倫敦，作為其中一個古典音樂匯聚的世界首都，固然有很多專業的樂團。我有幸觀賞過各個樂團的演出，當中有 3 個樂團最令我印象深刻。他們未必是最赫赫有名的，但是他們的演出永遠都充滿啓發性，令聽眾興奮和鼓舞。
時至今天，倫敦交響樂團的演奏總是極其緊凑，音調無可挑剔，對樂章的詮釋也是清晰和富有説服力。此外，他們為超過 200 部電影錄製過原聲音樂，賣座鉅片的例子有「復仇者聯盟」、「解碼遊戲」、「星球大戰三部曲」、「哈利波特」（其中 4 部作品）和「忘形水」，更包括經典電影如「驚世未了緣」、「鐡達尼號」、「舒特拉的名單」、「齊瓦哥醫生」和「仙樂飄飄處處聞」。其中一個令樂團更為特別的項目 ——「聖路加」，是英國現今主要的管弦樂教育中心，此項目不但吸引更多人欣賞古典音樂，更舉辦不少教學活動，並為東倫敦的低下階層提供管弦音樂表演。
南岸交響樂團每年都會讓 33 名，來自世界各地音樂學院的優異畢業生加入他們著名的夥伴計劃，這些知名學院包括英國皇家音樂學院、皇家音樂書院，還有市政廳音樂及戲劇學院。此夥伴計劃希望為有才能的音樂家提供專業的音樂發展機會，讓他們在知名指揮家（如賽門．歐沃、愛德華．加德納、安東尼奧．帕帕諾、阿殊堅納西和奧利弗．克努森）的指導下，演奏和熟悉具挑戰性的管弦樂曲目。南岸交響樂團樂手的水準，與其他專業管弦樂團的資深樂手無異，前者有時甚至表現得更出色。南岸交響樂團的樂手常常表現出非常難得的水準：嚴謹、成熟、緊凑、無畏；同時更展現出他們對音樂深刻的理解和賞析。
這樂團最特別的地方，他們經常會憑藉記憶演奏經典的交響樂。在過去 5 年的 BBC 逍遙音樂節，他們表演了莫扎特的第 40 號和第 41 號交響曲，貝多芬第 3 號和第 6 號交響曲，還有蕭斯達高維契的第 9 號交響曲，而在樂手們面前，一張樂譜都沒有。正因如此，演出總是充滿想像力、感情和啟發性，而樂手之間和指揮都有著大量眼神交流。建議大家在 YouTube 上搜尋他們的影片來看看。他們的樂手都是站著演出（當然大提琴手、低音大提琴手和定音鼓手除外），而他們總是不斷為古典音樂帶來創新和獨特的面貌。
當然在倫敦還有很多出色的管弦樂團，例如倫敦愛樂樂團、皇家愛樂樂團、愛樂管弦樂團、啓蒙時代管弦樂團、BBC 交響樂團和 BBC 音樂會管弦樂團。在倫敦，如果你要選擇看古典音樂表演，節目簡直多不勝數、無從選擇，這個幸福的煩惱，在香港不會遇到。
The Three Best Orchestras in London
London, as one of the world capitals of classical music, has numerous professional orchestras. I have had the pleasure to attend concerts given by each orchestra, and here are the three most impressive, meaningful and entertaining orchestras in the British capital. They are not necessarily the most famous and well-known ones,
but I can assure you, their performances always inspire, thrill and excite the audiences.
1. London Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Orchestra, or LSO, is undoubtedly the finest orchestra in Britain, and also one of the best in the world. It is London’s oldest symphony orchestra and had collaborated with legendary conductors such as Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Thomas Beecham and Hans Richter. Many of their players are leading soloists in their own right, such as leader Roman Simovic, flautist Gareth Davies, clarinettist Andrew Marriner, oboist Olivier Stankiewicz and trumpeter Philip Cobb. Their current and previous music director, Sir Simon Rattle and Valery Gergiev, are two of the most powerful, influential and charismatic conductors in the classical music world and they have substantially expanded the orchestra’s repertoire, enriched its sound and enhanced its standard. Nowadays, the LSO always sounds incredibly tight in ensemble with impeccable intonation and offers lucid and convincing interpretations. Additionally, the LSO has also recorded the musical scores for more than 200 films, including blockbusters like The Avengers, The Imitation Game, Star Wars (Episodes I-III), four of the eight Harry Potter films and The Shape of Water, as well as classics such as Braveheart, Titanic, Schindler’s List, Doctor Zhivago and The Sound of Music. What makes the LSO extra special, is their innovative project ‘LSO St Luke’s’, which is specifically designed to become the United Kingdom’s foremost orchestral music education centre. Not only did this venture attract more people to appreciate classical music, it has also presented numerous educational projects and provided musical entertainment to people in deprived communities in East London.
2. Southbank Sinfonia
Some experienced and seasoned orchestral musicians would rest on their laurels and their playing often lacks innovation, passion and freshness. This problem would never happen with the Southbank Sinfonia, which along with the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic, is the finest orchestral academy in the world. Every year, the Southbank Sinfonia hosts 33 of the world’s most promising graduate musicians (from leading music schools like the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama) in its prestigious fellowship programme, which aims to provide these talented musicians the opportunity for professional development, as well as to perform and familiarise themselves with a wide- array of challenging orchestral repertoire under the guidance of notable conductors, including Simon Over, Edward Gardner, Antonio Pappano, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Oliver Knussen. The musicians of Southbank Sinfonia are as good as, and often even better than, the veteran musicians in professional orchestras. Indeed, they always performed with a rare combination of rigour, maturity, intensity, fearlessness and dedication, whilst demonstrating a profound understanding and appreciation of the music at the same time. Former fellows of the Southbank Sinfonia are now employed by many different orchestras in the world, including Michael Wilson, who is currently the Principal Oboe of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Additionally, the Southbank Sinfonia actually visited Hong Kong for its overseas debut in 2015 and I remembered leaving that concert thinking ‘These musicians are the future of classical music!’
3. Aurora Orchestra
Aurora Orchestra is arguably the most charismatic of all London’s professional orchestras. It was founded by two Cambridge graduates, Robin Ticciati and Nicholas Collon (who both are now renowned conductors), and their fellow members of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. What is particularly special about this
orchestra, is that they frequently perform classical symphonies completely from memory. Indeed, at the BBC Proms over the past five years, the Aurora Orchestra performed Mozart’s 40th and 41st symphonies, Beethoven’s 3rd and 6th symphonies as well as Shostakovich’s 9th symphony without any sheet music in front of the musicians. As such, their performances were always full of imagination, expressiveness and spontaneity, with plenty of eye contacts between players, and also between conductor and players. I strongly encourage readers to search for their videos on YouTube. Their musicians also performed standing up (apart from the cellists, bassists and timpanist, of course) and this orchestra continuously gives classical music a novel and unique outlook.
The other prominent orchestras in the British capital include the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the English Concert, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. You will be spoilt for choice looking for classical music performances when you are in London, a problem that you would never face in Hong Kong.