Classical: First night - A Week in the Life of London Music

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The Independent Culture
They say that a week is a long time in politics. Yet when it comes to London's thriving musical life, a week can seem fairly short. Certainly the coming one might, in terms of the sheer amount of thrilling concerts which cry out as worthy of attention, especially those at just two venues - the South Bank Centre and the Barbican Hall.

Any opportunity to experience Gustav Mahler's transcendental song cycle Das Lied von der Erde is, by itself, a special event. Tonight's performance of the work in the RFH, with Christoph von Dohnanyi conducting the Philharmonia, promises to be extra special, as the two hard-worked singers consist of the world-class pairing of stentorian tenor Ben Heppner and the new Swedish nightingale, mezzo-soprano Anne Sophie von Otter.

The eminent American composer Elliott Carter celebrates his 90th birthday in a couple of weeks and is, remarkably, still at the peak of his powers. The London Sinfonietta are celebrating the imminent nonagenarian with a Sunday evening concert in the QEH, which concludes with Carter's recent and fiendishly difficult Clarinet Concerto, with Michael Collins as soloist, plus music by Morton Feldman and Simon Holt.

At the Barbican on Monday there's more recent Americana, though of a very different kind - a screening of Godfrey Reggio's cult film Koyaanisqatsi, with the pounding soundtrack performed live by the man who wrote it, Philip Glass (above), leading his own ensemble. Also at the Barbican, on Wednesday, comes the first concert in a major new Elgar series with Sir Colin Davis conducting the LSO. Anthony Payne's brilliant realisation of the composer's unfinished Symphony No 3 is played alongside the Violin Concerto, with Kyoko Takezawa as soloist.

While Sir Colin ponders Elgar, von Dohnanyi continues his examination of Elgar's contemporary in his "Mahler and Vienna" series in the RFH on Thursday with another unmissable opus, the mighty 80-minute "Resurrection" Symphony (No 2), in which the Philharmonia is joined by the Bach Choir. Which leaves Friday at the Barbican, and an amazing once-in-a-lifetime chance to see and hear the hand-built instruments of American hobo and iconoclast Harry Partch on their first outing to the UK, in music by Partch himself and his disciple Dean Drummond, performed by Newband. Mahler, Elgar and American Pioneers - that's my recipe for the week ahead. And for a further five concerts which have just as much going for them, see the choices on p18. Who says classical music is dying out?

See Classical listings for times