The Wilderness Pleases: Our Complete 2021-22 Season

The OAE is proud to be a Resident Orchestra of London's Southbank Centre

We joyfully return from the digital wilderness to present the fifth of our ‘Six Chapters of Enlightenment’ at Southbank Centre.

‘Six Chapters of Enlightenment’ are our concert seasons at the Southbank Centre, where we are Resident Orchestra. The series is inspired by the golden age of science and philosophy that gave our Orchestra its name. The Wilderness Pleases is inspired by one of the many influential pieces of work to come out of the Enlightenment era; Shaftesbury’s The Moralists.

In the book, the main character Theocles describes the terror of encountering a group of crocodiles in an Egyptian desert. After escaping the monsters, he is overcome with a desire to admire them as wondrous creatures of the natural world. He says,

‘let us fly to the vast deserts of these parts […] ghastly and hideous as they appear they want not their peculiar beauties. Wilderness pleases.’


Demons in the Bath: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo – 23 January 2022

We then delve into the darker side of the wilderness with Demons in the Bath: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo on 23 January. Starring bass Trevor Eliot-Bowes, we tackle Handel’s tragic tale of two lovers who are being kept apart as servants by a villainous cyclops creature. With its thrilling and varied scoring, the music excites a sense of both determination and helplessness in confronting the natural world. As Handel’s music so often does, this concert challenges our understanding of order and fairness and delivers us to a supernatural world of poetic possibilities.

Bach’s St John Passion has been at the forefront of the OAE’s repertoire in recent years. For Easter 2021, the Orchestra collaborated with Marquee TV to present a new filmed realisation of this monumental production, recorded in Battersea Arts Centre with an all-star cast including Mark Padmore as Evangelist and Gerald Finley as Christus (OAE Player, April 2021). This Easter, Padmore resumes his iconic role as Evangelist as he guides the OAE on the journey of Christ to the cross with soprano Mary Bevan, mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy and bass Georg Nigl.

Other highlights in our season involve the us turning our focus to the pleasing wilderness in heaven in Mahler’s Symphony no.4, joined by conductor Ádám Fischer.

We are also excited to be joined by guest artist Isabelle Faust for Schumann’s Violin Concerto. Leading us through Schumann’s enigmatic piece is conductor Antonello Manacorda.

It is a credit to the Southbank Centre that we can provide so many performance opportunities to our Rising Stars alumni this season. Rising Stars of the Enlightenment is a scheme that we set up in 2017 to support breakthrough new vocalists, offering them masterclasses with international artists, performance opportunities and publicity. Catch OAE Rising Star alumni Bethany Horak-Hallet and Zoë Brookshaw in Demons in the Bath: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo

Tickets will be on sale for all concerts of our new season at the Southbank Centre on 11 November 2021.

After the success of recording Brahms’s piano concertos No.1 and 2 with us (released June 2021), OAE Principal Artist Sir András Schiff re-joins us for a three-night series of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos. In this triple concert series, Sir Schiff will direct us through all five of Beethoven’s thrilling piano concertos in the same week for an immersive dive into the composer’s sound-world. These concertos are complemented by a performance of Haydn’s symphonies nos. 93, 99 and 103 respectively on each night.

Gramophone magazine describes the collaboration between the us and Sir Schiff as:

‘What he and the OAE offer is not so much to do with authenticity as with freshness and ‘detoxification’, something akin to letting the daylight into Miss Havisham’s room and removing the cobwebs from her wedding cake.

– Michelle Assay in Gramophone’s Recording of the Month