In what is always one of the most anticipated events of the musical calendar, controller Roger Wright has revealed the details of this year’s BBC Proms.
For the 120th Proms season – and Wright’s last in charge – there will be focuses on the anniversaries of World War One and Richard Strauss, birthday hurrahs for some of Britain’s best-known composers and conductors, a sporting nod to the football World Cup and, more than ever before, a celebration of the Proms’ global appeal.
Following on from last year’s large-scale Wagner, Britten and Verdi celebrations, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss is being marked by performances of three complete operas – Glyndebourne’s production of Der Rosenkavalier, conducted by Robin Ticciati, plus Salome and Elektra, conducted by Donald Runnicles and Semyon Bychkov respectively. Strauss orchestral works featured include the semi-autobiographical Ein Heldenleben, while soprano Inger Dam-Jensen performs his valedictory Four Last Songs.
Two concerts are at the heart of the Proms’ First World War theme, with 3 August’s ‘War Horse’ Prom – featuring Adrian Sutton’s War Horse Suite – being followed by a ‘Lest We Forget Prom’ that includes Vaughan Williams’s A Pastoral Symphony on 17 August. Elsewhere, Gurney’s sublime War Elegy for orchestra gets a rare outing.
Performers and ensembles from abroad are always a major part of any Proms season, and this year the global party is bigger than ever. And how. Orchestras parking their team bus outside the Royal Albert Hall will include the China Philharmonic, the World Orchestra for Peace, the Tonhalle Zurich, the Zurich Chamber, the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic, the European Union Youth Orchestra, the Lapland Chamber, the Melbourne Symphony, the West-Eastern Divan, the Iceland Symphony, the Czech Philharmonic, the Budapest Festival, the Seoul Philharmonic, the Swedish Radio Symphony, the Singapore Symphony, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Qatar Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhaus.
And talking of team buses, lovers of all things active will be marking their diaries for the first ever Sport Prom, introduced by Gabby Logan, on 20 July. Other Proms that look beyond conventional fare include two CBeebies children’s Proms and appearances by the Pet Shop Boys and pop singers Paloma Faith and Rufus Wainwright.
Of the more traditional performers, conductors Donald Runnicles, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Roger Norrington and Sir Neville Marriner will be celebrating, resepctively, their 60th, 70th, 80th and 90th birthdays in this grandest of all musical settings, and performances of works by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir Harrison Birtwistle welcome the two composers to the octogenarian club.
Sir Andrew Davis himself opens the season by conducting Elgar’s The Kingdom on 18 July, and BBC Symphony Orchestra chief conductor Sakari Oramo brings the curtain down at the Last Night of the Proms on 13 September. At which point, Roger Wright will presumably pour himself a large and well-earned beer.
We will be exploring the Proms in full in the July issue of BBC Music Magazine. In the meantime, for details of the season, see www.bbc.co.uk/proms