BBC Proms premieres: all the new works commissioned for the 2022 BBC Proms season

We explore the new works being performed at The BBC Proms 2022

A picture of the Royal Albert Hall
Published: July 15, 2022 at 10:07 am
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The BBC Proms are renowned for commissioning and performing new pieces every year – some by already well-established and acclaimed composers; others by exciting new talent. Either way, they represent an exciting chance to hear some works at the start of their performing history.

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BBC Proms premieres 2022

Works that have never been performed before, many of which have been commissioned by or in collaboration with the BBC Proms

Hildur Guðnadóttir: The Fact of the Matter (BBC commission; world premiere)

20 July (Prom 8)

Icelandic cellist and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (b1982) is most widely known for her Oscar-winning score for <Joker>[itals] (2019 – see also 1 August, Prom 21). She in fact is principally a composer of ‘art’ music, having released two albums – Mount A (2006, originally released under the pseudonym Lost in Hindurness) and Without Sinking (2009) - before she ventured into writing film music in 2011. Her most recent album, Saman (2014), like her previous two, principally features herself playing cello – mostly solo – and occasionally singing, the overall result both soulfully melodious and haunting.

Her Proms commission, The Fact of the Matter, is a 15-minute work to be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dalia Stasevska.

Sally Beamish: Hive (BBC co-commission; world premiere)

21 July (Prom 9)

One of the most approachable of English composers, Sally Beamish (b1956) has written this major orchestral work – lasting about 23 minutes – as a vehicle for harpist Catrin Finch, who will perform with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Ariane Matiakh. It was music’s power to tell a story, as revealed by Malcolm Arnold’s Tam O’Shanter, which first inspired Beamish to become a composer. The new piece Hive, said by the composer to ‘depict the dramatic life of a beehive over the year’, naturally includes ‘the sounds of bees and birdsong’.

Cheryl Frances-Hoad: Your Servant, Elizabeth (BBC commission; world premiere)

22 July (Prom 10)

Specially commissioned to celebrate Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, Cheryl Frances-Hoad (b1980) has set out to write a piece that will make all sorts of connections: with music written for Queen Elizabeth I over 400 years ago – most particularly that by William Byrd; and, most importantly – says Frances-Hoad – with ‘everyone, from the performers to those watching on the telly at home, in a dignified yet joyful and glorious musical tribute to our longest reigning monarch.’ The programme, performed by the BBC Singers and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth, also includes music by the present Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir.

Jennifer Walshe: The Site of an Investigation (London premiere)

28 July (Prom 17)

Dublin-born Jennifer Walshe (b1974) is a former student of fellow Dubliner Kevin Volans. She also pursued composition studies at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and twenty years ago took her PhD in composition at Northwestern University, Illinois. She has also held positions in Germany, where she has received many commissions.

Composed in 2018, The Site of an Investigation for symphony orchestra and amplified solo voice was premiered in Dublin the following year. Addressing contemporary events and issues as she then saw them – ‘the climate emergency, precarity, Mars exploration, AI’ – it was also completed shortly after the death of her friend, the actor Stephen Swift: the work is dedicated to his memory. A lot has happened since, most notably the pandemic and its effects. Yet it remains a timely piece, and should make a strong impression with conductor Ilan Volkov conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the composer herself delivering its spoken text.

You may see its 2019 Dublin premiere here:

Nicole Lizée: Blurr is the Colour of My True Love’s Eyes (BBC co-commission: European premiere)

29 July (Prom 18)

Once a member of the Montreal indie rock band The Besnard Lakes, Nicole Lizée (b1973) is now one of Canada’s leading contemporary composers with works commissioned by such leading ensembles as the Kronos Quartet and the San Francisco Symphony. In a recent interview, she confessed that the figure that has most inspired her is Kate Bush.

Lizée’s concerto, Blurr is the Colour of My True Love’s Eyes will be arriving hot from its premiere in Ottawa last June. Co-commissioned by Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) and BBC Radio 3, the work is specifically tailored for star percussionist Colin Currie, inspired by his musicianship and his enthusiasm for Lizée’s work. Currie himself will perform the work with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alpesh Chauhan.

Hildur Guðnadóttir & Sam Slater: Battlefield 2042 (European premiere)

1 August (Prom 21)

Just to prove there’s something for everyone, the BBC Proms this year offers its first Gaming Prom, subtitled ‘From 8-Bit to Infinity’. For premiere enthusiasts there’s the chance of hearing Hildur Guðnadóttir and Sam Slater’s music for the popular first-person shooter game, Battlefield 2042, in a Suite arranged for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra by the concert’s conductor, Robert Ames.

