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Philharmonia And Esa-Pekka Salonen Present Beethoven’s Prometheus Narrated By Stephen Fry In New Philharmonia Session

24 November 2020

Salonen conducts the most ambitious Philharmonia Session to date: an animated performance of the full ballet of The Creatures of Prometheus, presented in the month of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth

A creative team brings the piece to life: Stephen Fry reads Gerard McBurney’s script telling the Prometheus story in-between symphonic movements, with animator Hillary Leben’s visuals bringing the story to life on screen

The project represents the move from live to digital concerts and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s focus on music inspired by Greek myth in his final Season as Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor

The free Session will be streamed on YouTube on Friday 4 December at 7.30pm and will remain online indefinitely

The Philharmonia Sessions series, filmed at Battersea Arts Centre, has had hundreds of thousands of viewers from all over the world tuning in for performances designed specifically for online audiences since the COVID-19 shutdown

On 4 December 2020, the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen present the final Philharmonia Session of 2020, filmed and recorded at Battersea Arts Centre.

In the Orchestra’s most ambitious online performance since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Salonen conducts the full ballet score of Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus, almost 250 years to the day since Beethoven’s birth.



Beethoven wrote his ballet score for a production of The Creatures of Prometheus in 1801, in just 11 days. It was a huge success and remained one of his most popular works throughout his lifetime. In the ballet, the gift of fire is interpreted as a metaphor for the civilizing power of science and the arts. To guide viewers through the story, Stephen Fry narrates Gerard McBurney’s new script between each movement, while motion designer Hillary Leben’s animations unfold on-screen.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principl Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: "I find the juxtaposition of the 'old' and 'modern' artform fascinating. If you think of the timeframe, Court dances were popular maybe 40 years before this piece was composed. They were still danced around 1800, but there was this transition, going from the very exclusive, narrowly-defined Court dancing to a more popular, more democratic way of looking at the idea of dance. The Contra dances were the vehicle for different social classes dancing together. That's a huge idea, that there is some kind of art or self-expression that allows people to forget their position on the ladder for once, and dance together. At the end there is a moment where the clay figures lead the aristocracy to dance. That's a profoundly revolutionary idea."



The Philharmonia was the first UK symphony orchestra out of lockdown with a major digital series, the Philharmonia Sessions, beautifully filmed performances designed for an online audience on YouTube, which was launched in July 2020 to critical acclaim, and has featured artists including cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, violinist Nicola Benedetti, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and conductors John Wilson, Paavo Järvi and Jakub Hrůša.

Access to the arts is a fundamental right. The Philharmonia Sessions are free and for everyone, streamed via the Philharmonia’s YouTube channel.

This programme, along with the Orchestra’s ability to make ambitious plans for the future is only made possible thanks to the vital support of Friends and Donors. During the Philharmonia Sessions, the Philharmonia will ask those that can to make a donation in support of the Orchestra’s work and national reach.

At a time when the Orchestra cannot play live for audiences in its residency venues across the UK, supporters’ donations will keep the Philharmonia playing for a global audience and secure the future of the Orchestra. For more information on how to support the Philharmonia please visit the website or contact via email.





Friday 4 December 2020, 7.30pm

BEETHOVEN The Creatures of Prometheus (complete ballet)
Esa-Pekka Salonen – conductor
Stephen Fry – narrator
Gerard McBurney – script writer
Hillary Leben – animator

Filmed at Battersea Arts Centre (filmed on 3/4 November)
YouTube premiere


The Philharmonia is proud to be supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

As a registered charity, the Orchestra relies on the support of our family of Friends, donors, corporate partners to deliver its programme.


About Philharmonia Orchestra
The Philharmonia is a world-class symphony orchestra for the 21st century. Based in London at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, the Philharmonia creates thrilling performances for a global audience. Through its network of residencies, the Orchestra has a national footprint, serving communities across England both in performance and through its extensive outreach and engagement programme.

Founded in 1945, in part as a recording orchestra for the nascent home audio market, today the Philharmonia uses the latest digital technology to reach new audiences for symphonic music. The Philharmonia is led by Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, its Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor since 2008. Fellow Finn Santtu-Matias Rouvali takes over from Salonen as Principal Conductor in the 2021/22 season.

The Orchestra’s home is Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, in the heart of London, where the Philharmonia has been resident since 1995. Southbank Centre is currently closed due to COVID-19, but the Philharmonia is working closely with the venue to plan its return to live performance.

Under Salonen and other key conductors, the Philharmonia has created a series of critically-acclaimed, visionary projects, distinctive for both their artistic scope and supporting live and digital content. Recent series include City of Light: Paris 1900-1950 (2015) and Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals (2016), which won a South Bank Sky Arts Award. In 2019, Salonen presented Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis, a celebration of the feverish creativity of the Weimar era through the prism of its music, drama and film. Orchestral programming is complemented by series including Philharmonia at the Movies, Music of Today, the Philharmonia Chamber Players and an Insights programme.

About Esa-Pekka Salonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen’s restless innovation drives him constantly to reposition classical music in the 21st century. He is known as both a composer and conductor and is currently the Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, as well as the Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. He is the Conductor Laureate for both the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009. As a member of the faculty of LA's Colburn School, he develops, leads, and directs the pre-professional Negaunee Conducting Program. Salonen co-founded—and from 2003 until 2018 served as the Artistic Director for—the annual Baltic Sea Festival, which invites celebrated artists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea.

The 2020-21 season is Salonen’s first as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony; it is also his final season as Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra. As a conductor and leader, he has become known for his groundbreaking approach to presenting and performing music, joining cutting-edge technological innovation with adventurous curation and meticulous performance. His past projects have included the Philharmonia’s Virtual Orchestra, the first major virtual-reality production from a UK symphony orchestra; the award-winning RE-RITE and Universe of Sound installations, which have allowed people all over the world to conduct, play, and step inside the orchestra through audio and video projections, and the much-hailed app for iPad, The Orchestra, which allows the user unprecedented access to the internal workings of eight symphonic compositions. As Artist in Association with the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, he has recently launched the interactive AI opera installation Laila; in 2015 he addressed the Apple Distinguished Educator conference on the uses of technology in music education.

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