BBC Proms 2019 season unveiled
Celebrations of the solar system and planet earth take centre stage this year, alongside anniversary events for Proms founder Henry Wood
The programme for this year’s BBC Proms has been revealed, with major celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings scheduled across the season. Founder and conductor Sir Henry Wood is also honoured this year, as the Proms celebrates the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Composers have long been inspired by the sound of space, imagined or otherwise. This year’s season will highlight some of these works to mark the anniversary of the moon landings. Holst’s The Planets and John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine will be performed, as well as premieres of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos, which is focused around the concept of black holes, and a work by Zosha Di Castri about the moon landings, which will be the first piece heard at the 2019 Proms.
Public Service Broadcasting has its own Late Night Prom this year, orchestrating its 2015 concept album The Race for Space, which blends music with broadcast recordings from the US/USSR Space Race era. Expanding on the space theme further, there will also be a Sci-Fi Film Music Prom in which the London Contemporary Orchestra will take on legendary scores from cult sci-fi films.
Exploring how our role on earth ties in with the solar system, Hans Zimmer has been commissioned by the BBC for this year’s Ten Pieces scheme. His new work, Earth, will be performed in the CBeebies Prom by the Chineke! Orchestra. This Prom will also be broadcast on CBeebies.
With a diverse range of performers, we will see Proms debuts from a clutch of BBC New Generation Artists as well as Eric Lu, winner of the 2019 Leeds International Piano Competition. Alongside these young performers are legends including Murray Perahia, who will play Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic, under 2018 BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Year winner Bernard Haitink.
As ever, the Proms venture beyond the walls of the Royal Albert Hall with the Proms at… series. This year, concerts will be held at Cadogan Hall, Battersea Arts Centre and the Holy Sepulchre London, where Proms founder Sir Henry Wood is buried.
Wood’s anniversary is being marked in several ways during this year’s season. As a major advocate of new music, Wood used the Proms as a platform for showcasing newly-written compositions. Thirty-three of the works Wood gave British and world premieres of will be performed again this year, including Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Sibelius’s Violin Concerto and Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra. The 2019 Proms will match this number, with 33 new works commissioned this year.
Henry Wood was a fan of dedicating a full night to one composer, a programming style which will be emulated in the final week of this year’s Proms season with concerts given over to Wagner, Bach and Beethoven.
To mark the 120th anniversary of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, a new anonymously-written theme has been written, inspired by Elgar’s legendary orchestral work. This new piece features variations by 14 composers including Sally Beamish, Judith Weir and Sir Harrison Birtwistle.
Other anniversaries and birthdays celebrated in this year’s Proms include those of Berlioz, Louis Andriessen, Peter Eötvös and Sir James MacMillan.
New BBC conductors will make their Proms debuts this year: the BBC Philharmonic’s new chief conductor Omer Meir Wellber and the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s principal guest conductor Dalia Stasevska. In other firsts in 2019, Karina Canellakis will be the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms.
Mezzo-soprano and winner of the 2018 BBC Music Magazine Vocal Award Jamie Barton will take to the stage for this year's Last Night of the Proms, accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under its chief conductor Sakari Oramo.
All Proms will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and 25 of the concerts will be available to watch on BBC TV.
The BBC Proms will take place from Friday 19 July to Saturday 14 September 2019.
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.