Icelandic cellist and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (b1982) and sound designer Sam Slater are a well-established team, together creating the Academy Award-winning score for the film Joker (2019), and music for the historical miniseries Chernobyl. Battlefield 2042 was the first project on which they worked together as co-composers: their brief was to avoid the usual heroic symphonic style and create something ‘disruptive’. All the sounds heard were created using earth, metal, glass, and sand, their sounds stretched and distorted to create musical sounds. If you’re curious to hear how Ames has translated all this into orchestral terms….

Julian Anderson: Symphony No. 2 ‘Prague Panoramas’ (BBC co-commission: London premiere)

5 August (Prom 26)

New works by Julian Anderson (b1967), typically beautifully scored and musically intriguing, have been major highlights in past Proms seasons. Their power is to an extent explained by his blunt statement in an interview published earlier this year: ‘If I don’t like the music I write myself, who the hell else has a chance to? It is all about communicating.’

Inspired by a book of historic, wide-angle photographs of Prague by Josef Sudek that Anderson came across at an exhibition, his Second Symphony’s premiere was long delayed due to the pandemic. Anderson took advantage of the delays, fine-tuning the score before it was finally premiered this past January in Munich. It has since – appropriately – been performed in Prague conducted by Semyon Bychkov, who will again conduct the work at this Proms performance.

The performance on 22 April 2022 by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Semyon Bychkov:

Gavin Higgins: Concerto Grosso for Brass Band & Orchestra (BBC Commission: world premiere)

8 August (Prom 30)

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, having already premiered Beamish’s Hive earlier in the season, will be joining forces in this Prom not just with a soloist, but a whole ensemble in the form of the award-winning Tredegar Band. The work is by Gavin Higgins (b1983), a composer whose first music making was as a tenor horn player in his local brass band.

Higgins grew up in a mining community in the Forest of Dean, and his punchy, visceral writing frequently taps into his pit band roots. He describes his Concerto Grosso as ‘a love letter to that music and those people’.

Matthew Kaner: Pearl (BBC commission: world premiere)

10 August (Prom 33)

One can hardly ask for a better solo singer for a new work, or indeed any other work requiring a sensitive response to text, than baritone Roderick Williams, who will be singing the world premiere of Pearl by British composer Matthew Kaner (b1986). This sets extracts from a medieval English lament, as translated by Simon Armitage. This tells of a man, mourning the death of a young child, who revisits the place where he lost her. There he falls asleep, and dreams of her in the afterlife. As Kaner explains, his work depicts ‘the protagonist’s earthly mourning, his dream vision and the uncanny yet moving appearance of his daughter in paradise, surrounded by the heavenly choir of all those who have also left this world. It’s an explicitly religious text but I’ve tried to steer the piece towards a universal message of grief and redemption.’

Anna Thorvaldsdottir: ARCHORA (BBC co-commission; world premiere)

11 August (Prom 34)

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b1977), currently based in London, composes richly atmospheric music – or, as her website describes it: ‘It is written as an ecosystem of sounds, where materials continuously grow in and out of each other, often inspired in an important way by nature and its many qualities, in particular structural ones, like proportion and flow.’

ARCHORA, according to the composer’s own note, ‘centres around the notion of a primordial energy and the idea of an omnipresent parallel realm – a world both familiar and strange, static and transforming, nowhere and everywhere at the same time.’ It will be performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Eva Ollikainen.

Missy Mazzoli: Violin Concerto ‘Procession’ (European premiere)

14 August (Prom 38)

In a recent interview, the American composer Missy Mazzoli (b1980) outlined her creative credo: ‘With each work, I endeavour to provide a new language for thoughts and feelings we suppress in everyday life, a recognition of the vulnerable and terrifying parts of ourselves. I also want to provide space in which we can process the overwhelming nature of the world.’

Her Violin Concerto, ‘Procession’, is her response to the on-going pandemic – an evocation of the ‘spells, incantations, processions and ecstatic dances’ that were the ‘medieval healing rites developed during pandemics’. Jennifer Koh will be the soloist, with the Philharmonic conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali.

Mark-Anthony Turnage: Time Flies (BBC co-commission: UK premiere)

15 August (Prom 39)

Invited to the Tokyo Olympics, but unable to attend due to a global travel ban, Mark-Anthony Turnage (b1960) responded three years ago with this jazz-inspired work. But rather than something light-hearted, you should expect something gritty and emotionally affecting. In a recent interview, Turnage confessed that his new work was inspired by his Pentecostal upbringing: ‘Being told every day of your childhood you were going to burn for eternity unless you repented your sinful ways tends to breed fear and a deep dread. I still have apocalyptic nightmares. They fuel my music, which tends to be pretty pessimistic.’

