his final Season as Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor
  • The free Session will be streamed on YouTube on Friday 4 December at 7.30pm and will remain online indefinitely
  • The Philharmonia Sessions series, filmed at Battersea Arts Centre, has had hundreds of thousands of viewers from all over the world tuning in for performances designed specifically for online audiences since the COVID-19 shutdown

On 4 December 2020, the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen present the final Philharmonia Session of 2020, filmed and recorded at Battersea Arts Centre.

In the Orchestra’s most ambitious online performance since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Salonen conducts the full ballet score of Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus, almost 250 years to the day since Beethoven’s birth.

Beethoven wrote his ballet score for a production of The Creatures of Prometheus in 1801, in just 11 days. It was a huge success and remained one of his most popular works throughout his lifetime. In the ballet, the gift of fire is interpreted as a metaphor for the civilizing power of science and the arts. To guide viewers through the story, Stephen Fry narrates Gerard McBurney’s new script between each movement, while motion designer Hillary Leben’s animations unfold on-screen.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principl Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “I find the juxtaposition of the ‘old’ and ‘modern’ artform fascinating. If you think of the timeframe, Court dances were popular maybe 40 years before this piece was composed. They were still danced around 1800, but there was this transition, going from the very exclusive, narrowly-defined Court dancing to a more popular, more democratic way of looking at the idea of dance. The Contra dances were the vehicle for different social classes dancing together. That’s a huge idea, that there is some kind of art or self-expression that allows people to forget their position on the ladder for once, and dance together. At the end there is a moment where the clay figures lead the aristocracy to dance. That’s a profoundly revolutionary idea.”

The Philharmonia was the first UK symphony orchestra out of lockdown with a major digital series, the Philharmonia Sessions, beautifully filmed performances designed for an online audience on YouTube, which was launched in July 2020 to critical acclaim, and has featured artists including cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, violinist Nicola Benedetti, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and conductors John WilsonPaavo Järvi and Jakub Hrůša.

Access to the arts is a fundamental right. The Philharmonia Sessions are free and for everyone, streamed via the Philharmonia’s YouTube channel.

This programme, along with the Orchestra’s ability to make ambitious plans for the future is only made possible thanks to the vital support of Friends and Donors. During the Philharmonia Sessions, the Philharmonia will ask those that can to make a donation in support of the Orchestra’s work and national reach.

At a time when the Orchestra cannot play live for audiences in its residency venues across the UK, supporters’ donations will keep the Philharmonia playing for a global audience and secure the future of the Orchestra. For more information on how to support the Philharmonia please visit the website or contact development@philharmonia.co.uk.