Your summer of musical anniversaries beckons as the BBC Proms toast to the 150th birthday of its founder Sir Henry Wood, while “prog rock” royalty King Crimson turn 50
The Proms get a bad rap. The flag-waving final night is a quirky footnote in what is one of the most storied and accessible festivals in London. With more than 90 concerts over eight weeks the Proms consistently draws the world’s greatest musicians to London.
Henry Wood’s mission was to bring the best of classical music to the widest possible audience. This is still the case. But there’s now so much more to celebrate with “Afropop” and jazz, hip hop and pizzica, on offer at this summer’s Proms. Tickets start at just £6 for every event.
The action begins at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday July 19 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus performing Janacek’s monumental Glagolitic Mass. The festival finishes on Saturday September 14 with concerts in Belfast, Swansea, Glasgow and Hyde Park.
This summer’s highlights include:
Ealing-resident and pianist Murray Perahia performing Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink.
Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood curating a Late Night Prom showcasing his new work, Horror vacui, which simulates electronic sounds via 68 string instruments played acoustically.
A concert dedicated to the genius of Nina Simone featuring American jazz singer Ledisi and conductor Jules Buckley.
A Cadogan Hall series focusing on notable female composers from the past; such as Hildegard of Bingen, Barbara Strozzi and Clara Schumann to the present day with a new BBC commission from Freya Waley-Cohen.
A C Beebies family concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing with a new work from soundtrack legend Hans Zimmer. The moon landing will also be marked by cult archive-mining electronic duo Public Service Broadcasting as they present a new orchestral arrangement of their 2015 album, Race for Space. Expect a mix of music and radio recordings portraying the tale of the US/Russian space race.
A huge landscape-inspired work from composer John Luther Adams, titled In The Name Of The Earth and featuring four community choirs packing in more than 600 singers.
A sci-fi film music Prom of scores from cult space and sci-fi films, including Steve Price’s Gravity and Mica Levi’s Under The Skin, presented by the London Contemporary Orchestra under Robert Ames.
A Late Night Prom featuring pianist Monty Alexander and the “Nu Civilisation Orchestra” as they channel Duke Ellington’s unique take on church music.
Martyn Brabbins presents a new companion piece to Elgar’s Enigma Variations. 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.
In the bicentenary year of Queen Victoria’s birth, Stephen Hough performs “Mendelssohn’s” first piano concerto on her very own piano. On loan from The Queen, this will be the first performance on the piano outside Buckingham Palace.
Meanwhile, the tributes to Sir Henry seek to highlight the huge amount of classical music that he championed for British audiences. He oversaw the 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 summer, 33 of the pieces that Wood introduced to UK audiences will be performed, along with 33 new works to do Sir Henry proud.
Every note of the Proms will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and available for 30 days online. With the BBC Sounds App, audiences can now listen to the Proms remotely, anytime, anywhere. Or catch one of the 25 performances on TV throughout the festival.
Selected concerts will be presented as a binaural audio stream enabling radio listeners, using ordinary headphones, to experience the concerts as if they were present in the Royal Albert Hall.
Tickets are available at bbc.co.uk/proms or by calling 020 7070 4441 or in person at the Royal Albert Hall.
King Crimson to rock Royal Albert Hall for 50th birthday
It’s been 50 years since a young guitarist named Robert Fripp and his merry band of mischief makers played their first gig as “King Crimson” at the Fulham Palace café.
Since then, the group has spent the past 50 years defining a style of progressive music that explored the outer reaches of jazz and blues, while Fripp has established himself as one of the best British guitar players of the 20th century. Even if their angular approach leaves some listeners cold, “King Crimson” have made a huge impact on music every bit as big as their contemporaries in Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin.
The eighth incarnation of the Fripp-led group returns to their west London birthplace with three nights; June 18 to 20 at the Royal Albert Hall. The group has performed sparsely since 2014, but two recent shows at the Roman Amphitheatre in Pompeii have whet the appetite of fans.
Now backed by three explosive drummers (Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison and Bill Rieflin), expect Fripp to showcase material from their 12 studio albums, including many of the songs from their seminal 1969 release, In the Court of the Crimson King.
7.30pm. Tickets from £50. www.royalalberthall.com
Swedish sound artist duels with medieval church organ
Talented young composer Ellen Arkbro is set to perform pieces from her new album on the grand organ at the medieval St Giles’ Cripplegate church.
She arrives at the Barbican church on Saturday June 22. Her new album, CHORDS, sees her adopt a minimalistic approach by extending and obscuring the timbral quality of the organ. The Stockholm-based composer counts La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela as major influences.
Ellen said: “I listen to these chords as complete events without any particular attention to their sequential occurrence. To me, chords with a high degree of harmonic clarity display diamond-like qualities.”
7.30pm. Tickets £15. www.barbican.org.uk
By Geoff Cowart