The BBC Proms is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts.
The largest classical music festival in the world, the BBC Proms also boasts one of the mightiest venues. The Royal Albert Hall is a monument to the same Victorian pomp and splendour that swells through Edward Elgar’s music. What better way to open this season than with the composer’s biblical oratorio The Kingdom – the beautiful ‘slow movement’ of a musical triptych that started with The Apostles, but that would remain unfinished at Elgar’s death.
Celebrated Elgarian and Proms favourite Sir Andrew Davis, a Conductor Laureate of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, returns in his 70th-birthday year, joined by a distinguished cast of soloists.
The China Philharmonic Orchestra makes its Proms debut, launching this season’s global orchestras strand. East meets West in a colourful programme featuring Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4, Liszt’s First Piano Concerto and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Britain’s own queen of the trumpet, Alison Balsom, joins them in Shanghai-born Qigang Chen's new trumpet concerto, a work co-commissioned by the KT Wong Foundation, China Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC, alongside Dutch and German partners.
The World Orchestra for Peace returns with its conductor Valery Gergiev for its fourth Proms appearance and its only UK appearance this year. This classical supergroup celebrates Strauss’s 150th anniversary with the colourful, fairy-tale soundscapes of his operatic masterpiece Die Frau ohne Schatten.
Fantasy gives way to reality in the prescient tragedy of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, the glorious agony of its final movement foreshadowing the composer’s own personal heartbreaks.
Roxanna Panufnik’s Three Paths to Peace, commissioned by tonight’s orchestra, meshes Christian, Jewish and Islamic musical traditions to tell the story of Abraham and Isaac.
From the pastoral landscapes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 to the vibrant folk scenes of Strauss’s tone-poem and Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, tonight’s Prom takes a vivid journey across Central Europe. Celebrated Straussian David Zinman appears in his final concert as Chief Conductor of Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, stepping down after almost 20 years.
Strauss appears at his playful, joyous best in the exploits of folk-hero/prankster Till Eulenspiegel, while Julia Fischer makes a welcome return to the Proms in the last of the great Romantic violin concertos – an inventive and idiosyncratic work previously too often neglected in favour of Mendelssohn or Bruch.
Moeran’s lyrical Violin Concerto meshes the composer’s English heritage with his love of the Irish landscape. The English theme continues with Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations – his affectionate musical portraits of friends and family – and Walton’s Hindemith Variations, another intensely personal homage and the first work in this year’s focus on the music of William Walton. British music comes right up to date with the shifting soundscapes of David Horne’s Daedalus in Flight.
In the first of two Proms appearances, leading Bach interpreter Sir Roger Norrington – celebrating his 80th birthday this year – directs his Zurich Chamber Orchestra in the St John Passion (bookended later this season by Peter Sellars’s staging of the St Matthew Passion, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle) – a work noted for its dramatic sweep and emotional immediacy in the recounting of events leading to the crucifixion of Christ. It is realised here by a cast led by tenor James Gilchrist, a distinguished Evangelist of his generation.
Following on from the sell-out success of last year’s Doctor Who Prom and 2011’s Horrible Histories Prom, this year parents are invited to join their children for the first ever CBeebies Prom.
Take a journey through London with some of your favourite CBeebies characters and explore the sounds of the orchestra, as well as the everyday sounds around us. This morning’s adventure combines live music from the BBC Philharmonic and video action on screens around the hall. The next generation of classical music fans starts here.
Ravel’s La valse turns the Viennese waltz into a darkly tinged rhapsody, while his Valses nobles et sentimentales reflects the iconic dance in softer tones.
Duruflé’s Requiem is the musical cousin of Fauré’s more familiar Requiem and anchors its 20th-century harmonies in the same arching plainchant melodies of the past. Flute virtuoso Emmanuel Pahud joins the orchestra for the world premiere of Simon Holt’s flute concerto Morpheus Wakes – written for Pahud himself, who represents the god of dreaming ‘as if slowly waking from adeep, troubled sleep’.
Turbulent mythical love and poised Classical elegance come together in a concert that shifts from Jonathan Dove’s large-scale orchestral work Gaia Theory to the intimacy of the Viennese salon in Mozart’s ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 23.
Commissioned by Serge Diaghilev, Ravel’s ballet Daphnis and Chloe is rich in all the colours and rhythms of turn-of-the-century Paris – a masterpiece that announced its composer as a force with which to be reckoned.
Violinist Daniel Hope joins the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, which makes its Proms debut with a classical celebration of the Orient. Sneak into Mozart’s harem, witness the magnificent Queen of Sheba in portraits by both Handel and Respighi, and enjoy the insistent rhythms and swaying hips of Balakirev’s oriental fantasy Islamey. The concert also features a new violin concerto from Gabriel Prokofiev, commemorating the First World War centenary.
