Things have been feeling normal for a while now it seems. Relatively, that is. Bar the heatwave, political turmoil and the outbreak of a war in Europe, a certain pandemic seems to have slipped into the everyday as we’re now just ‘living with it’. But there’s been something missing from this feeling like a real return to a normality we know: a proper Proms.
This year, however, sees the BBC Proms restored to its full eight-week glory, with 84 concerts over 57 days, featuring over 3,000 musicians, the return of international orchestras, and more Proms than ever across the UK. And this during the BBC centenary celebrations, what better way to bring them back – and what a line up there is in store. Here’s our run down of just a few highlights to look forward to…
If you happened to catch the first night with Verdi’s Requiem, you’ll have noticed that large-scale repertoire is back, and perhaps the ultimate in ‘going big (or going home)’ has to be Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, delivered this year by the Chineke! Orchestra and Voices (Prom 61) under Kevin John Edusei. Other big numbers include Mahler’s Second Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle (Prom 49); entitled the ‘Resurrection’ symphony, it feels like a fitting addition to the programme.
Perhaps most significant in this year’s season is the newly formed Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra led by Canadian-Ukrainian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson. Brought together by New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera, the brand-new orchestra includes recently refugeed Ukrainian musicians, Ukrainian members of European orchestras and some of the top musicians of Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odesa and elsewhere in Ukraine.
Perhaps most poignantly, the Ukraine Ministry of Culture is granting a special exemption to military-age male members of orchestras inside the country, enabling them to participate in a remarkable demonstration of the power of art over adversity. Joining the Proms as part of a European and US tour this summer, following the inaugural concert in Warsaw the orchestra’s first stop with be in London at the Proms on 31st July (Prom 19a, matinee) ahead of concerts in European destinations including Amsterdam, Berlin, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Munich and Snape Maltings, before culminating with concerts in New York and Washington DC.
As ever, the Proms continues to explore new genres and venues, pushing the creative envelope and making its programme accessible across the UK. Stand-out moments this year include a genre-defying Prom with English National Opera in the spectacular space of Printworks London, the printing plant turned club venue, which will host an immersive spectacle of soundscapes and haute couture featuring contrasting works as diverse as Philip Glass and Handel. And, for the first time ever, the Proms is taking its successful chamber music series, established in 1996, across the UK, visiting all four nations. An array of world-class soloists and ensembles will perform repertoire ranging from Haydn to Xenakis in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Truro.
This year’s festival will also stage the first ever Gaming Prom: From 8-Bit to Infinity (Prom 21), presented by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Robert Ames, who will explore the sound-worlds of video games; a Prom dedicated to the musical genius of Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul (Prom 47); a showcase of South African jazz (Prom 56), featuring Mercury Prize-nominated singer ESKA and double MOBO Award-winning saxophonist Soweto Kinch; and Proms debuts from stars across a wide range of genres, including Tony, Grammy and Emmy award-winning singer Cynthia Erivo (Prom 4), and Indian sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan.
2022 marks the centenary of the BBC and in tribute the Proms looks back across 100 years of great British broadcasting, and forward to a new generation of music-making, with more than 60 artists making their debuts this summer. In a perfect alignment of values and ambition, the partnership between the nascent BBC and the Proms in 1927 took Sir Henry Wood’s vision of universalising classical music to new heights. In Sir Henry’s words, “With the whole-hearted support of the wonderful medium of broadcasting, I feel that I am at last on the threshold of realising my lifelong ambition of truly democratising the message of music, and making its beneficent effect universal.”
Marking the BBC’s centenary is the world premiere of This New Noise (Prom 58), a multimedia commission from cult band Public Service Broadcasting, featuring rare material from the BBC archives. This year’s festival will also stage a series of concerts in collaboration with a number of channels across the BBC’s repertoire, including Radio 1 Relax, CBeebies and the BBC Natural History Unit for our first ever Earth Prom (Prom 53 and 54) presented by Chris Packham, exploring the work of the NHU who first broadcast David Attenborough’s earliest adventures.
Of course, it’s not the only anniversary this year, and to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the BBC Concert Orchestra will present a Prom celebrating the long and fruitful relationship between music and monarchy, from Handel’s Water Music to a new commission from British composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad. The 2022 Proms also marks the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s birth, and popular favourites such as the soaring The Lark Ascending and the haunting Tallis-inspired Fantasia will take their place alongside the visceral Fourth Symphony and the rarely heard concertos for oboe and tuba.
As well as commemorating anniversaries, throughout its 127-year history, the Proms has been at the forefront of musical innovation. This year, the festival will premiere 24 new works, 17 of which are commissioned by the BBC. New music highlights include a major new work by Oscar-winning Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, a new harp concerto by Sally Beamish, an elementally charged new work from Anna Thorvaldsdottir entitled ARCHORA, and the world premiere of Geyser by virtuoso jazz saxophonist Marius Neset.
The season culminates in the celebratory Last Night of the Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and BBC Singers. This year’s festival finale is led by Dalia Stasevska, who is joined by star soloists Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Lise Davidsen, with a world premiere by fast-rising British composer James B. Wilson.
David Pickard, Director, BBC Proms, says: “It is a momentous year for the world’s largest classical music festival. I’m delighted that large-scale orchestral and choral repertoire will once again be heard in the Royal Albert Hall, and that we can celebrate the return of international orchestras. In the BBC’s centenary year, we can be proud that the Proms has been a part of the organisation for 95 of those 100 years, playing a key role in the Corporation’s mission to inform, educate and entertain. After two adapted seasons, we look forward to welcoming audiences back this summer for eight glorious weeks of music making.”
The BBC Proms runs until 10th September 2022. For the full programme, and to order tickets, please visit www.bbc.co.uk/proms.
The Proms continues its commitment to accessible ticket prices with seats from £8.50, half-price tickets for under-18s and Promming day tickets at £6 (all plus booking fees). Over 96,000 tickets will be available for £20 and under.