by Ben Hogwood
How heartening it is to report on the announcement of a full-to-bursting BBC Proms season once again. The festival, now in its 127th year, is able to spread its wings post-pandemic, reaching out to the four corners of the British Isles to include large orchestral concerts and overseas artists once again.
There are of course far too many concerts to mention in full here, but some deserve an extra thick highlighter pen. From the small scale (Sir András Schiff playing Beethoven‘s last three piano sonatas) to the large (Sir Simon Rattle leading us and the London Symphony Orchestra from death to life in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony) there looks to be something for almost everyone.
Concerts are spread much further afield this year, and an especially welcome move is the multi-region approach to the weekly chamber concerts, which will be broadcast from Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Truro. Outside of those appealing concerts, there really is such a huge variety
At a glance, the most appealing events include a tribute to Aretha Franklin curated by Jules Buckley, the wholly appropriate choice of Public Service Broadcasting to celebrate the centenary of the BBC in a newly commissioned piece, This New Noise, and concerts that bring centurion George Walker to the fore.
Lovers of British music will not be disappointed either. John Wilson conducts his Sinfonia of London band in Bax, Walton, Vaughan Williams, Elgar and the new Flute Concerto by Huw Watkins. The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Omer Meir Wellber will compare and contrast the Fourth Symphonies by Tippett and Vaughan Williams. Dame Ethel Smyth and Doreen Carwithen will get long-overdue appraisals – the Glyndebourne production of Smyth’s opera The Wreckers looks set to be essential, but so does her Mass in D major and Concerto for horn and violin. Meanwhile Carwithen’s String Quartet no.2 and Bishop Rock are welcome, though we could perhaps have done with one more piece from her.
Visitors from Germany (Berlin Philharmoniker), Austria (Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra), Finland (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra) and Norway (Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra) provide four must-see concerts. To them we can add the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who will perform Florence Price‘s Symphony no.1.
The music of Shostakovich will surely take on greater poignancy this season in the light of the awful tragedies unfolding in Ukraine – the Fifth, Tenth and Fifteenth Symphonies will all be loaded with extra meaning. The establishment of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, however, will trump even these when they play the music of recently exiled composer Valentin Silvestrov, his Symphony no.7. Brought together by the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and the Polish National Opera, the brand new orchestra will by led by Canadian-Ukrainian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson and will include recently refugeed Ukrainian musicians, Ukrainian members of European orchestras and leading musicians from Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odesa and elsewhere in Ukraine.
This is just a flavour of the season, from which you will see that from first night Verdi to final night Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Lise Davidsen, there is so much to appreciate. Get over to the BBC Proms website and start planning!