CLASSICAL MUSIC

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The Independent Culture
It's a gripping winter for the London Symphony Orchestra: right through to mid-March their Barbican programme consists entirely of the Pierre Boulez 70th birthday celebrations and an even more concentrated dalliance with Sir Michael Tippett (below ) in the year of his 90th. Boulez has had the run of January and returns later. For the month to come he hands over to "Tippett: Visions of Paradise", under the artistic direction of Sir Colin Davis, the LSO's principal conductor-in-waiting and a champio n of Sir Michael's music. But it opens next week at the Coliseum with English National Opera's production of King Priam, Tippett's second opera, in a transfer of Tom Cairns's staging from Opera North.

Most of Tippett's operas were misunderstood or underrated at their first time out - of the last two, The Ice Break has only recently proved its powers of survival, while New Year still awaits a fresh look. Priam, a Sixties piece - it was commissioned alongside Britten's War Requiem to mark the building of the new Coventry Cathedral - was more or less read right musically at the first go as a venture into a new, bolder style. As drama it only revealed its full potential through Kent Opera's presentati onin the Eighties, giving it a new lease of life which the ENO/Opera North production has continued.

Paul Daniel is the conductor, but back at the Barbican it's Davis who has most of the action in a survey of large-scale orchestral pieces and both the choral epics at either end of his career: the universally-loved A Child of Our Time, which features in the first Barbican Hall concert, and The Mask of Time, a colossal summing-up piece which would be called heaven-storming if Tippett believed in that sort of cosmology. Through the month there are also concerts by the London Sinfonietta and smaller groups, all of them placing Tippett in a rich context of classical and English music from Mozart to Steve Martland. Sunday study sessions punctuate the action, and there's a photo exhibition from mid-month in the Stalls Gallery.

`King Priam' opens 3 Feb; Barbican concerts from 5 Feb. See listings for details

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