Thursday 28 April 2022

Hooray for summer and all that it has to offer! Tony Cooper reports on this year’s BBC Proms, the world’s largest classical-music festival

BBC Proms 2022

And summer has a lot to offer for classical-musical aficionados wherever they are with the BBC Proms running this year at full strength. Glory be! And from the opening concert on Friday 15 July 2022 to the famous Last Night on Saturday 10 September there’s a feast of music over a wonderfully packed eight-week season offering more than 80 concerts featuring 3000 musicians thus making the BBC Proms the largest festival of its kind in the world. There’re also a host of free events designed to extend and further enrich one’s Proms experience aiming to offer a summer of music that allows for the most diverse and exciting musical journeys. 

Remember, the Proms reaches far and beyond the Royal Albert Hall and every Prom will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and available on BBC Sound while 22 Proms will be broadcast on BBC television and BBC iPlayer including, of course, the First Night and Last Night concerts. And for the second year running the entire festival will be presented as a binaural audio stream enabling radio listeners to experience the concerts as if they were present in the Royal Albert Hall.

The Proms - so closely associated with Sir Henry Wood (Old Timber) who, by the way, was no stranger to my home city of Norwich as he was artistic director/conductor of the Norfolk & Norwich Triennial Festival from 1908 to 1930 - bring to London some of the world’s greatest classical orchestras and musicians while this year 17 new commissions will showcase the extraordinary range of today’s orchestral composers ranging from virtuoso jazz saxophonist Marius Neset’s 65-minute piece, Geyser to a 15-minute work by Icelandic-born, Oscar-winning Joker composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir. 

This year, too, sees the ‘homecoming’ to the Royal Albert Hall of a large-scale orchestral repertoire offering a programme on a scale not heard at the Proms since 2019 ranging from Verdi’s Requiem (a First Night treat) to Mahler’s Second Symphony (The Resurrection) with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle on 24 August. Book the date! 

A star-studded roster of soloists has been lined up and the likes of such luminary performers as Lise Davidsen, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Nicola Benedetti, Leif Ove Andsnes, Yuja Wang and Jamie Barton will be beating a path to Kensington Gore joined by celebrated orchestras and ensembles from across the world including the Berliner Philharmoniker led by Kirill Petrenko, the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Australian World Orchestra led by Zubin Mehta. The Proms will also welcome European broadcasting orchestras from Austria, Finland and Germany who’ll join the BBC orchestras and choirs, the beating heart of the Proms. 

The Proms will also welcome the newly formed Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra as part of their European and US tour. Brought together by the Metropolitan Opera, New York and the Polish National Opera, this brand-new orchestra is led by Canadian-Ukrainian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson and includes recently refugeed Ukrainian musicians, Ukrainian members of European orchestras and some of the top musicians of Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odesa and elsewhere in Ukraine.  

The Ukraine Ministry of Culture is granting a special exemption to military-age male members of orchestras inside the country thus enabling them to participate in a remarkable demonstration of the power of art over adversity. Following the inaugural concert in Warsaw the orchestra’s first stop will be in London at the Proms (31 July) ahead of concerts in European cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, Edinburgh, Hamburg and Munich as well as Snape Maltings before culminating with concerts in New York and Washington DC.  

This year, the Proms looks back across 100 years of great British broadcasting to commemorate the BBC’s centenary year and looks forward to a new generation of music-making with more than 60 artists making their Proms débuts. In a perfect alignment of values and ambition, the partnership between the nascent BBC and the Proms in 1927 took Sir Henry Wood’s vision of universalising classical music to new heights. In Sir Henry’s words: ‘With the whole-hearted support of the wonderful medium of broadcasting, I feel that I am at last on the threshold of realising my lifelong ambition of truly democratising the message of music and making its beneficent effect universal.’ 

Marking the BBC’s centenary is the world première of This New Noise, a multimedia commission from cult band, Public Service Broadcasting, featuring rare material from the BBC archives. This year’s festival will also stage a series of concerts in collaboration with beloved BBC brands: Radio 1 Relax, CBeebies and the BBC Natural History Unit for the first-ever Earth Prom presented by Chris Packham, exploring the work of the NHU who first broadcast David Attenborough’s earliest adventures 

The Proms continues to explore new genres and venues, too. Stand-out moments include a genre-defying Prom with English National Opera in the spectacular space of Printworks London (a former printing plant based in Rotherhithe) which will host an immersive spectacle of music, dance, theatre, video, audio soundscapes and haute couture featuring contrasting works by Philip Glass and Handel.  

This year’s festival will also stage the first-ever Gaming Prom: From 8-Bit to Infinity, presented by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Robert Ames, who’ll explore the sound-worlds of video games. There’ll also be a Prom dedicated to the musical genius of Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, as well as a showcase of South African jazz featuring Mercury Prize-nominated singer ESKA and double MOBO Award-winning saxophonist Soweto Kinch while Proms débuts come from a range of star performers across a wide range of genres including Tony, Grammy and Emmy award-winning singer Cynthia Erivo and Indian sarod maestro, Amjad Ali Khan.  

And to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the BBC Concert Orchestra will present a Prom celebrating the long and fruitful relationship between music and monarchy ranging from Handel’s Water Music to a new commission from British composer, Cheryl Frances-Hoad. 

The season culminates in the celebratory Last Night of the Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and BBC Singers. This year’s festival finale is led by Dalia Stasevska who will be joined by star soloists, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Lise Davidsen, with the programme featuring a world première by fast-rising British composer, James B. Wilson. 

The 2022 Proms also marks the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s birth. Therefore, popular ‘favourites’ such as the soaring The Lark Ascending and the haunting Tallis-inspired Fantasia will take their place alongside the visceral Fourth Symphony and the rarely heard concertos for oboe and tuba.  

Other composer anniversaries being honoured this year include César Franck at 200, Iannis Xenakis at 100 and George Walker at 100 as well as British composer, Doreen Carwithen, at 100, too, thus forming part of the Proms’ ongoing initiative to celebrate and showcase female pioneers from the past. The 2022 Proms also shines a spotlight on the extraordinary musical life of Ethel Smyth, whose March of the Women was premièred at the Royal Albert Hall in 1911 and became the anthem of the Suffragette movement.  

David Pickard, Director, BBC Proms, says: ‘It is a momentous year for the world’s largest classical music festival. I’m delighted that large-scale orchestral and choral repertoire will once again be heard in the Royal Albert Hall and that we can celebrate the return of international orchestras. In the BBC’s centenary year, we can be proud that the Proms has been a part of the organisation for 95 of those 100 years, playing a key role in the Corporation’s mission to inform, educate and entertain. After two adapted seasons, we look forward to welcoming audiences back this summer for eight glorious weeks of music making.’ Indeed, we do, David! Boom! Boom! 

The Proms continues its commitment to accessible ticket prices with seats from £8.50, half-price tickets for under-18s and Promming day tickets at £6 (plus booking fees) while over 96,000 tickets will be available for £20 and under. 

Tickets are available via the website or 020 7070 4441 and in person at the Royal Albert Hall. Check out the full Proms programme by visiting 

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