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10th March 2020
Gigs / Music / PR

Orchestra of the Swan to examine the rebel natures of Beethoven and David Bowie in a celebratory concert this May

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  • Orchestra of the Swan marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with an unexpected pairing: David Bowie
  • Rebel Rebel examines the enduring cultural relevance and legacy of two visionary artists, which includes a resetting of Bowie’s songs for chamber orchestra written by OOTS Artistic Director David Le Page and composer/cellist Philip Sheppard
  • Music journalist and Bowie biographer Paul Morley introduces the concert

Orchestra of the Swan will mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with a dedicated concert that places the great composer’s work alongside an unexpected musical pairing: David Bowie.

Rebel Rebel examines the cultural relevance and far-reaching legacies of these two visionary artists. The evening includes a new work entitled ‘Ashes to Ashes’ which sets Bowie’s songs Station to Station, Lazarus, Fame, Aladdin Sane and Heroes for chamber orchestra, arranged by OOTS Artist Director David Le Page and composer/cellist Philip Sheppard.

The concert begins with the Grosse Fugue, one of Beethoven’s most radical and mystifying works and ends with perhaps his most popular, the 5th Symphony, widely considered to be one of the cornerstones of Western music.

The highly acclaimed music journalist Paul Morley will connect the pathways between Beethoven and Bowie during the concert. Paul wrote for the New Musical Express from 1977 to 1983 and has since written for a wide range of publications about both popular and classical music. He was a co-founder of the record label ZTT Records and was a member of the synthpop group Art of Noise. He has also been a band manager, promoter and television presenter. His biography of David Bowie The Age of Bowie was described as: “A thrilling hymn to a brilliant and beloved ‘song and dance man’. David Bowie did make a world of difference, and Paul Morley explains why.”

David Le Page, Artistic Director of Orchestra of the Swan, comments: “I felt inspired to create a concert that looks at two musical greats from different centuries and find the connections between them as artists. Both Beethoven and Bowie challenged the weight of received ideas and accepted musical norms during their respective lifetimes. Both men were possessed by an innate compulsion to reinvent themselves and their work. Despite coming from opposing ends of the musical spectrum they nevertheless shared an astonishing motivation to be in control of their own artistic destinies.”

He continues, “Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue was universally condemned by contemporary critics who described it as “incomprehensible” and “a confusion of Babel.” It is now considered among Beethoven’s greatest achievements. Igor Stravinsky said that “it is an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever.”

“For the re-setting of the Bowie works for orchestra, both myself and Philip Sheppard were keen to avoid the songs becoming straight replicas or orchestral cover versions and instead sought to create something unique, inspired by the imagination and curiosity of Bowie. Accordingly the new workuses cut-up methods, samples, Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies and aleatoric techniques.”

Rebel Rebel will be performed at the Play House in Stratford-upon-Avon on May 5th followed by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire on May 6th. There will be a further performance at the Istanbul Festival on June 21st.


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