London Symphony Orchestra performing on stage
photo credit Mark Allan

An emotive international programme welcomes classical audiences back to Brighton Festival 2022


An emotive international programme welcomes classical audiences back to Brighton Festival 2022

Leading international performers including the London Symphony Orchestra, La Nuova Musica & Iestyn Davies and the Philharmonia Orchestra, will perform works by Tchaikovsky, Florence Price, Handel and Kaija Saariaho to mark a welcome return to full-scale classical events at this year’s Brighton Festival. In a decidedly poignant yet hopeful programme, echoing this year’s Festival theme of Rebuilding, established and emerging artists will showcase familiar and lesser-known works to the first capacity audiences since 2019.

As part of her UK debut, Marta Gardolińska will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin du printemps; Marc-Andre Dalbavie’s Concerto for Flute; Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in F minor Op.36 and Silvestrov’s Prayer for Ukraine. Alongside the luminous optimism of the young Boulanger against the raw passion of Tchaikovsky’s semi-autobiographical symphony, LSO’s Principal Flute Gareth Davies will highlight the dazzle and daring of Dalbavie’s 21st-century classic. Gardolińska and the LSO will also set the incomparable 19th Century Russian Tchaikovsky in context with the hauntingly moving work by 21st Century Ukrainian Silvestrov, marking the horror of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

‘One of the most exciting consorts in the early music field’, La Nuova Musica, join forces with arguably ‘the best counter tenor in the world’, Iestyn Davies, to explore exceptional arias from Handel’s operas in their critically acclaimed Handel's Unsung Heroes. Under the baton of conductor David Bates, Davies and LNM’s soloists – violinist Thomas Gould, oboist Katharina Spreckelsen and bassoonist Inga Maria Klaucke – perform a selection of obbligato arias highlighting how Handel’s compositions were as virtuosic and lyrical for his instrumental ‘unsung heroes’ as for their singing counterparts. Intimate and often deeply moving, this irresistible performance on 20 May promises to be a showcase for sublime musicianship and operatic bravura.

The long-established pairing of the Czech Republic’s Pavel Haas Quartet and Moscow born-Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg has resulted in an exquisite musical partnership. The quartet - celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2022 - and Giltburg will perform two piano quintets at this year’s Festival by masters of late-Romantic music – Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor Op 34 and Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A Major Op 81 No 2. Giltburg also performs Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No 2 Op 14, a piece of enormous emotional contrasts. These exceptional artists offer audiences an unmissable afternoon at Glyndebourne Opera House on 8 May.

Brighton & East Sussex Youth Orchestra, recently combined to form an exciting new youth orchestra for the area, are joined by vibrant young pianist Jeneba Kanneh-Mason and conductor Peter Davison in a concert on 9 May echoing the Festival theme of Rebuilding. Showcasing the best of the region’s young classical talent, fresh from being mentored by players from the LSO throughout their rehearsals, the performance celebrates major African–American composer Florence Price, alongside Gershwin’s An American in Paris. With the rebuilding of Price’s long-overlooked reputation in recent years, her Piano Concerto and Third Symphony reflect the warmth and authority of her music - from the riches of full-blown European Romanticism to the eloquence of African–American Spirituals.

Making their Brighton Festival debut are the UK’s leading contemporary instrumentalists Riot Ensemble, who bring their dynamic contemporary classical virtuosity to the atmospheric All Saints Church on 11 May. In this fascinating programme, echoing ideas across the Festival, Xenakis’ Paille in the Wind celebrates the centenary of the architect and master composer whose pioneering works reveal a unique fusion of music, maths and design. Pieces by Finnish composer, Kaija Saariaho - a favourite of this year’s Festival Guest Co-Director, Marwa Al-Sabouni - combine with Brighton-based composers Peter Copley and Patrick Harrex and those of Outi Tarkianen and Anthony R. Green, part of a new generation of composers whose work responds to the world around us.

On 26 May All Saints Church will play host to an evening tribute to Syria’s rich musical culture. Beginning with In Damascus - a moving elegy for a country torn apart by war from composer Jonathan Dove, performed by tenor James Gilchrist and the UK’s Sacconi Quartet. Reflecting on a bleak vision of lost beauty and culture, Dove’s powerful musical expression of empathy, sorrow and outrage at the destruction wreaked by conflict. Set to words by the Syrian poet Ali Safar and providing a vivid account of life in a war-torn country, In Damascus is an eloquent plea for hope: for renewal; for reconciliation; and for peace.

Later that evening, one of the few women oud players in a traditionally male-dominated field, Rihab Azar, will take to the All Saints stage with her Trio to perform classical and contemporary Syrian and broader Middle Eastern music. A graduate of the Damascus Conservatoire who remains strongly connected to her Syrian roots, Azar’s collaborations with London Sinfonietta, Stile Antico and Cantata Dramatica have seen her perform on stages from the Royal Albert Hall to St Paul’s Cathedral. 

The Marian Consort’s Brighton Festival Commission on 13 May is a typically imaginative performance, entwining the Baroque magnificence of Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien alongside the world premiere of specially commissioned work by contemporary Irish composer David Fennessy. This unique dusk concert at All Saints Church interweaves old and new and contemplates mortality and immortality. Combining the austere ritual of ancient chant with the colour, urgency and pathos of 17th-century solo singing, Fennessy’s new pieces responding to the startling themes of Schütz’s masterpiece capture the nobility of faith and the human spirit in times of torment.

The Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov, and featuring acclaimed soloists Gweneth-Ann Rand, Duncan Rock, and the Brighton Festival Chorus will also celebrate the work of Kaija Saariaho, ranked the ‘greatest living composer’ in 2019 by BBC Music magazine. Saariaho’s Oltra Mar conjures voyages and marine moods in a composition of profound power and beauty, as texts from poet Abou Saîd and author Amin Maalouf remind us of humankind’s place in the order of Nature. Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony, set to words by poet Walt Whitman, is an epic companion piece and marks Williams’ 150th anniversary. This vast evocation of the ocean and depths of the human condition will bring Brighton Festival to a close on 29 May. 

Brighton Festival returns to full capacity in 2022, with an extensive international programme of over 150 events taking place across Sussex from 7-29 May.

For the first time, Brighton Festival welcomes two Guest Co-Directors - Syrian architect and author Marwa Al-Sabouni and Tristan Sharps, Artistic Director of Brighton-based theatre makers dreamthinkspeak. Marwa and Tristan have chosen the theme of Rebuilding as the inspiration for this year’s programme, exploring it from two different yet complementary perspectives.  


Additional highlights from this year’s Brighton Festival include:

Ruysdael Quartet (25 May)

The Netherlands-based Ruysdael Quartet, noted for their passion and refined eloquence, perform a programme looking back to Purcell and Beethoven’s unrivalled mastery of the string quartet. Bringing the form into the 21st century will be their take on Louis Andriessen’s Miserere, inspired by Allegri’s Renaissance classic Miserere. An unmissable evening of music that simultaneously honours and develops the repertoire in exciting, unexpected ways.

Brighton Festival Lunchtime Concerts (10–27 May)

Across the Festival, Brighton Dome Concert Hall and All Saints Church will play host to a series of hour-long lunchtime concerts featuring international classical stars of the future, including the award-winning British countertenor Hugh Cutting, the French harpsichordist Béatrice Martin, and the Ukrainian pianist Alexei Grynyuk.


Explore the full programme at