The BBC Proms have a long tradition of commissioning and promoting new music, and 2016 was no exception. 15 new commissions, 14 world premieres, and over 30 new compositions will be performed this season. We take a look at some of the highlights...
Helen Grime, Two Eardley Pictures
Grime’s distinctive and colourful compositional style was featured at two Proms in 2016, with her BBC commissioned work Two Eardley Pieces spread across both Prom 27 and 30, with both accompanied by pieces by Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. Born in 1981, Grime began her musical career as an oboist, shifting firmly into the world of composition after she received the British Composer Award for her Oboe Concerto. In the 2009 Proms, Grime’s Virga was performed, hailed as one of the best classical works of this century. She was the Associate Composer of the Hallé Orchestra between the years 2011 and 2014, and has recently taken up the post of Wigmore Hall’s Composer in Residence.
Mark Simpson, Israfel
27-year-old Simpson’s newest work was premiered in the 2016 BBC Proms season alongside pieces from Dutilleux and Elgar, played by the BBC Philharmonic, with whom Simpson Composer in Association. Israfel was inspired by an Edgar Allan Poe lyric poem, and was premiered in Glasgow last year with mixed reviews. Its constantly evolving thematic material was not to everyone’s taste, with David Kettle at The Guardian claiming, ‘He’s clearly an enormous talent, but somebody needs to tell him when to stop.’ Despite this, the piece has a raw, otherworldly style, and is almost cinematic and transcendental in the way the melodies soar. Its repressed energy explodes at its points of climax.
Charlotte Bray, Falling in the Fire
Charlotte Bray has taken her place at the forefront of young British composers, and her 2016 work Falling in the Fire was highly anticipated. Played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and placed alongside Mahler 5, Falling in the Fire was in powerful company. Written as an expression of moral outrage at ISIS’s destruction of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria in 2015, the work was incredibly topical at the time of its premiere performance. She has been commissioned by the BBC for the 2016 Proms season after having received such high praise for her 2012 Proms commission, At the Speed of Stillness, which was commended for its inventiveness and textural control.
Francisco Coll, Four Iberian Miniatures
Coll was taken under the wing of renowned composer Thomas Adès, who took him on as a private student (his only pupil to date) after having left his home city of Valencia to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The pair have worked together on numerous pieces and performances, and this particular Prom is no different. Coll’s work was accompanied at the 2016 BBC Proms by a world premiere of Adès’s newest piece, as well as symphonies by Prokofiev and Beethoven. Adès has described how Coll’s ideas about music proceed form a strikingly individual and unusual mind’; something that is apparent in all Coll's works.
Emily Howard, Torus
Torus featured alongside Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto and Rachmaninov’s 3rd Symphony towards the end of the 2016 BBC Proms season. Howard’s provocative compositional style leads perfectly onto the rest of the evening’s music. Her Calculus of the Nervous System premiered at the 2012 Proms with a mixed reception. Its extremities confused the audience, with Michael Church at The Independent describing the piece as ‘all stops and starts, sometimes on the edge of audibility, sometimes crashingly loud.’ Howard undertook an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Computer Science at Oxford before commencing her Doctorate in Composition at the University of Manchester, and her work is very logical and mathematical, with thickly complex textures.
Tom Harrold, Raze
Tom Harrold is the youngest of all the composers in the 2016 BBC Proms season, at just 24. His bold, abrasive sound creates incredibly uneasy yet invigorating performances, and there is little doubt that Raze will make for a thoroughly unusual and exciting opening to the notoriously traditional Last Night. Harrold is a recent graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music, and was the winner of the BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer’s Competition at the age of 16. The BBC has commissioned his work in the past, including Nightfires in April this year, and Darkened Dreams in 2014, which was broadcast live simultaneously on Radios 3 and 4.