The BBC Proms in photos: the best snaps taken at the 2021 Proms so far

In a year like no other, we celebrate the best photos of this year's BBC Proms season – captured by resident Proms photographer Chris Christodoulou

Published: September 14, 2021 at 11:47 am
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Audiences return to the Royal Albert Hall this year for the BBC Proms, following the slightly strange events of 2020, in which artists performed to an empty auditorium. Proms photographer Chris Christodoulou also returns this year to the job he has held since 1981, in order to capture the very best moments of this year's season. We spoke to Christodoulou about the ways his role has changed over the years: 'In the early years, I would come in and photograph only the big names like Barenboim and Haitink,' he says. 'Now we also look at new commissions and Proms first-timers, and there's much more of an emphasis on young and up-and-coming musicians.'

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You can read our interview with Proms photographer Chris Christodoulou in full here, as well as our conversations with Proms musicians, studio managers and camera supervisors.

You can find our Last Night of the Proms photo gallery here.

First Night of the Proms (30 July 2021)

The BBC Symphony Orchestra took to the stage for the first of this year's Proms, under the baton of its principal guest conductor Dalia Stasevska, who led the orchestra at last year's Last Night. Unlike the 2020 instalment, however, there was an audience present for this concert – who was thrilled to hear the return of music to the Royal Albert Hall.

Stasevska led the orchestra, along with the BBC Singers and four star soloists, in the world premiere of a new work by James MacMillan, inspired by Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music, which opened the concert. Organist and King's College, Cambridge director of music Daniel Hyde returned to the Proms in Poulenc's Organ Concerto, before the orchestra rounded out the evening with Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 – a work very close to the Finnish conductor's heart.

This Prom was also broadcast on BBC TV. You can catch up on the broadcast here.

The Golden Age of Broadway Prom (31 July 2021)

The BBC Concert Orchestra and conductor Richard Balcombe were joined by a cast of top musical theatre actors in this 'Best of Broadway Prom', featuring songs from South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Anything Goes and Carousel.

This Prom will be broadcast on BBC TV on Saturday 7 August.

An Evening of Mozart Prom (1 August 2021)

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra was led by its dynamic young principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev in a celebration of Mozart. Composed over a period of just two months in the summer of 1788, Mozart's three final symphonies (39-41) are some of his most enduring, capturing all of humanity's emotions.

This Prom was also broadcast on BBC TV. You can catch up on the broadcast here.

BBC National Orchestra of Wales Prom (2 August 2021)

Although cellist Sol Gabetta and conductor Elim Chan were initially scheduled to appear at this Prom, they were forced to withdraw due to scheduling issues arising from the pandemic – something that has occurred a few times already this Proms season. Guy Johnston and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales's principal conductor Ryan Bancroft stepped in to perform Saint-Saëns's Cello Concerto No. 1. Bancroft also led his orchestra in Brahms's Fourth Symphony, as well as the world premiere of Cloudline, a new work by Elizabeth Ogonek.

This Prom will be broadcast on BBC TV on Friday 6 August.

Vaughan Williams, Respighi and Felix Mendelssohn Prom (4 August)

Vasily Petrenko made his Proms debut as the music director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he begins his five-year contract this month after leaving the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the capable hands of Domingo Hindoyan. They were joined by violinist Sayaka Shoji in Respighi's Concerto gregoriano, following an opener of Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The Prom was brought to its stirring conclusion with Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5 'Reformation'.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Prom (5 August)

To celebrate the centenary of British composer Ruth Gipps, the CBSO and music director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla opened their Prom with Gipps's Symphony No. 2. They then gave the London premiere of the symphonic version of Thomas Adès's opera The Exterminating Symphony, with Brahms's Third Symphony to finish.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra plays Stravinsky Prom (6 August)

The 50th anniversary of Stravinsky's death falls this year so inevitably there's a wealth of his music in this year's Proms programmes. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra paired his ballet Pulcinella with the piece that inspired it: Pergolesi's heartbreaking Stabat mater. Martyn Brabbins conducted.

The National Youth Orchestra Prom (7 August)

The National Youth Orchestra's Prom is always an exciting evening, with unexpected programming and the youthful exuberance you'd expect from a stageful of talented teenagers. Rising star Jonathan Heyward led the ensemble in the London premieres of Laura Jurd's percussive CHANT and the chamber orchestra version of Jessie Montgomery's Banner, an interpretation and exploration of 'The Star-Spangled Banner'. Nicola Benedetti joined the NYO as the soloist in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, before Heyward conducted Beethoven's 'Eroica' from memory in the second half.

Elgar's Cello Concerto Prom (9 August)

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has made it a biennial tradition to return to the BBC Proms, often armed with a much-loved classic. In 2019, it was Holst's The Planets. This year, the orchestra – and chief conductor Kirill Karabits – took on Elgar's iconic Cello Concerto with German cellist Johannes Moser, who delivered a punchy performance. The orchestra then turned its hand to something a little less ubiquitous: Janáček's Taras Bulba. This was followed up by an encore from the Bournemouth orchestra of a work of the same name: the overture from Ukrainian composer Mykola Lysenko's opera Taras Bulba.

