BBC Music Magazine 20th anniversary commission to herald in the season

The BBC Proms kick off tonight at the Royal Albert Hall with a world premiere performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Canon Fever, commissioned by BBC Music Magazine to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

The frantic three-minute work is scored for brass and percussion, plus contrabassoon and bass clarinet. Talking to BBC Music in the September issue, on sale 1 August, Turnage said ‘What I actually didn’t want to do was a traditional fanfare – you know that sort of generic fanfare music that’s just dotted rhythms with fourths building up. So I thought, “Well, I’m going to do something that’s quite a bit wild and a bit virtuosic.”’

The work begins with a motif of four semi-quavers and two quavers, which is then repeated, turned upside down and generally played around with by all sections of the ensemble. Those with keen ears will be able to spot the celebratory hidden theme…

After the Turnage, the First Night of the Proms will move on to Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture and Coronation Ode, Delius’s Sea Drift and Tippett’s Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles. In true Olympic style, four conductors will be passing the baton from piece to piece, with Edward Gardner on the starting blocks, Sir Roger Norrington and Sir Mark Elder on legs two and three and, dashing for the home strait, Martyn Brabbins conducting the Tippett. Gardner returns for the lap of honour with the Coronation Ode.

The First Night will be broadcast live on Radio 3 and on BBC Two as well as online via the Radio 3 website.

'Canon Fever' has been recorded by the brass and percussion section of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and can be heard on the September issue cover CD, free with the magazine. You can also read an interview with Turnage in the same issue.