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Frank Zappa score joins The Rest is Noise classical festival

By Tim Masters
Entertainment and arts correspondent, BBC News

image captionMusician Frank Zappa died in 1993

A controversial orchestral film score by music legend Frank Zappa is to have its UK premiere as part of a major celebration of modern classical music.

Zappa's 200 Motels will be performed this autumn as part of the Southbank Centre's ambitious The Rest is Noise festival.

A planned performance of the work at the Albert Hall in 1971 was pulled on the grounds of obscenity.

The UK premiere has come about after long negotiations with Zappa's estate.

"His widow Gail has been reluctant to allow it to happen unless it could be done in the manner he would have wanted, so it's taken us literally years to get to this stage, said Jude Kelly, the Southbank Centre's artistic director.

The 200 Motels premiere is part of the second half of The Rest is Noise Festival announced on Thursday.

American musician Zappa, who made more than 60 albums - including other classical works - in a career spanning more than three decades, died in 1993.

200 Motels is the orchestral score for the 1971 musical surrealist film co-written and directed by Zappa and Tony Palmer.

Involving an orchestral ensemble of more than 65 musicians and a chorus of 30, the piece will be performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and members of Southbank Sinfonia with conductor Jurjen Hempel on 29 October.

Kelly said: "Zappa was always very inspired and influenced by classical music. His 200 Motels calls on enormous orchestral forces. It was supposed to premiere at the Albert Hall and then it was pulled because it was thought to be unseemly."

Gillian Moore, head of classical music at Southbank Centre, said that when the 1971 concert was cancelled by the Albert Hall authorities it "formed a bad basis for Frank Zappa's relationship with classical music establishment".

Inspired by the 2007 book of the same name by music critic Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise Festival is a year-long exploration of 20th Century classical music.

It launches this weekend with Richard Strauss's 1905’ opera “Salome and will close in December with John Adams's nativity oratorio from the year 2000, El Nino.

Over the year, the festival will examine how social and political changes of the last century helped shape classical music. As well as concerts there will be film screenings, talks, debates and exhibitions.

image captionA month-long season in 2014 will mark the restoration of the Royal Festival Hall organ

"This is literally like a historical course," said Kelly. "Audiences can walk through the classical music of the 20th Century in chronological order."

She said such an approach is rare because most concert programmes are put together around one composer's work, or their relevance to another composer.

From September to December The Rest is Noise will focus on the post-war period from 1945 to 2000.

Jude Kelly: "It seems obvious to say but the terror of the Holocaust and the realisation of what Stalin had done meant that composers turned away from anything too romantic and lyrical because they felt that wouldn't represent what the world had shown us. It changed the nature of what they were writing."

Three concerts will be dedicated to English composer Benjamin Britten's centenary with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Vladimir Jurowski presenting opera Peter Grimes, War Requiem and rarely-performed orchestral music.

There will also be rare London performances by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; and the screening of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey with live accompaniment by the Royal Festival Hall's resident Philharmonia Orchestra.

Elsewhere, the Southbank Centre's 2013/14 season includes the London Philharmonic Orchestra's premiere of Gorecki's Fourth Symphony, the last work of the Polish composer who died in 2010.

The San Francisco Symphony returns to Southbank Centre for the first time in 19 years conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, while Antonio Pappano will return for the first time since 1998 conducting Rome-based Orchestra and Chorus of the Academy of Santa Cecilia.

Eight new works have been commissioned to celebrate the return of the Southbank Centre's fully-restored Royal Festival Hall organ which made its debut there in 1954.

The Pull Out All The Stops Festival - from 18 March to 13 April 2014 - includes new works by John Tavener, Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, and Turner Prize-winning artist and musician Martin Creed.

This story was amended on 18 January to clarify that Zappa's relationship with classical did not end with 200 Motels.

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