Marking the 150th anniversary of founder-conductor Sir Henry Wood’s birth, the 2019 BBC Proms programme announced today presents one of its most diverse programmes yet.
The First Night of the Proms hosts the world premiere of Zosha Di Castri’s Long Is The Journey, Short Is The Memory, a work that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s mission to the Moon.
On the exact anniversary of humankind walking on the moon, Holst’s world-renowned The Planets is complemented by John Adams’s ever-popular Short Ride In A Fast Machine.
CBeebies will offer families the chance to travel through time and space with some famous faces including Mr Tumble and Chris Jarvis, hosted by YolanDa Brown, featuring Chineke! Orchestra under Kwamé Ryan.
The UK premiere of Anna Thorvalsdottir’s Metacosmos – a musical metaphor of falling into a black hole, will be performed by the Orchestra of the Royal Academy of Music and The Juilliard School.
Public Service Broadcasting recreate their ground-breaking 2015 concept album The Race For Space, a mix of music and archive documentary material, portraying the tale of the US/Russian space race.
In a Proms first, the Sci-Fi Prom features scores from cult space and sci-fi films, including Steve Price’s Gravity, Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar, Jed Kurzel’s Alien: Covenant and Mica Levi’s Under the Skin, presented by the London Contemporary Orchestra under Robert Ames.
A re-conceptualisation of the Moon in a new work by Huw Watkins will feature settings of topical poems by Shelley, Larkin and Whitman.
Devised for the Proms and based on Robert McFarlane and
Jackie Morris’s popular book about the disappearing language of nature from the Oxford English Dictionary, the Lost Words Prom will be a unique event for all the family.
John Luther Adams’s In the Name of the Earth is the flagship learning project of the season; this huge landscape-inspired choral work will feature four community choirs with over 600 singers together in a swansong for our planet.
A brand new work by Hans Zimmer, Earth, will receive its world premiere this year. Commissioned specially for the latest iteration of BBC’s Ten Pieces, the piece will feature as part of the CBeebies Prom (21-22 July). Hans Zimmer said: “Set against the backdrop of our magnificent, precious planet, I hope it will be the perfect springboard to inspire creativity in classrooms across the UK.”
Remaining faithful to Wood’s mission to ‘bring the best of classical music to the widest possible audience’, the Proms offers a wealth of genres and styles in a range of contexts. Whether it’s Murray Perahia performing Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink or a Prom dedicated to the genius of Nina Simone with Ledisi and Jules Buckley, the quality and range of what’s on offer showcases the very best of music.
Henry Wood was arguably one of the world’s first audience developers, committed to increasing access to the arts. The Proms’ proudest tradition is that of daily promming (standing) tickets – a Henry Wood innovation to reach the broadest audience possible. This marks the fourth year that up to 1,400 promming tickets will be available for £6 for every Prom. And, to further mark the promming tradition, a special Proms At… Battersea Arts Centre will see all tickets for the event priced at £6. Over at the Royal Albert Hall, 100,000 tickets will be available for £15 and under.
As an educationalist, conductor and champion of young people, Henry Wood provided countless opportunities for aspiring young artists to get involved in classical music; it’s a proud tradition that the Proms continues to reflect today. This season celebrates the 20th anniversary of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists scheme, featuring 12 of its alumni. Elsewhere, other notable debuts take to the concert platform, including Leeds International Piano Competition winner Eric Lu and Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian. Once again, BBC Proms Learning offers a diverse-range of creative opportunities beyond the concert platform. Initiatives such as BBC Proms Inspire for composers, Proms Youth Choir Academy, and the Proms Youth Ensemble will reach hundreds of young people this year.
At the church where he was buried, Proms At… Holy Sepulchre London will continue the celebration of Wood with a special concert from the BBC Singers under Chief Conductor Sofi Jeannin. The Proms At… Cadogan Hall series is underpinned by a historical journey through classical music, celebrating some of the most notable women composers of the past, from Hildegard of Bingen via Barbara Strozzi and Clara Schumann – both of whom have anniversaries this year – to the present day with a BBC commission from Freya Waley-Cohen. Offering a fresh take on the history of classical music through the eyes of women, each concert in this series will contain at least one work by a woman composer of the time.
From afropop to jazz, East Coast hip hop to South Italian pizzica, and electronica to meditative listening, this will be a truly eclectic celebration of the diversification of music. A Prom devoted to the music of singer, pianist, and social activist Nina Simone explores her background and enduring influence; and an exhilarating evening of dance, song and spectacle, Duke Ellington’s Scared Music is presented in a Late Night Prom. From breakdancing to MC-ing and DJ-ing to graffiti art, The Breaks will honour the global phenomenon of hip hop and, in particular, breakbeat culture.
The Late-Night Mixtape Prom will bring together an eclectic range of classical and contemporary sounds. Bringing the popular concept of a music-mix into a ‘live’ context, this Prom will feed into the experiential model that drives so much of music consumption today, where immersion and discovery is key.
David Pickard, Director, BBC Proms, says: “The Proms in 2019 gives a snapshot of all that is most exciting in our musical world today. It is the chance to hear some of the most celebrated ensembles and artists from across the globe, a showcase for the vibrant orchestral life that exists in the UK, and a celebration of the diversity of contemporary music in the 21st century. All of this is underpinned by the proud tradition of promming which allows audiences to enjoy this vast range of music for just £6 per concert. As we celebrate 150 years since Henry Wood’s birthday, the Proms continues to explore new ground whilst celebrating the founding principles of the festival – to bring the best of classical music to the widest possible audience.”
The Proms has always been at the forefront of cultural and musical innovation, bringing the best new works to audiences. As a global visionary, Sir Henry Wood gave the world and British premieres of hundreds of works at the Proms including Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Sibelius’s Violin Concerto and Schoenberg’s Five Pieces For Orchestra. This year, we celebrate 33 of the pieces that Wood introduced to UK audiences, alongside 33 new works for 2019.
New music highlights include Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood curating a Late Night Prom culminating in the world premiere of his Horror vacui. The piece simulates electronic sound using 68 string instruments played acoustically. Proms at… Battersea Arts Centre will showcase boundary-crossing and provocative composer-performers, featuring experiments at the cutting edge of music and technology with Jennifer Walshe, Crewsdon & Cevanne, and Oliver Coates. Elsewhere, Martyn Brabbins presents a 21st-century companion to Elgar’s Enigma Variations 120 years on. Based on a new anonymously written theme, this work features variations by 14 living composers including Sally Beamish, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Dai Fujikura and Judith Weir.
Henry Wood’s Proms seasons were famous for nights dedicated to one composer. In celebration of that concept, the final week of the 2019 season replicates Wood’s original programming: a Monday evening of Wagner, a Wednesday evening of Bach and a Friday evening of Beethoven. More than a century ago, these concerts were perhaps the first example of ‘box-set binging’.
As part of a celebration of Berlioz at 150, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique present the rarely performed opera Benvenuto Cellini and Nicholas Collon and Aurora Orchestra bring a dramatic treatment of Symphonie fantastique with actor Mathew Baynton. Other composer anniversaries include: Louis Andriessen at 80, Peter Eötvös at 75 and Sir James MacMillan at 60. A special focus on Weinberg, who would have been 100, includes his String Quartet No. 7 and the London premieres of his Cello Concerto and Symphony No. 3.