Parallel Universes Prom (10 August)

Dutch violinist Liza Ferschtman stepped in to replace Jennifer Pike in Sibelius's highly virtuosic Violin Concerto, after Pike was forced to withdraw from the Prom owing to unforeseen circumstances. The BBC Philharmonic and conductor John Storgårds also turned their hand to Robert Schumann's Third Symphony and a new work by Swedish composer Britta Byström. Parallel Universes draws on physics and the concept of multiverses. Find out more about Britta Byström's Parallel Universes here.

Aurora Orchestra Prom (11 August)

The Aurora Orchestra returned to the Royal Albert Hall with its very best party trick: performing a major orchestral work from memory. In recent years, the ensemble has staged performances of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9.

This year, along with conductor Nicholas Collon, the orchestra tackled Stravinsky's Firebird suite. Presenter Tom Service introduced the work from the stage and unravelled some of its major themes with the help of Collon and the musicians. Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov also joined them for Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra Prom (12 August)

Vladimir Jurowski made his final appearance as principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra after nearly 15 years in the post. Their final programme together took in a range of styles and influences, with the conflict between good and bad at the centre of two of the pieces: Stravinsky's ballet Jeu de cartes ('Card Game'), in which good rises over the evil Joker, and Hindemith's symphony 'Mathis der Maler', which dramatises a battle between angels and demons. Walton's Cello Concerto rounded out the programme, with cellist Steven Isserlis appearing as the soloist.

Edward Gardner is set to take over from Jurowski at the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the coming season.

Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra Prom (13 August)

The BBC Symphony Orchestra was joined by conductor Martyn Brabbins for its second concert of the Proms season. Anthony Payne's Spring's Shining Wake, a piece inspired by Delius's In a Summer Garden, opened the programme, followed by Berlioz's song cycle Les nuits d'été, when the BBC Symphony Orchestra was joined by mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly. Beethoven's 'Pastoral' Symphony rounded off the evening.

Víkingur Ólafsson plays Bach and Mozart Prom (14 August)

Icelandic pianist and previous BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Year winner Vïkingur Ólafsson joined the Philharmonia Orchestra with Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi. Ólafsson is set to release a new recording of Mozart and his contemporaries later this year.

Abel Selaocoe: Africa Meets Europe Prom (15 August)

South African cellist Abel Selaocoe blended body percussion, singing and traditional playing techniques in his unique style. His own trio Chesaba joined him on stage, along with Simo Lagnawi on guembri (a style of Moroccan lute) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

A Night at the Opera Prom (16 August)

After the year of social isolation and loneliness we've all gone through, the Proms brought us a night at the opera, with operatic excerpts on the themes of separation and reconciliation.

Manchester Collective Prom (17 August)

The Manchester Collective made its BBC Proms debut with a programme of vibrant, varied music – much of which has never been heard at the Proms before.

The music of Julius Eastman was played at the Proms for the very first time, something the Manchester Collective was particularly excited about.

'We’ll be asking audiences to come along with open ears and open hearts as we shine a light on two composers of immense talent – Joseph Horovitz and Julius Eastman,' said Rakhi Singh, music director and co-founder of the Collective. 'Outsiders to the music ‘establishment’, they’ve not always received the acclaim they deserve and we’re honoured to have this opportunity to share their music more widely.'

The Prom came just after the release of the Manchester Collective's debut recording, which we reviewed for BBC Music Magazine. You can read all our reviews of Manchester Collective recordings here.

Nubya Garcia Prom (18 August)

The saxophonist, composer, DJ and bandleader Nubya Garcia made her Proms debut this year, in a hugely busy summer for her, packed with festival appearances and live gigs.

BBC Singers and Shiva Feshareki Prom (19 August)

Experimental composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki returned to the Proms this year with the BBC Singers and a hugely wide-ranging programme spanning hundreds of years. Works by Hildegard von Bingen and Byrd were interspersed with new commissions by Nico Muhly and Bernard Hughes.

Britten Sinfonia and National Youth Chamber Choir Prom (20 August)

In one of this year's 'Surprise Proms', Britten Sinfonia accompanied the National Youth Chamber Choir in a performance of Mozart's Requiem.

Moses Sumney Prom (21 August)

Ghanaian-American singer-songwriter Moses Sumney made his Proms debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jules Buckley, with performances of symphonic arrangements of songs from his 2010 and 2017 albums græ and Aromanticism.

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London Symphony Orchestra Prom (22 August)

To mark the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky's death, Simon Rattle and the LSO presented a series of symphonic works: Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Symphony in C and Symphony in Three Movements.

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