The most memorable Proms in history: our top picks

As this year's Proms season draws near, the BBC Music Magazine team reflects on its favourite Proms


Jeremy Pound, deputy editor


Respighi's Pines of Rome (2004)

Friday 6 August 2004 is a day that will stay long in my memory. Having been recently offered a job on BBC Music Magazine, the day began with a final pub lunch as I said farewell to much loved colleagues at my old job. And then, a train with the family up to the Royal Albert Hall for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, Ravel’s Shéhérazade and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.

Truls Mørk and Katarina Karnéus were both memorable soloists in the Dvořák and Ravel respectively, but it was when conductor Tadaaki Otaka unleashed the full forces of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (plus many extras) on the Respighi that a smile really spread across my face. With the thundering Albert Hall organ joined by blazing brass stationed around the hall, never has the Roman army tramped along the Appian Way with such thrilling power. A fine way indeed to head into my new job. And yes, I’m still here.

Rebecca Franks, managing editor

Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence (2001)

I can still clearly remember the thrill of hearing Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence for the first time. I had been lucky enough to spend that whole summer Promming, discovering pieces, composers and artists – I was 17 and had just decided to apply to study music at university. There was so much that was new.

The concert began in sombre mood as I recall, and the Proms archive tells me it included Hindemith’s Trauermusik and Britten’s Lachrymae. The Tchaikovsky seemed to burst out of the darkness, with bright and energetic playing by the Moscow Conservatoire Soloists and viola player/director Yuri Bashmet. Souvenir de Florence has remained a firm favourite.

Michael Beek, reviews editor

A Celebration of Classic MGM Film Musicals (2009)

Conductor John Wilson’s first foray into recreating the Hollywood sound at the BBC Proms was such a memorable night. I’ll never forget the tingles I felt as the orchestra struck up for the opening bars of Johnny Green’s MGM Jubilee Overture. And what a line-up of singers! Kim Cresswell, Sarah Fox, Sir Thomas Allen, Curtis Stigers and the irrepressible Seth MacFarlane. Magic.

Freya Parr, editorial assistant

Gerald Barry's Canada (2017)

My favourite part of the Proms is being confronted with music I wouldn’t necessarily stumble across otherwise. The world premiere of Gerald Barry’s Canada by tenor Allan Clayton, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla was one such instance. Sandwiched between Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Barry’s piece successfully stood out rather than being shrouded by these two fiery masterpieces.

It ebbed and flowed, breaking out sporadically into complete cacophony. To say the audience was perplexed by the work is an understatement – there were guffaws, sighs and tsks coming from the auditorium, ending in laughter. The joke was on us though, because it was such a marvellous piece that I found myself listening to it for the rest of the summer.