Seven of the best... 2018 BBC Proms premieres

We select some of the best new pieces in the 2018 Proms season

Published: June 8, 2018 at 3:02 pm

The BBC has a long tradition of commissioning pieces and providing a platform for artists to premiere their work. The 2018 Proms are no exception, with 42 premieres featured in concerts throughout the summer. We take a look at some of the highlights...


Anna Meredith/59 Productions, Five Telegrams
First Night of the Proms, Friday 13 July

The world premiere of the Proms kicks off with a new composition from Anna Meredith. Five Telegrams draws on communications sent by young soldiers in 1918 and features specially produced digital projections.

Anna Meredith is a British composer and performer of electronic and acoustic music. She is a former composer-in-residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Five Telegrams is a unique collaboration between Anna Meredith and 59 Productions, the Tony Award-winning design company whose work includes the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and the National Theatre hit War Horse.

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Two

Anna Meredith, Nautilus

Iain Farrington, Gershwinicity
Prom 3, Sunday 15 July

Iain Farrington is a British pianist, organist, composer and arranger. His new work Gershwinicity is based on five Gershwin songs. In its world premiere, it will be performed by five soloists and the BBC Concert Orchestra as part of a celebration of the BBC Young Musician of the Year.

Iain is also arranging excerpts from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals for the same concert. He is playing the piano in a Proms Chamber Concert on 27 August at Cadogan Hall.

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four

Ravel, Mother Goose Suite arr. Iain Farrington

Tansy Davies, What Did We See?
Prom 15, Wednesday 25 July

Tansy Davies’s What Did We See? contemplates death and the healing process, and builds on her recent opera Between World, which was inspired by the 9/11 attacks.

Bristol-born Davies trained and worked as a horn player for many years, before pursuing composition. She is renowned for crossing boundaries in genre and has a particularly distinctive sound. The world premiere of this piece will open the concert in a sombre, contemplative mood.

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and on Sunday 5 August on BBC Four

Tansy Davies, Nature

Georg Friedrich Haas Concerto grosso No.1
Prom 21, Monday 30 July

Georg Friedrich Haas is one of the leading composers in Europe today. His music is firmly rooted in the traditions of Austria and Switzerland, where he grew up. Alpine influences appear throughout this piece in the form of four alphorns: enormous wooden horns, whose other-worldly sound also inspired the likes of Rossini and Berlioz.

Haas’s piece will be performed in the UK for the first time by Hornroh Modern Alphorn Quartet, accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and its principal guest conductor Ilan Volkov.

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3

Georg Friedrich Haas, limited approximations

Simon Holt Quadriga

Proms at... Cadogan Hall 5, Monday 13 August

This is Simon Holt's fifth major Proms commission: to date, he has been commissioned to write four major orchestral pieces for the BBC Proms including Syrensong for the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1987; a viola concerto, Walking with the River's Roar, in 1992, premiered by Nobuko Imai and the BBC Philharmonic; Troubled Light, performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (2008); and the flute concerto Morpheus Wakes (2014), for Emmanuel Pahud.

The world premiere of Simon Holt’s new piece features award-winning British percussionist Colin Currie joining forces with contemporary music specialists, the JACK Quartet.

Simon Holt is currently Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music. His music is often complex and dramatic, and his influences are eclectic and wide-ranging.

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3

Simon Holt, Morpheus Wakes

Venables/Bartók Venables Plays Bartók
Prom 47, Friday 17 August

Finnish violinst Pekka Kuusisto made a memorable Proms debut in 2016. Now he returns to premiere a new violin concerto written especially for him by award-winning young British composer Philip Venables.

Venables created the piece based on a recording he found of himself playing one of Bartók’s Hungarian Sketches as a teenager to his teacher's teacher Rudolf Botta, a Hungarian refugee.

In the July issue of BBC Music Magazine, we interviewed Philip Venables about this new work. 'It is about my teacher's teacher, a Hungarian who fled the revolution in 1956', said Venables. 'The first time, I played him a piece of Bartók I was learning for my Grade Six violin exam. The concerto revolves around that moment, then works backwards through his remarkable life. The main protagonist is the violin, but there are two parallel life stories alongside it.'

Venables made his breakthrough in 2016 with his critically-acclaimed operatic adaptation of 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane for the Royal Opera at the Lyric Hammersmith. This opera has just been revived by the Royal Opera House, where he was also the company's first composer-in-residence. He is also composer-in-residence at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Philip Venables, A Little Bit of Socialist Realism

Laura Mvula, The Virgin of Montserrat – Monday 20 August

Singer-songwriter Laura Mvula has made three appearances at the BBC Proms, beginning in 2013 with the Urban Classic Prom.

For her new work, Mvula is taking inspiration from a controversial religious icon in Spain. ‘I visited Mount Montserrat in Catalonia, and I was taken by the whole Black Madonna phenomenon. I was doing some research, and I came across the inscription it at one time carried: Nigra sum sed Formosa, which means “I am black, but beautiful.” It was strange to feel awe and disgust all at once.’

This piece will be performed by the BBC Singers, under conductor Sakari Oramo.

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Laura Mvula, Green Garden


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