War, peace, and everything between: the best classical music of autumn 2018

WNO takes on Tolstoy, Lothian’s other festival grows in stature, and Gershwin pays a visit to the Coliseum

Lammermuir festival

While the Edinburgh international festival makes itself increasingly irrelevant as far as classical music is concerned, its more modest autumn neighbour, spread around Lothian’s churches and grand houses, goes from strength to strength. Clarinettist-composer Mark Simpson is artist in residence this year, and Scottish Opera makes its first visit with a semi-staging of Britten’s The Burning Fiery Furnace; there’s also the premiere of a commission from Stuart MacRae, and rarely heard Stockhausen too.
Various venues, East Lothian, 14-23 September

War and Peace

David Pountney’s final season in charge of Welsh National Opera begins spectacularly, with its first-ever production of Prokofiev’s sprawling epic. Whatever the dramatic weaknesses of this adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace is a work that brings the best out of an opera company, with few star parts but myriad smaller roles. Pountney himself directs this staging, and Tomáš Hanus conducts.
Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 15-29 September, then touring to 24 November

The Planets 2018

Among the many performances and events marking the centenary of Holst’s the Planets, this fresh take asks what would music inspired by the planets sound like today? The Ligeti Quartet perform eight new planetary works by composers from contemporary classical, jazz and electronica worlds who have each worked with astronomers to explore the modern science of our solar system. Narration by comedian – and astronomy enthusiast – Jon Culshaw will link the new works in performances at planetariums in London, Winchester, Bristol and Birmingham.
Various venues, 29 September to 2 October

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Andris Nelsons took over as Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus in February. His relationship with one of the world’s great orchestras may be in its infancy, but they make their first British appearances together with two concerts, both of which include a Mahler symphony. The first programme prefaces the Fifth with BA Zimmermann’s trumpet concerto Nobody Knows de Trouble I See; in the second it’s the First Symphony, preceded by a selection of Tchaikovsky arias.
Royal Festival Hall, London, 8-9 October

Everything That Happened and Would Happen

History man … Heiner Goebbels takes in the space at Mayfield where his first world war examination will be staged.
History man … Heiner Goebbels takes in the space at Mayfield where his first world war examination will be staged. Photograph: Rebecca Lupton

Part installation, part performance art, Heiner Goebbels’ music theatre works defy easy classification. It’s some years since any of Goebbels’ bigger pieces have been seen in the UK, but the Manchester festival’s premiere of his commission as part of the 14-18 NOW first world war programme, involving 20 performers and musicians and presented on the site of a former railway station, promises to be “a re-enactment of history, always on the verge of collapse – only to be rebuilt as if nothing had happened”.
Mayfield, Manchester, 10-21 October

Porgy and Bess

Though the Gershwins’ opera may be one of the best-known of the 20th century, stagings of it from mainstream British companies have been few and far between. But Porgy and Bess is the work that the beleaguered and depleted English National Opera has chosen to revive its fortunes this autumn. It’s certainly assembled a strong team for the production, which is directed by James Robinson and conducted by John Wilson, with Eric Greene as Porgy, and Nicole Cabell as Bess.
Coliseum, London, 11 October to 14 November


Pascal Dusapin may be one of France’s leading living composers, but his music rarely crosses the channel, and none of his eight stage works has been seen here so far. Music Theatre Wales’ latest show is a production of his 2008 dance-opera Passion, directed by Michael McCarthy. Johnny Herford and Jennifer France take the leads in the two-hander which riffs on the Orpheus myth, telling its story through dance as well as music.
Anvil, Basingstoke, 11 October, then touring until 10 November

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Richard Tognetti.
Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Richard Tognetti. Photograph: Simon van Boxtel

Firmly installed as “international associate” at Milton Court, the always astonishing Australian Chamber Orchestra return for their latest residency, led as usual by Richard Tognetti. Alongside a pair of concerts – one including the last three Mozart symphonies, the other with music by Bach, Beethoven, Bartók and Sufjan Stevens – there’s also a screening of Jennifer Peedom’s documentary Mountain, with the ACO playing Tognetti’s accompanying score live.
Milton Court, London, 22 to 24 October

Maudit Soit la Guerre and Die Stadt Ohne Juden

A still from the film Maudit soit la Guerre, 1914, by Alfred Machin.
A still from the film Maudit soit la Guerre, 1914, by Alfred Machin. Photograph: PR

Composer Olga Neuwirth has been fascinated by cinema since she was a student, and frequently used existing film as part of her own works. She has also composed scores to accompany silent films, and two of these can be heard during November. The London Sinfonietta plays Neuwirth’s music for Alfred Machin’s 1914 pacifist film Maudit soit la Guerre, while the PHACE ensemble tackle her newly commissioned score for HK Breslauer’s horribly prophetic Die Stadt Ohne Juden from 1924.
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 1 November (Maudit soit la Guerre) and Milton Court, London, 15 November (Die Stadt Ohne Juden)


Muziektheater Transparant’s touring production of Hilda Paredes’s latest music-theatre piece stops off at the 2018 Huddersfield contemporary music festival for a one-off performance. With a text combining poems by Mayra Santos-Febres and dialogues by Lex Bohlmeijer, Harriet is designed as a “theatrical portrait” of the 19th-century African American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman; soprano Claron McFadden is the monodrama’s protagonist.
Lawrence Batley theatre, Huddersfield, 20 November


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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