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The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

South Bank 'vision' falls short of expectations

By Norman Lebrecht / June 29, 2006

Jude Kelly, artistic director of London's South Bank which reopens next summer after a £110 million refurbishment, today announced what was intended as a radical blueprint for a new era of cultural activity in Britain's most prestigious and heavily funded arts centre.

The heavily-trailed 'vision' incorporates closer collaboration between four resident orchestras at the Royal Festival Hall - the Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) - and the appointment of an overarching Head of Music in Marshall Marcus, presently chief executive of the OAE.

'World-class figures from across the visual and performing arts spectrums' have been appointed Artists in Residence and Associate Artists. They include the LPO's new music director Vladimir Jurowski; the composers Oliver Knussen, George Benjamin and Nitin Sawhney; the opera singer Willard White; the cult indie band St Etienne; the choreographer Rafael Bonachela; the poet Lemn Sissay; and visual artists Jane and Louise Wilson. White, in particular. will be involved in training ' young singers from unconventional backgrounds' along with ENO's Mary King, who featured in Channel 4's Operatunity contest for new voices.

Among the opening highlights will be debut London show by Antony Gormley, sculptor of Durham's gigantic Angel of the North and a festival around the works of the leftist Italian composer Luigi Nono. Jude Kelly said: “Our intention is to make the South Bank Centre a far more open, hospitable, accessible and creative place – a ‘bustling’ cultural port at the heart of this great world city.'

Unfortunately there is not very much in Jude Kelly's vision, on paper at least, that will quicken the public pulse. The programming is generally predictable and the individuals she has selected are a mixture of time-serving arts bureaucrats, New Labour box-tickers and overworked do-gooders - not a surprise among them.

The exception is Marshall Marcus, who has brought vigour and experimentation to the OAE, staging late-night concerts and debates and attracting a younger and more involved audience. However, his chances of working harmoniously with rival and fierecely competitive orchestral managers are debatable. The OAE's most visible artistic relationship is with Sir Simon Rattle, which may go some way towards explaining the appointment.

It is very much to be hoped that Marcus and Jude Kelly have a stack of dry powder up their sleeves for the future, as presently outlined, betrays all the daring and flair of a state-run railway.

To be notified of the next Lebrecht article, please email mikevincent at scena dot org

Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]



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