The BBC Proms is the world’s biggest and longest-running music festival and features leading international artists and orchestras. Spanning two months in July-September, the 2013 BBC Proms includes more than 90 concerts, mostly at London’sRoyal Albert Hall, as well as plethora of daily talks, workshops, performances and family events.
Founded in 1895, the original aim of the Proms was to make the best-quality classical music available to the widest possible audience and that ambition remains central to the festival today. ‘Proms’ is short for Promenade concerts – informal and inexpensive concerts where ‘Promenaders’ stand to listen. The BBC has run the Proms since 1927 and today there are still 1,400 standing places available cheaply for each concert and extensive television, radio and online broadcasting of Proms concert in the UK and abroad.
The Lutosławski celebrations at the BBC Proms is a major highlight of the 2013 festival. They will begin on opening night with a televised concert featuring Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Lutosławski’sVariations on a Theme by Paganini with pianist Stephen Hough (July 12). The BBC Symphony Orchestra returns with cellist Paul Watkins for Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto on July 17. This concert will be conducted by composer Thomas Adés, who will also include on the program the world premiere of his composition Totentanz, a commission in memory of Lutosławski. Totentanz sets an anonymous 15th-century text that accompanied a frieze destroyed when Lübeck’s Marienkirche was bombed in the Second World War.
On August 7 Edward Gardener conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra and soloist Louis Lortie in Lutosławski’s Piano Concerto alongside the Symphonic Variations, before Antoni Wit (right) brings the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra to the Proms for the first time in a program that includes Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra(August 23).
Lutosławski’s smaller-scale works are not ignored during the Proms. There will be two concerts at London’s Cadogan Hall, with the first program including the Partita with violinst Vilde Frang and pianist Michail Lifits (July 15). Then Paul Watkins returns on August 24 to conduct the English Chamber Orchestra and tenor Ben Johnson in Paroles tissées in a concert which places the music of Lutosławski alongside the music of Benjamin Britten, whose centenary also falls in 2013.
The Polish strand woven through the 2013 BBC Proms also includes music by Penderecki (August 15), Górecki (September 4), Szymanowski (July 18 & September 2) and Panufnik (August 23), as well as a concert by Paul Van Nevel and his Huelgas Ensemble that shines the spotlight on music from the Polish courts of the Renaissance (July 22). Later, British violinist Nigel Kennedy brings members of his Orchestra of Life from Poland to play alongside the Palestine Strings in a Late Night Prom performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (August 8).
Others highlights of the BBC Proms in 2013 include seven full length Wagner operas (including Daniel Barenboim conducting the first complete Wagner Ring Cycle at the Proms in one summer), a complete Tchaikovsky symphony cycle, major celebrations for Verdi and performances by many of the world’s leading conductors including Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Mark Elder, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Valery Gergiev, Daniel Harding, Lorin Maazel, Sir Antonio Pappano, Yannick Nézét-Seguin, Jonathan Nott, Vasily Petrenko, Robin Ticciati, Xian Zhang and Mariss Jansons. Among the glittering soloists are Joseph Calleja, Joyce Di Donato, Janine Jansen, Nigel Kennedy, Nina Stemme and Mitsuko Uchida.
Polish music at the 2013 Proms:
July 12, 2013
Lutosławski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini
Stephen Hough (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
July 15, 2013
Vilde Frang (violin), Michail Lifits (piano)
July 17, 2013
Lutosławski: Cello Concerto
Paul Watkins (cello), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Adès
July 18, 2013
Szymanowski: Symphony No.3 ‘The Song of the Night’
Michael Weinius (tenor), BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales/Thomas Søndergård
July 22, 2013
Music at the Polish Courts of the Renaissance
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul Van Nevel
August 7, 2013
Lutosławski: Symphonic Variations/Piano Concerto
Louis Lortie (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner
August 15, 2013
Penderecki: Concerto grosso
Leonard Elschenbroich, Daniel Müller-Schott, Arto Noras (cellos), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
August 23, 2013
Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra & Panufnik: Tragic Overture/Lullaby
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Antoni Wit
August 24, 2013
Lutosławski: Paroles tissées
Ben Johnson (tenor), English Chamber Orchestra/Paul Watkins
September 2, 2013
Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1
Baiba Skride (violin), Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
September 4, 2013
Górecki: Symphony No.3, ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’
Ruby Hughes (soprano), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
Full details of all concerts are available at bbc.co.uk/proms.