BBC Proms premieres: all the new works commissioned for the 2021 BBC Proms season

The BBC Proms are renowned for commissioning new pieces by a raft of new composers every year – many of which go on to be considered major works in the classical music canon

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BBC Proms world premieres 2021

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

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30 July (First Night of the Proms)

James MacMillan: New work

A co-commission

Sir James MacMillan was first commissioned by the BBC Proms back in 1990 for his work for symphony orchestra titled The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, based on one of the women executed for witchcraft in 17th-century Scotland. His work has been performed at the BBC Proms several times since and this year, he’ll be opening the 2021 First Night of the Proms with a currently unnamed piece.

2 August

Elizabeth Ogonek: Cloudline

A co-commission with the Los Angeles Philharmonic

American composer Elizabeth Ogonek has based this work on the finale of Brahms‘s Symphony No. 4, which is also being performed in the concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The piece has been described as ‘a lyrical homage to ancient musical forms and techniques.’

8 August

Augusta Read Thomas: Dance Foldings

It’s inevitable that artists and composers have turned to this turbulent year for creative stimulation, and none more so than American composer Augusta Read Thomas. Dance Foldings takes inspiration from the ‘ballet’ of proteins dancing within the body that a vaccine helps activate within the human body.

This is the first of the BBC’s series of Proms commissions celebrating the Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary and its role in promoting the arts and the sciences.

10 August

Britta Byström: Parallel Universes

The Swedish composer draws on the work of her fellow countryman for inspiration: Swedish-American physicist and cosmologist Max Tegmark, whose work is built on the notion of a hierarchical multiverse. This theory is to do with the physics of parallel universes, arguing that they form a natural order of multiverses which allow for greater diversity.

19 August

Shiva Feshareki: Aether World
Nico Muhly: A New Flame (after Sweelinck)

Turntablist and experimental composer Shiva Feshareki joins Sofi Jeannin and the BBC Singers on stage at this year’s Proms in a programme that brings together choral works from the 11th century to the present day.

New commissions of works by Feshareki and Muhly will be performed in a continuous musical sequence alongside works by Hildegard von Bingen, Stravinsky and Josquin des Prez.

26 August

George Lewis: Minds in Flux

This new work by American composer George Lewis blends a traditional orchestral setup (performed here by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under conductor Ilan Volkov) with spatialised electronics to make best use of the Royal Albert Hall’s acoustics and space. Lewis aims to create ‘a medium for meditation on what processes of decolonisation might look like.’

29 August

Daniel Kidane: new work

In this year’s Family Prom, the Kanneh-Mason family and friends perform their arrangement of Saint-Saëns’s The Carnival of the Animals, alongside this new work by Daniel Kidane.

30 August

Purcell orch. Benjamin: Fantasias
George Benjamin: Concerto for Orchestra

A co-commission with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Composer George Benjamin joins the Mahler Chamber Orchestra to perform the world premiere of his own Concerto for Orchestra, as well as new reworkings of Fantasias by Purcell.

5 September

Grace-Evangeline Mason: The Imagined Forest

A co-commission with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Grace-Evangeline Mason won BBC Young Composer in 2013 and has since gone on to have her piece River performed at the 2017 Proms.

11 September

Gity Razaz: Mother

As is traditional for the Last Night of the Proms, there is a specially commissioned new work which will receive its world premiere on the night. A new work by American composer Gity Razaz will be performed as the preamble to the usual Last Night fare. Razaz has been taught by composers such as John Corigliano, who has praised her unique use of Middle Eastern influences (Razaz is of Iranian heritage) in her writing for all instrumentations. She works across disciplines, from opera to electronic soundscapes. The BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform her newly commissioned work under the direction of chief conductor Sakari Oramo.

BBC Proms UK premieres 2021

Works that have been performed elsewhere in the world, but never in the UK

3 August

Ella Milch-Sheriff: The Eternal Stranger

A co-commission with the Gewandhaus Leipzig and Teatro Massimo Palermo

Beethoven is at the centre of this concert, with Ella Milch-Sheriff having woven and reimagined fragments of the great composer with Middle Eastern colours and stylings, reminiscent of her Israeli heritage. Milch-Sheriff was inspired by Beethoven’s description of his dream in 1821, in which he imagined he was ‘taking a very long journey, as far even as Syria, as far as India, back again, as far even as Arabia; finally I came, indeed, to Jerusalem.’ It was first performed in February 2020 by the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig under the baton of Omer Meir Wellber.

7 August

Jessie Montgomery: Banner

Banner was written by American composer Jessie Montgomery in tribute to the 200th anniversary of the American national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’. Montgomery explains that she drew on musical and historical sources to try and answer the question of what an anthem or the 21st century sounds like in today’s multicultural environment. By bringing in other cultural anthems and American folk songs, Montgomery creates a multi-textured fanfare.

9 August

Mason Bates: Auditorium

In Mason Bates’s Auditorium, ‘the orchestra is “possessed” by a ghostly baroque ancestor.’ It is written for electronics and orchestra, using ghostly processed recordings of a Baroque ensemble (with new material written in a neo-Baroque style) combined with the in-person orchestra.

27 August

Charlotte Bray: Where Icebergs Dance Away

Global warming provides the backdrop for Charlotte Bray’s Where Icebergs Dance Away, which draws on the work of American artist Zaria Forman, who uses pastels to create large-scale works depicting ice caps and the effects of climate change.

6 September

Samy Moussa: A Globe Itself Infolding

The UK premiere of A Globe Itself Infolding will be performed by organist James McVinnie with the BBC Concert Orchestra and its principal guest conductor Anna-Maria Helsing. The work was written by Canadian Samy Moussa for organ and orchestra.

7 September

Unsuk Chin: Subito con forza

Beethoven has inspired several composers in this year’s line-up, including Unsuk Chin, who pays homage to the great composer in her volatile new work Subito con forza. Its UK premiere will be given by Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra (one of the best orchestras in the world), but it was first performed in 2020 by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of the young Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä.

BBC Proms London premieres 2021

Works that have been performed elsewhere in the UK, but this is the first time they will be staged in London

5 August

Thomas Adès: The Exterminating Angel Symphony

Inspired by Louis Buñuel’s 1962 Surrealist film of the same name, Thomas Adès‘s opera The Exterminating Angel was premiered in 2016 to critical acclaim. He had been working on the opera since 2000. Since then, he has adapted the work for symphony orchestra, in a commission by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as part of its centenary commissions series. It will receive its first performance in June 2021 at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.

7 August

Laura Jurd

This Prom opens with a new commission by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Laura Jurd is a British composer, jazz trumpeter and former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist.

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See the full concert listings for the 2021 BBC Proms.