St John’s Smith Square presents Belle Époque
Festival featuring Véronique Gens and Southbank Sinfonia
Thursday 24th – Sunday 27th November 2022
New to St John’s Smith Square for 2022, the Belle Époque Festival is a tantalising peek into a
musical world turning its back on heavy symphonic styles. Over four days, the festival will
celebrate the gorgeous music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
La Belle Époque is an era bathed in nostalgia. It was a period of astonishing transformation,
during which developments in science, technology, and above all culture, took on
extraordinary momentum. The vibrant nightlife of Paris, with the Moulin Rouge and Maxim’s,
drew some of the most talented artists of the era, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin,
Matisse and the young Picasso. While the Belle Époque is known for its salon music, the
composers who lived and worked during this period include Stravinsky, Debussy, Fauré, Ravel,
Satie, Saint-Saens, and a composer who embodies the most Belle of the Époque, the dapper
As well as Hahn’s best-known work, A Chloris, the festival will offer a chance to explore more
of Hahn’s songs, chamber music and orchestral works. Véronique Gens, a world-class talent
and specialist of Hahn’s repertoire, will be welcomed to St John’s Smith Square for An Evening
with Hahn. Gens will also work with students in singer and piano duos from the Royal College
of Music for an inspiring Masterclass with Véronique Gens.
This exciting weekend of learning and truly beautiful music will include a Belle Époque Festival
Talk, an opportunity to learn about the period from Festival speaker Dr Lucy Walker, writer,
researcher and speaker on classical music and cultural heritage.
Southbank Sinfonia Live Beautifully will see Southbank Sinfonia explore Hahn’s work paired
with Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 3. The Fellowship will work with Anna Sułkowska-Migoń,
an exciting young Polish conductor who won first prize at La Maestra Conducting Competition
in March 2022. Additionally, Quatuor Mona, a string quartet founded in 2018 at the
Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, will play rarely performed chamber
works by Hahn with leading British pianist William Howard.
Former St John’s Smith Square Young Artist Mathilde Milwidsky returns to perform Hahn,
Faure and Viardot with William Howard and soprano Marie-Laure Garnier in a concert titled
The Viardot Connection. The festival concludes with Garnier, Howard and pianist Celia Oneto
Bensaid performing A Chloris at the end of a programme of songs on the twinned themes of
Venice & Versailles by Faure and Hahn, in a fitting end to a four-day tribute to this evocative
time in history.
Festival Curator, Beverley Vong comments, When putting together the Belle Époque Festival, I
was aware of how today’s audiences will be familiar with Reynaldo Hahn’s songs, A Chloris in
particular is a favourite in the recital hall. In reality, Hahn’s output spans a huge variety of
genres and this festival at St John’s Smith Square gives an exciting insight into the significance
of his output. Other composers feature as well, taking inspiration from Hahn’s career and
relations throughout his life: from Bach to Mozart, Faure to Pauline Viardot, the concerts offer
an eclectic mix of song, piano music, and chamber music.