Review of concert from 2001-05-04: London, Royal Festival Hall; Total Meltdown - Solo
Independent, 2001-05-05
- Louise Jury


Costello and Cave help the Royal Festival Hall celebrate 50th birthday

By Louise Jury, Media Correspondent

05 May 2001

Nick Cave and Elvis Costello had the Royal Festival Hall rocking last night and the classical luminaries Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davieswill continue celebrations to mark the hall's 50th anniversary this weekend.

Britain's first large post-war building ­ the only one to have survived from the 1951 Festival of Britain ­ is celebrating its half century with performances from some of the best-known pop and classical musicians.

The party got under way on Thursday night with a concert starring the Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu and attended by Peter Mandelson, whose grandfather, the politician Sir Herbert Morrison, was the chief promoter of the Festival of Britain.

The actress Joanna Lumley was also present to begin a fund-raising drive for £30m to help to pay for a £60m refurbishment of the Grade I listed hall.

Lumley, 55, said: "At 50, the Royal Festival Hall still looks great for her age but like many of us she does need a bit of loving care and attention."

The celebrations continued last night with a special version of Meltdown, the South Bank Centre's contemporary music festival, which brought together musicians including Cave and Costello.

Today events range from Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and his War Requiem, with soloists Ian Bostridge and Melanie Diener, to the New London Consort and Alban Berg Quartet performing Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Beethoven's A minor Quartet.

Sir Simon Rattle will conduct the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a performance of Mozart's Symphony No 40. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies will also conduct the première of his latest and, the composer says, his final work, Antarctic Symphony.

The choice of works by Britten is in recognition of the British composer's fierce support of the Royal Festival Hall in its early years. One of his scores is buried with the foundation stone.

Karsten Witt, the South Bank Centre's chief executive, said there was a great deal to celebrate. "The Royal Festival Hall is special not just for its extraordinary architecture, but for its rich heritage created by the very greatest talents in music performing here."

Artists as varied as the pianist Alfred Brendel, the violinist Nigel Kennedy, the conductors Toscanini and von Karajan, the pop group Radiohead and Frank Sinatra have appeared there.