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RCM Artistic Director Stephen Johns in his home office

Feature Summer 2020

Top five Royal College of Music performances to watch at home

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Since lockdown began, the Royal College of Music has been delving into its archives to bring you some of the best and most memorable performances over the years. Here Artistic Director Stephen Johns shares five of his favourites from the month of June.

1. Quiet City by Copland

Performed at the Royal College of Music in November 2013 and conducted by alumnus John Wilson, this short work by Aaron Copland – beautiful, reflective and intense – seems very apt in lockdown times, when many cities and towns have been so quiet for so long. The trumpet and cor anglais soloists play haunting melodies, accompanied by the rich string accompaniment.


2. Composition for Screen Showcase

Every year we enjoy the kaleidoscopic and intoxicating experience of a rapid sequence of short films – funny, affecting, challenging, reflective – all accompanied by brand new scores written by our students. It is a reminder of the intense power of music to stimulate emotions and to enhance the dramas that we are viewing, and this year devised and presented entirely online.


3. Façade by Walton

This is another chance to experience a most memorable evening’s entertainment, where RCM students were joined by Sally Burgess and Sir Thomas Allen in William Walton’s riotous Façade suite. Seemingly nonsense poems by Edith Sitwell are complemented by Walton’s satirical score, and these performances lit up the RCM Britten Theatre on a winter’s evening in December 2015.


4. Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz

RCM alumnus Sir Roger Norrington, who transfixed London in 1988 with his innovative Berlioz Experience, brought all his exuberance and learning to this most theatrical of symphonies. Multiple harps at the front of the stage for the ball scene, a rasping March to the Scaffold, and a terrifying Witches' Sabbath all combined to create one of the most memorable concerts to take place in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall.


5. Symphony no 3 by Saint-Saëns

Performed just three weeks before London went into lockdown, Saint-Saëns’ ever-popular work was given as part of an unforgettable concert, the first visit of Sir Antonio Pappano to the Royal College of Music. It was also the first performance of this work at the RCM on the new custom-built Flentrop Orgelbouw organ, where Eric Chan 'pulled out all the stops', with the RCM Symphony Orchestra responding in a lively and energetic style.


The concert series is part of our #RCMCommunity campaign, which aims to promote music-making and provide uplifting content by the RCM community during challenging times. Watch more recordings from the online series on YouTube

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