Philip Glass completes his David Bowie trilogy with Lodger symphony

The long-discussed adaptation of the late singer’s 1979 album Lodger will premiere at the Southbank Centre in May 2019

Philip Glass is returning to the music of David Bowie 22 years after his last composition based on the singer’s work. His 12th symphony, and third based on Bowie’s work, will have its European premiere at the Southbank Centre in May 2019.

London Contemporary Orchestra and organist James McVinnie will perform Glass’s Lodger symphony, a work the composer had discussed with Bowie before his death, but only now has been realised. Based on Bowie’s 1979 album of the same name, it completes Glass’s reimagining of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, following 1992’s Low symphony (Glass’s Symphony No 1), and 1996’s Heroes symphony (Glass’s fourth).

The two musicians were friends and mutual admirers for many decades. “The two symphonies were of course originally intended to be part of a trilogy, just as Bowie and Eno’s Berlin albums are,” Glass told the Guardian in 2016, shortly after Bowie’s death. “We talked, years ago, about doing the third symphony based on Lodger, and the idea has not totally disappeared.”

In a statement this week, the 80-year-old composer said: “For the past two decades, I had hoped to find an opportunity to complete the trilogy of symphonies. I’m now delighted to have that chance to compose the Lodger symphony, and equally delighted that it will be heard in London at Southbank Centre.”

The work has been co-commissioned by Southbank Centre, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, and will receive its world premiere in Los Angeles. In London, it will be conducted by Hugh Brunt and Robert Ames.

The arts centre also announced the first complete UK performance of Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht since its 1985 premiere. The “Thursday” of his epic seven-part opera cycle Licht will be staged by Paris-based orchestra Le Balcon in collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, the New London Chamber Choir and the Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble. Benjamin Lazar directs the two performances in May 2019.

International orchestras visiting during the 2018-19 season include the St Petersburg Philharmonic with Yuri Temirkanov, the Ensemble Modern and, making their first visit to the UK with Andris Nelsons as Kapellmeister, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski begin a year-long celebration of British music in January 2019, and, to mark Armistice Day in November 2018 and the centenary of the end of the first world war, will give the world premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Triumph to Exist.

In a season that places contemporary music at its heart, there are 39 new commissions and premieres, including works by Pullitzer prize-winner Du Yun, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Peter Eötvös and Pascal Dusapin.

The arts centre last week announced the departure of its artistic director, Jude Kelly, who is to leave in spring 2018 when the venue’s two smaller concert halls, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room, reopen after major refurbishment.


Imogen Tilden

The GuardianTramp

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