It sometimes seems as though the BBC Proms happens all year round, with perhaps a month’s break some time around February. Unfortunately it probably only seems that way because life whizzes by at such a pace it hardly seems like 12 months since the last mass flag-waving at the Albert Hall.
The BBC Proms are coming back around again, and this summer they run from 18 July to 13 September. Featuring many of the world’s finest artists and orchestras, there are 76 concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, 12 in Cadogan Hall, and various Proms in the Park events and workshops and so on scattered about the schedule. The BBC Proms website is the best place to gen up on the line-up.
Advance tickets go on sale this Saturday (17 May), with prices ranging from £7.50 up to £68. Every Prom is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and for up to a week afterwards on the BBC website. Get in there sharpish, as these things have a habit of selling out fast.
If you do miss out, there are 1,400 tickets held back for what are lovingly described as ‘prommers’ — people standing in the central Arena and Gallery of the Albert Hall. These are available a few hours before each show (they can only be bought in person), and for the ninth year running these standing tickets will cost the miraculously low sum of £5 each (not a misprint: a fiver). For more information on how this works, have a look at the BBC’s handy ‘how to Prom‘ page.
Here are Londonist’s top ten shows we believe you would be quite the fool to miss.
Wednesday 23 July, 10.15pm, Royal Albert Hall: Pet Shop Boys
Now this we weren’t expecting: Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe joining the BBC Concert Orchestra for the premiere of their new piece A Man From the Future. The work is inspired by the life of Alan Turing, the hero codebreaker who has been in the news a fair amount in the last couple of years. A few of the boys’ other songs will also be performed in orchestral arrangements by composer Angelo Badalamenti.
Saturday 26 July, 8pm, Royal Albert Hall: Bach
A performance of Bach’s dramatic St John Passion, performed by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and directed by Sir Roger Norrington. Sir Roger celebrates his 80th birthday this year but the light shows no signs of dimming — he returns to the Albert Hall with a bit of Beethoven on Wednesday 3 September.
Saturday 2 August, 7.30pm, Royal Albert Hall: Cole Porter
John Wilson, a Proms favourite, returns with his John Wilson Orchestra to perform Porter’s Kiss Me Kate in its original 1948 arrangements. Fans of Shakespeare will not need reminding of the heavy influence of the Taming of the Shrew on this classic musical, here performed by a strong cast of singers.
Monday 4 August, 1pm, Cadogan Hall: Mozart & R. Strauss
Mozart was Richard Strauss’s favourite composer, and here clarinettist Michael Collins and his ensemble London Winds set the music of both classical legends side by side, presenting their own take on some classic pieces with their sweeping woodwind setup.
Sunday 10 August, 7.45pm, Royal Albert Hall: National Youth Orchestra
The National Youth Orchestra makes its annual visit to the BBC Proms with a performance selection of bold pieces, from Stravinsky’s Petrushka to Concerto for Orchestra by Polish composer Witold Lutosławski.
Tuesday 19 August, 10.15pm, Royal Albert Hall: Laura Mvula
The BBC is occasionally accused of dumbing down, but it hardly matters if the popular artists they introduce to the Proms are of the class of Laura Mvula. Following her fine debut last summer, here the classically trained singer-songwriter returns with another selection of her work, accompanied by the Metropole Orchestra.
Wednesday 27 August, 7.30pm, Royal Albert Hall: Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
As part of the Proms’ series of global orchestras, the Seoul Philharmonic make their debut with a performance encompassing Debussy and Tchaikovsky. They will also perform the work of Unsuk Chin, an award-winning South Korean composer of no small regard.
Saturday 30 August, 3pm, Cadogan Hall: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
Another man celebrating hitting the big 8-0, Sir Peter has been enjoying a celebration of his work during 2014. Here he has chosen a selection of his own compositions to be performed by celebrated musicians such as London Sinfonietta Principal Cellist Timothy Gill.
Thursday 4 September, 7.30pm, Royal Albert Hall: John Adams & Mahler
The saxophone isn’t an instrument that naturally lends itself to the grandeur of Radio 3 and the BBC Proms, but American composer John Adams is planning to set that straight with his Saxophone Concerto, performed by virtuoso soloist Timothy McAllister. That’ll all be followed by a spot of Mahler to calm things down, Symphony no.1 in D major, conducted by one of the star of last year’s Last Night, Marin Alsop.
Tuesday 9 September, 7.30pm, Royal Albert Hall: Copland & Brubeck
They may sound a pair of grizzled American detectives, but they are in fact just composers Aaron Copland and Chris Brubeck. They are however both American, this being American Night at the Proms, and their mix of folk songs and dances, classical, jazz and blues blends are sure to set the Albert Hall alight and all right.
It’s worth noting that there are some special weekend shows for kids, a pair of CBeebies-themed affairs at the Albert Hall on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 July, from 11am. There’s also a BBC Sport Prom on Sunday 20 July, “combining classical favourites recalling great sporting events with memorable TV themes”, hosted by Gabby Logan.
And finally… the Last Night of the Proms takes place on Saturday 13 September at the Royal Albert Hall, featuring Tavener, Ravel, Elgar and many, many flags.