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London Philharmonic Orchestra plays in National Gallery in Covid lockdown tribute to Second World War concerts

Issued October 2020

Myra Hess’s 1940s Gallery concerts recreated with music played in the same room

A video recording of the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing in the National Gallery for the first time, filmed during lockdown earlier this year, will be broadcast this Saturday, 10 October.

Closed to the public for the first time in its 196-year history, the Gallery in July collaborated with the Orchestra to showcase art and music.

The resulting video concert, the first of four featuring orchestral players in chamber music selected to match the paintings, will be shown on 10 October, the anniversary of the first concert performed by Dame Myra Hess, in honour of the pianist who organised the Gallery’s famous lunchtime concerts during the Second World War.

Image: Musicians of the London Philharmonic Orchestra play in the Barry Rooms of the National Gallery © The National Gallery, London

Continuing the tradition of playing a concert for an audience living through a time of crisis, the musicians performed in the Gallery’s magnificent Barry Rooms, the same location as the wartime lunchtime concerts.

Image: Dame Myra Hess playing at the Barry Rooms of the National Gallery during the Second World War

But unlike those concerts in front of a live audience in a picture-less gallery that remained open despite the bombs falling, these post-Covid-19 concerts will be watched from homes.

Music for string players was chosen to match paintings in the Gallery’s collection, inspiring the performers as they played. In the first broadcast on Saturday, Dvořák’s Terzetto in C major, Op. 74 is performed as a response to Two Peasant Scenes by Giuseppe Maria Crespi and Lake Keitele by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

Later concerts to be broadcast over the next few weeks include Haydn’s String Trio in C major paired with Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame by François-Hubert Drouais; and Dohnányi’s Serenade for String Trio, Op.10 with Velázquez’s The Toilet of Venus and Klimt’s Portrait of Hermine Gallia.

Rossini’s Sonata for Strings is matched with Corot’s Italian Woman, Canaletto’s Regatta on the Grand Canal and William Hogarth’s The Graham Children.

The concert videos include a full performance of each work alongside interviews with the Gallery’s Director Dr Gabriele Finaldi and the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s former Chief Executive Timothy Walker. To accompany the performances, there is also a behind-the-scenes film with interviews with some of the musicians about how the project came to fruition.

The first performance will go live on Saturday morning on the Gallery’s website and YouTube channel and the following three performances will be streamed on our YouTube channel at 1pm on October 15, 22 and 29.

David Burke, Chief Executive of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, says:

"The London Philharmonic Orchestra is thrilled to be working with the National Gallery on this exclusive video series. Inspired by Myra Hess’s lunchtime concerts during the Blitz, we hope this collaboration between two of London’s major arts organisations can bring a moment of musical respite not only in London, but to audiences all over the world."

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London, says:

"Painting and music are the most natural of partners so this is a very happy collaboration between the National Gallery and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The Myra Hess concerts at the Gallery have acquired an almost mythical status for us and it was music that carried us through the war years. So the opportunity to do something with the London Philharmonic Orchestra during the Covid closure to bring music back to the Gallery and to remember those years when music played such an important role for the population has been an extremely pleasing thing to do."


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One of the finest orchestras on the international stage, the London Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1932 by Sir Thomas Beecham. Since then, its Principal Conductors have included Sir Adrian Boult, Bernard Haitink, Sir Georg Solti, Klaus Tennstedt and Kurt Masur. In 2007 Vladimir Jurowski became the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor and he will be succeeded by Edward Gardner in September 2021.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra has been performing at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall since it opened in 1951, becoming Resident Orchestra in 1992. It also has residencies in Brighton and Eastbourne, and performs regularly around the UK, including over 50 years as resident orchestra at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. The London Philharmonic Orchestra continues to be in demand around the world and gives around 35 concerts each year overseas.

The Orchestra broadcasts regularly on television and radio and has recorded soundtracks for numerous films including 'The Lord of the Rings'. In 2005 it began releasing live, studio and archive recordings on its own CD label. The London Philharmonic Orchestra is committed to inspiring the next generation of musicians. In 2017/18 the LPO celebrated its 30th anniversary of their Education and Community department, whose work over three decades has introduced so many people of all ages to orchestral music and created opportunities for people of all backgrounds to fulfil their creative potential. Highlights include the BrightSparks schools’ concerts and FUNharmonics family concerts; the LPO Young Composers programme; the Foyle Future Firsts orchestral training programme; and the LPO Junior Artists scheme for talented young musicians from communities and backgrounds currently under-represented in professional UK orchestras.

During the 2020 pandemic, the LPO has sustained its relationship with UK and international audiences through ‘LPOnline’, reaching many thousands of people. From initial individual player performances recorded at home, to online engagement initiatives such as its wellbeing strand Lean In and Listen, the Orchestra progressed over time to larger‐scale split‐screen performances, before finally being able to play together in small chamber groups for the free LPO Summer Sessions from Henry Wood Hall, as well as small‐scale outdoor performances at Glyndebourne. Autumn 2020 sees the Orchestra return at last to its Royal Festival Hall home to perform 13 full‐length concerts filmed live and streamed for audiences to enjoy at home via Marquee TV.


The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors. Admission free. More at 


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