The challenges and gains of presenting an established New York-based musician to an entirely new city

Posted on: March 24, 2015 in: Programmes>2016-17 Season>ÉMIGRÉ

Combining classical music with his own unique blend of Balkan Gypsy, Russian folk, jazz and Klezmer, New York composer and musician Ljova joins the orchestra on 29 April to perform as part of our informal concert series, CLoSer.  Hailed by the New York Times as ‘dizzingly versatile… an eclectic with an ear for texture’, Ljova’s glittering reputation across the Atlantic has not yet reached London’s cultural scene, although there is no doubt that his unique sound will resonate with the hearts and ears of any music-lover. But how do you convince an audience to experience his music, when it is so hard to describe in words what it actually sounds like?! In our latest blog, our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann, explained a few of the challenges and gains of presenting this fantastic composer and musician to an entirely new city. 


There is always a risk when presenting any artist who’s (relatively) new to audiences, but particularly so in London – the main risk being that people won’t buy tickets!

Londoners are spoilt for cultural choice. We pride ourselves on our willingness to take risks on new artists, but the simple fact is that there is so much new music around us all the time that getting one particular artist or performance to stand out is very difficult. Why should I go see your amazing musician, when 20 other promoters are telling me about their amazing musician on the same night? Never mind that concurrent offerings in theatre, art, comedy, film, food, bars, dance, sewing classes, going home and watching telly with a bottle of wine and goodness knows what else are all competing for your attention.

We have a mission to bring in new audiences, and, I think, surprise and move our existing audiences, and Ljova will certainly do that. He is a fascinating artist and one who I think people need to hear.

Ljova playing (c) Anna Rozenblat


One of the challenges with introducing Ljova to London audiences is that he is almost indefinable in terms of musical genre. Classical, yes, kind of, mostly, but with some Klezmer, some gypsy, a bit of jazz worn lightly, Russian folk music and New York city sounds. You can see the issue. I know that he is amazing but where on earth do you put him in the listings? But with all these musical influences he is the perfect example of an Emigre artist. Well respected in the music community, he is someone that ignites your imagination but is best sold through live or recorded performance. You can experience Ljova’s music here:

It’s also more then just what audiences need to hear, it’s also about how our musicians will benefit from working with such a talented, visionary and collaborative musician. That gets reflected in the way they perform. It inspires their playing, encourages them to be more daring and builds their capacity as artists.

Lev ‘Ljova’ Zhurbin and his band, Ljova and the Kontraband. (c) Allan Tannenbaum


But why should you come and hear Ljova in April? Quite simply, Ljova writes and plays his own beautiful music. There is something new and wonderful in Ljova – he is a unique, unclassifiable artist who knocks you over in the most beguiling and charming way possible.

I am always looking out for the next new and exciting thing, but I’m also a cynic, and it’s always easier to find reasons why a musician won’t work, but when I heard Ljova’s music it was just so beautiful – that I spent one of the most enjoyable hours I have ever had in a concert without ever once thinking of all the usual clutter that fills my head when hearing a new artist. I just listened. So, listen to some of his music online, share it with your friends, bring them to CLoSer. You won’t be disappointed.

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CLOSER: Émigré – Ljova 
Wednesday 29 April 2015, 7:30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.