The intense, contrasting moods of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 – the bitter solemnity of its funeral march, the violence of its second movement and the tenderness of the famous Adagietto – make this one of the great orchestral showpieces.
In his Proms concerto debut, French pianist Alexandre Tharaud performs Ravel’s atmospheric and virtuosic Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, and the concert opens with the first of several works at this year’s Proms celebrating Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th birthday – an atmospheric plunge into mossy, melancholic darkness, lightened only by the call of birds.
Two rarely heard works continue our 150th-anniversary celebration of Richard Strauss. Scored for organ and an orchestra calling for no fewer than 10 trumpets (six offstage), the Festival Prelude packs symphonic weight into its brief duration.
It is matched for impact by the Deutsche Motette – a concerto for choir by any other name: its vocal lines trace the same expansive arcs and arabesques as the composer’s exquisite, autumnal Four Last Songs. Maintaining the mood of late-Romantic nostalgia, Elgar’s Second Symphony delights in flexible chromaticism, its shifting moods coloured in delicate shades.
The appearances of John Wilson and his orchestra have become one of the annual highlights of the Proms. Following the enormous success of the staged performance of My Fair Lady in 2012, John Wilson returns to perform Cole Porter’s Tony Award-winning musical Kiss Me, Kate in its original 1948 arrangements. He is joined by a cast of leading singers in this irreverent reworking of The Taming of the Shrew – a play within a play.
A Prom inspired by the National Theatre’s play based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, featuring a new suite created by Adrian Sutton from his score for the original production, as well as other music from the period with performers including the Proms Military Wives Choir and Gareth Malone.
Donald Runnicles and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra are joined by the National Youth Choir of Scotland for Mozart’s ever-popular Requiem – the composer’s poignant and prescient anticipation of his own death.
Scottish composer John McLeod’s The Sun Dances is a glowing, iridescent work inspired by an Easter folk legend from the West of Scotland. At the centre of the programme is Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, its muscular, structural elegance wound around a boisterous scherzo.
Spiritual in a secular age, combining silence and sound, simplicity and radiance, John Tavener captured the public imagination like few other composers. The other-worldly atmosphere of a Late Night Prom frames a musical meditation by the English composer, who would have celebrated his 70th birthday this year, as we approach the exact anniversary of Britain’s declaration of the First World War 100 years ago, at 11.00pm.
The Tallis Scholars and conductor Peter Phillips are joined by the Heath Quartet to perform two works written especially for them, including the heartbreakingly prescient Requiem Fragments, composed shortly before Tavener’s death.
Leading jazz singer Clare Teal presents a Late Night Prom with a difference as we are transported back to the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s with two of the greatest bands of the day, led at the time by Count Basie and Duke Ellington. With selections including Jumpin’ at the Woodside and It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing), and culminating in a bespoke ‘Battle Royal’, the roof will surely be raised as these giants of jazz do battle for the approval of the audience.
The sea lies the centre of tonight’s concert from Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé. The sunshine glitters on the waves of Berlioz’s swashbuckling overture Le corsaire, written while the composer was holidaying in Nice.
A celebrated Elgar champion, Elder is joined by British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote for Sea Pictures: Elgar’s only orchestral song-cycle, which ebbs and flows evocatively as it explores the fascination and fear inspired by the sea. While Helen Grime’s Near Midnight explores a nocturnal theme, Beethoven created a storm of human drama in his ‘Eroica’ Symphony – a stirring musical meditation on heroism and valour.
The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain makes its annual visit to the Proms with a fiery and virtuosic programme of 20th-century orchestral showpieces, conducted by Proms regular Edward Gardner.
A Russian first half sees BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Louis Schwizgebel take the lead in Prokofiev’s youthful First Piano Concerto. Written while the composer was still a student, it brims with the same audacious energy that pulses through Stravinsky’s great ballet Petrushka. Lutosławski’s vivacious Concerto for Orchestra closes the evening with still more primary-coloured, folkloric brilliance and drama.
Commissioned by Jascha Heifetz, Walton’s concerto extended the possibilities of what could be achieved on the violin, while at the same time maintaining a striking intimacy and emotional directness.
Søndergård and the BBC NOW open with a suite from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s ballet Caroline Mathilde, in which the English princess is sent to an unhappy marriage in Denmark, and continue with two great orchestral works by Sibelius. A painting of a flight of swans hung on the wall of the composer’s study, and these birds inspired both the majestic ‘swan theme’ apotheosis of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony and the more serene and mystical tone-poem The Swan of Tuonela.
Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad reflects a world on the brink of collapse while Vaughan Williams’s Pastoral Symphony is a vision of war-ravaged France. Like Butterworth, both Rudi Stephan and Frederick Kelly were killed in the First World War; the latter’s exquisite Elegy for strings was performed at his own memorial concert. Stephan’s Music for Orchestra (1912) finds a desperate intensity in its Expressionist colours.
This season’s showcase of global orchestras continues with the Proms debut of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, under its new Chief Conductor, Sir Andrew Davis. Together they explore the musical extremes of passion, despair, love and death. Perhaps the most powerful artistic expression of unrequited love, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique is a dark, vivid fantasy inspired by the woman who would eventually become his wife.
Strauss too had just married when he composed the soaring love theme of Don Juan. Elgar’s last major work, the Cello Concerto, traces more questioning shades of emotion. There’s a beautiful melancholy and tentative yearning to this work, coloured by the First World War: an elegy by any other name.
The West–Eastern Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim return for a colourful Spanish-flavoured evening.
We begin just outside Seville in Mozart’s vivacious Figaro overture, before drifting into the dreamy Spanish nights of Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole. Dreams give way to convulsing, urgent dance as we reach the Rapsodie’s latter movements – a preview of the rhythmic intensity of the composer’s Boléro.
Also featuring here are two works newly composed for the orchestra – both exploring the musical junctions of East and West.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Monteverdi Choir returns to the Proms with its founder-conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner for one of the greatest of all choral works – Beethoven’s mighty setting of the Mass.
It’s a work the choir has performed throughout its history, most recently in a second acclaimed recording. The unique atmosphere of a Late Night Prom is the perfect setting for this tumultuous spiritual journey, in which we acknowledge doubt and search for redemption.
Marin Alsop makes a welcome return following her triumph at last year’s Last Night, to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s First Symphony. Originally designated a ‘symphonic poem’, the work retains all the programmatic colour this suggests. A young hero travels through life, marvelling at nature and growing to maturity, but encountering the sorrows and conflicts of Fate at every turn.
Mahler’s long-limbed lyricism meets its match in the muscular drive of John Adams’s Saxophone Concerto, written for virtuoso soloist Timothy McAllister, and his iconic orchestral miniature Short Ride in a Fast Machine, which pulses with anarchic life.
Stay on after the Berliner Philharmoniker’s evening concert for a special Late Night Prom by Brit Award-nominated artist Paloma Faith, fêted for her sleek vocals and retro style.
This Prom sees the British singer-songwriter joined by a 42-piece jazz orchestra and the elite Urban Voices Collective for a performance that includes new arrangements of songs from her first two, double-platinum-selling albums, as well as from her most recent release, A Perfect Contradiction. A one-off performance striking an intimate mood in the Royal Albert Hall.
Cellist and conductor Han-Na Chang makes her Proms conducting debut as Music Director of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra – one of this year’s global orchestras, also making its debut. Their concert culminates in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, haunted by its recurring ‘Fate’ theme.
Vivid with contrasts and surging climaxes, the symphony is matched for drama by Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, a Proms favourite whose slow movement burns with restrained passion. Behzad Ranjbaran’s Seemorgh is inspired by the mythical Persian bird of its title.
The Cleveland Orchestra is one of America’s great ensembles. After an absence of almost a decade it returns to the Proms under Music Director Franz Welser-Möst for the first of two concerts.
If Brahms’s stormy and intricately structured First Symphony sees the composer at his most serious and structurally ambitious, his Academic Festival Overture is a rare example of his levity – an elegantly constructed musical thank-you-letter to Breslau University, taking its themes from boisterous student songs.
At the centre of the programme is a concerto commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra for its principal flautist Joshua Smith. Rejecting anything too grandiose, young German composer Jörg Widmann has opted for a suite of dance movements – playful, referential and imaginatively disorienting.
On Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s 80th birthday the Proms pays tribute to this leading figure in contemporary British music with a late-night programme of works selected by the composer.
The concert overture Ebb of Winter, commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra as part of its 40th-anniversary celebrations, captures the rugged, rough-hewn beauty of Davies’s Orkney home. We see a different side of island life in the joyous ebullience of the much-loved An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise. The fourth Strathclyde Concerto, for clarinet and orchestra, completes the concert – a thrilling tour de force, demanding equal virtuosity from soloist and ensemble.
Sakari Oramo directs his first Last Night of the Proms, joined by powerhouse Dutch violinist Janine Jansen. British patriotism and Strauss's anniversary celebrations combine for the first Proms performance of the composer's extraordinary cantata Taillefer. Ansell's romp of a nautical overture, Plymouth Hoe, and Ravel's gypsy-dance Tzigane add colourful contributions to this musical celebration that culminates, as always, with a mass singalong.