Saturday, 9 May 2015

BBC Proms 2015 - a remarkable range.

Sir Henry Wood surveys the bomb damage after an air raid destroys the Queen’s Hall, 1941
Sir Henry Wood surveys the bomb damage
after an air raid destroys the Queen’s Hall, 1941
The Proms is now in its 120th year, and when the programme for the 2015 BBC Proms was announced last month I was curious that, in much of the press it was the popular elements which caught the press attention. Reading some articles you could think that the festival was entirely devoted to popular music. The fact that Pete Tong is presenting a Prom seemed to really stir things up, but in fact the Prom will also include that excellent ensemble The Heritage Orchestra. 

So, yes there are some more popular things (including Kitty Whately and Sian Philips in a Sondheim cabaret), but anyone who knows their Proms history will know that in Henry Wood's day the festival was always a mix of contemporary, traditional and popular. And I rather like the way that some of the Proms explore the intersection between popular and classical, mainly in late-night proms with a couple of matinees aimed at family audiences. Anniversaries are recognised too, with music by Sibelius, Nielsen and Boulez.

But contemporary music is still firmly in the foreground, and this year tmusic by 30 living composers is performed, from Eleanor Alberga and B Tommy Anderson to Hugh Wood, John Woolrich and Raymond Yiu. The oldest was born in 1925 (Pierre Boulez) and the youngest in 1986 (Alissa Firsova). This remains one of the Proms major achievements, the melding in of contemporary music with the popular and classical.

Jonas Kaufmann - Photo (c) Metropolitan Opera
At the Last Night
Jonas Kaufmann - Photo (c) Metropolitan Opera
Things open with a bang, with Belshazzar's Feast (both Sibelius and Walton), plus a Gary Carpenter premiere with BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Orami. The penultimate night is a great treat, Simon Rattle conducting the BBC Youth Choir and the Vienna Philharmonic in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with Magdalena Kozena, Toby Spence and Roderick Williams. The last night is being conducted by Marin Alsop and includes both Jonas Kaufmann and Danielle de Niese (for one lovely moment I imagined Kaufmann singing Rule Britannia!).

Along the way we get to hear RVW's Sancta Civitas with Sir Mark Elder conducting the Halle (plus Elgar's Symphony No. 2), RVW's Concerto Accademico from Chloe Hanslip, John Fould's Three Mantras, John Eliot Gardiner conducting Monteverdi's Orfeo and Berlioz Symphony Fantastique (not in the same concert!), Alice Coote in Handel, Donald Runnicles and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Verdi's Requiem, Mark Elder and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in Mahler, Glyndebourne's production of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, and Shostakovich's surviving portion of Orango, Sakari Oramo conducting Sibelius's Kullervo. All of Prokofiev's piano concertos are being performed in one stupendous prom (Valery Gergiev conducts the LSO and three pianists).

And the more popular elements? Well there is a BBC Radio 1 Prom, a BBC Asian Network Prom, a BBC Radio 6 Prom, a BBC Radio1 Xtra Prom, Claire Teal, The Heritage Orchestra, a Sherlock Homes prom, a Sondheim cabaret with Kitty Whately and Sian Philips, Bernstein from John Wilson and his orchestra, Jarvis Cocker with the BBC Philharmonic and Maxime Tortelier, and Grange Park Opera is bringing their production of Fiddler on the Roof with Bryn Terfel.

Full details and listing from the Proms website, but I have to confess that I still rely on the wonderful proms guide which is out now and booking opens next Saturday (16 May 2015)..

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