After a tumultuous year that saw Wigmore Hall streaming more than 200 concerts by 360 artists to over 6 million viewers and radio listeners across the globe, generating more than £1-million in online donations, Wigmore Hall will welcome the return of live audiences on 17 May with a 25-concert re-opening festival culminating in a major celebration of the Hall’s 120th Anniversary on the 31 May.
Taking as inspiration Wigmore Hall’s illustrious history, as well as seismic events since the outbreak of the pandemic last spring, the 120th Anniversary celebration is headlined by Wigmore Hall Director John Gilhooly’s appointment of nine new Associate Artists who are:
Nitin Sawhney (composer/performer)
Amjad Ali Khan (sarod)
Amaan Ali Bangash (sarod)
Ayaan Ali Bangash (sarod)
Lawrence Power (viola)
Gweneth Ann Rand (soprano)
Trish Clowes (saxophone)
Elaine Mitchener (vocal and movement artist)
Christian McBride (jazz bass)
Wigmore Hall has committed to five-year relationships with each Associate Artist, presenting each musician at least once every season. Also joining Wigmore Hall’s family of partners is the African Concert Series spearheaded by the Nigerian-Romanian pianist Rebeca Omordia. The series reflects the depth and diversity of African art music, a rich genre which forms a bridge between Western classical music and traditional African music.
The 120th Anniversary concerts embody Wigmore Hall’s continuing commitment to excellence in chamber music and song. The festivities are heralded outside of Wigmore Hall on Sunday 30 May when the 12 Ensemble, a pioneering unconducted string ensemble, performs an outdoor concert in Portman Square Garden, promoted by Wigmore Hall. That evening, Sir András Schiff gives a solo recital, in the first of five gala concerts to mark the anniversary.
The concert on 31 May, the day of the Anniversary, features Wigmore Hall’s recently appointed Associate Ensemble, Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective, led by violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster. Wigmore Hall presents this ensemble of leading instrumentalists in a programme including African American composer Florence Price’s rarely performed Piano Quintet in A minor. On 31 May, the 12 winners of Wigmore Hall’s Lockdown Commissions Scheme (chosen from over 700 applications) will be announced – reflecting the important role composers and new voices have always occupied at the Hall since the historic inaugural concert in 1901 that included Ferruccio Busoni and Eugène Ysaÿe.
Wigmore Hall’s long association with art song is marked by a special gala on 1 June around the theme of hope and renewal, devised at the request of John Gilhooly by pianist Graham Johnson, who performs with Sarah Fox (soprano), Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone) and William Thomas (bass).
2 June features a solo recital by the pianist Dame Mitsuko Uchida whose close relationship with the Hall covers almost six decades and countless acclaimed performances. Dame Mitsuko will be presented with the Wigmore Hall Medal in recognition of her long association with the Hall.
The final Anniversary concert on 3 June is a recital by Gweneth Ann Rand, with a programme which Rand describes as ‘a personal reflection of Black voices and muses, stretching back in time to the Black Venus, who inspired the poetry of Baudelaire’. On this day, Wigmore Hall’s green room will be renamed the ‘Jessye Norman Green Room’ in memory of the legendary soprano who opened more Wigmore Hall seasons than any other artist in the history of the Hall.
Wigmore Hall will also present a week-long Learning Festival, with the theme of ‘Connectivity’. The aim at the heart of Wigmore Hall Learning is to connect people through music. Through concerts, an online art installation and family events, the Festival explores music’s power to bring people together in the face of isolation, a plight faced by many over the past 12 months of the pandemic.
John Gilhooly, Director of Wigmore Hall said,
‘Since its auspicious opening in 1901, Wigmore Hall has become the international headquarters of chamber music with a diverse roster of artists and repertoire. At this time of renewal, we are keen to continue our search for new and unjustly neglected voices on stage. I am particularly looking forward to our Learning Festival, which explores how the pandemic has challenged but also strengthened our sense of community.’
Tickets for all 25 concerts in the re-opening festival are available initially on a ballot basis to Friends of Wigmore Hall which can be joined for as low as £50 a year. Seating capacity will be determined by government announcements in the coming weeks. 13 concerts will be streamed free of charge on the Wigmore Hall site, and 3 concerts will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3.