Thomas Adès: Märchentänze (UK premiere)

26 August (Prom 52)

The pastoral strains of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending may seem an unlikely companion to a new work by Thomas Adès (b1971), a composer of usually splintering style. But here is a new violin work, Märchentänze – ‘dances from fairytale’ – a four-movement suite which might be a surprising fit: like the Vaughan Williams, it was originally scored for violin and piano (in 2020); and – surprisingly unlike Lark Ascending but characteristic of Vaughan Williams – it includes a folksong; and which includes in its third movement, ‘A Skylark for Jane’, what the composer describes as ‘an outpouring of birdsong’. You may compare and contrast as violinist Pekka Kuusisto performs both these works…

Errollyn Wallen: Lady Super Spy Adventurer (world premiere)

29 August (Proms at Birmingham)

At just four minutes – and as the final item of a programme whose heart is 15 minutes of Lieder, Op. 4 by the formidable Dame Ethel Smyth – this promises to be relatively short and sweet. Errollyn Wallen (b1958) herself explains that ‘I had an imaginary cartoon character in mind’; otherwise, she leaves the song to explain itself. It will be performed by mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones, winner of the Audience Prize at last year's BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, with Simon Lepper at the piano.

Public Service Broadcasting: This New Noise (BBC commission: world premiere)

30 August (Prom 58)

Back in 2019, cult ‘retro-futurists’ Public Service Broadcasting brought dancing astronauts and a Sputnik into the Albert Hall in their The Race to Space. The BBC loved it enough to invite them back this year to help celebrate a century of (appropriately) public-service broadcasting. This New Noise, we are promised, is to be ‘a joyously eclectic, album-length celebration of 100 years of BBC Radio, backed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra’.

Philip Glass: No more, you petty spirits (BBC co-commission: world premiere)

3 September (Proms and the ENO at Printworks, London)

‘Glass Handel’ sounds almost as if it’s meant to be a pun. It’s in fact a straightforward if slightly unusual pairing of the great and beloved Baroque composer with the pioneering minimalist of our time. ‘No more, you petty spirits’ has been specially written to fit this programme of music by those two composers, and as such is written for countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo with a suitable selection of instruments – including harpsichord – played by musicians of the English National Orchestra directed by Karen Kamensek. Also participating will be George Condo doing live painting, and nature beatboxer/vocal sound designer Jason Singh.

Marius Neset: Geyser (BBC commission: world premiere)

3 September (Prom 63)

Making his Proms debut, Norwegian jazz saxophonist and composer Marius Neset (b1985) is clearly hoping to make more than a splash with his new work, which – lasting 65 minutes – takes up a whole Late Night Prom. On his own website, Neset says: ‘I’m very inspired by people like Frank Zappa, Django Bates, Pat Metheny and Wayne Shorter where the music and the playing is one.’ Add to that mix Mahler and Messiaen, and you may have some idea what to expect. Neset and his quintet will join forces with the London Sinfonietta and conductor Geoffrey Patterson.

Betsy Jolas: bTunes (world premiere)

5 September (Prom 66)

Franco-American composer Betsy Jolas (b1926) is a former pupil of no less than Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen, and for a while was the latter’s assistant at the Paris Conservatoire. Though her musical style has always been ‘advanced’, she has expressed the desire to ‘write beautiful music’ and is admired by conductors including Simon Rattle and Kent Nagano. bTunes is a piano concerto – not the first by Jolas, though she tends to conceal works she writes in that genre with quirky titles, such as Stances composed in 1978. Her latest is in the form of a suite, and she says ‘reflects the way most people listen to music today – through playlists’. It has been written specifically for the soloist at this Prom, Nicolas Hodges, who will perform with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Karina Kanellakis.

James B Wilson: 1922 (BBC commission: world premiere)

10 September (Last Night of the Proms)

Following This New Noise by Public Service Broadcasting (30 August), here’s an alternative celebration of the BBC – specifically its first broadcast a century ago. James B Wilson (the ‘B’ is to distinguish him from the Irish composer James Wilson, who coincidentally was born in 1922, whereas our JBW was born in 1990) studied at the Royal Academy of Music under the colourful Gary Carpenter (some people may remember Carpenter’s ‘star turn’ early in his career in the original version of The Wicker Man), as well as taking lessons with Maxwell Davies.

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Wilson’s other influences range from Benjamin Britten to the films of David Lynch. Among his many distinctive collaborations, with such musicians and ensembles as the pianist Benjamin Grosvenor and Genesis16, perhaps the most outstanding is being the first composer to be commissioned to write a piece for the Chineke! Orchestra; the resulting piece, The Green Fuse, being premiered at The Cheltenham Festival.

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