In the year that the Proms turns 125 years old, the 2020 season brings the spirit of the Proms to music-lovers at home. BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four broadcasts treasures from the past 30 years of the Proms across six weeks, before two weeks of incredible live performances at the Royal Albert Hall. A unique Last Night to unite the world led by Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska with South African soprano Golda Schultz. (Main Image Isata Kanneh-Mason)
In challenging times, the BBC Proms aims to shine a beacon of hope with its mix of seminal moments from Proms history alongside live performances from the Royal Albert Hall. The season will bring a summer of music to celebrate a wealth of talent, genres and styles, creating a line-up which brings together legendary performers from the past through its unrivalled archive, with a diverse line-up of the biggest stars of the present and future.
The Proms Opening Weekend
BBC Radio 3 kicks off this special season with the debut performance by the BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra, comprising over 350 musicians from the BBC Orchestras and Choirs. Joining Beethoven Unleashed – a year-long, BBC-wide marathon marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, the Grand Virtual Orchestra will perform a brand new reworking of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, created by Iain Farrington. On Sunday 19 July the premiere of the film accompanying the piece will air on BBC Four. Farrington describes the work as “taking Beethoven’s music and putting it in a musical washing machine to see which colours run”.
Following Farrington’s curtain-raiser, the First Night continues [on Radio 3] with highlights from three Proms across the past 25 years. The BBC Symphony Orchestra features both in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (with soloist Igor Levit, under Edward Gardner) from 2017’s First Night, and in the world premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Panic which won instant notoriety at the Last Night of the 100th-anniversary Proms season (1995). The evening closes with celebrated Italian conductor Claudio Abbado’s final Proms performance (2007), leading the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson in Mahler’s Third Symphony.
The Opening Weekend continues on BBC Four on Sunday 19 July, when audiences will have the opportunity to watch electrifying conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla lead the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in a programme of Beethoven, Stravinsky and Gerald Barry with violinist Leila Josefowicz and tenor Allan Clayton (2017).
Delving into the rich Proms archive
In the 125th-anniversary year of the Proms, audiences have the chance to reflect back on some of the outstanding performances and biggest moments in Proms history with a fantasy season celebrating the greats of the past and providing a snapshot of the ever-changing classical music scene of our times.
BBC Four, fronted by Katie Derham, will broadcast BBC Proms Classics, a range of blockbuster archive concerts each Sunday throughout the festival, presenting the breath-taking scale of orchestral power showcased on the Royal Albert Hall stage. The TV offering reflects innovative highlights such as the 2017 debut of Chineke! Orchestra conducted by Kevin John Edusei, Europe’s first majority BME orchestra and the now-legendary 2007 Proms debut of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. BBC Four will also air the ground-breaking 2012 John Wilson Orchestra Prom that celebrated ‘The Broadway Sound’ sending the orchestra to new heights.
Across the season, Radio 3 has curated a vast array of show-stopping archive performances covering four decades of unforgettable musical stories. Across six weeks there will be a wealth of big-name orchestras and conductors, including: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Leonard Bernstein; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Riccardo Chailly; Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Mariss Jansons; Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Bernard Haitink; Boston Symphony Orchestra / Andris Nelsons; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle; and soloists: Martha Argerich, Alfred Brendel, Dame Sarah Connolly, Renée Fleming, Maria Friedman, Dimitri Hvorostovsky, Janine Jansen, Evgeny Kissin, Jessye Norman, Murray Perahia, and Andreas Scholl.
As always the season celebrates the many faces of classical music, with repertoire ranging from Beethoven to Anna Meredith, Varèse to Mozart, Sally Beamish to Britten, Bach to Thomas Adès. It also presents the many talents that have made waves in an ever-changing scene. Amongst the treasure trove of performances on offer, Radio 3 will broadcast the 2015 Proms debut of composer and keyboard wizard Nils Frahm with ambient duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen; and the 2014 appearance of Jules Buckley conducting the Metropole Orkest with special-guest singers and composing sensations Laura Mvula and Esperanza Spalding.
The Afternoon Concert series on BBC Radio 3 will also feature some of the greatest Proms of the past 25 years given by the BBC Orchestras and Choirs.
This year also sees the first ever TV broadcast of the hugely popular Radio 1 Ibiza Prom from 2015, featuring Pete Tong, Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra, who transformed dance classics into orchestral masterpieces with the help of John Newman and Ella Eyre (BBC Four, Friday 28 August).
On BBC Radio 3, presenter Georgia Mann will host a new Sunday-evening programme that looks ahead to each week’s array of archive Proms. She’ll be joined by a selection of guests to preview the vintage performances, to recall behind-the-scenes stories of the concerts and to recommend highlights to look out for.
Radio 3 will also be broadcasting some of the most stimulating pre-Prom public events that have been held over the past decade, with great interviews and conversation from leading musicians, artists, actors and writers.
Live performances from the Royal Albert Hall
In the final two weeks of the Proms, from Friday 28 August, there will be a series of live performances from the Royal Albert Hall from some of the greatest musicians of our time alongside emerging talent. In what promises to be an emotional return to the Royal Albert Hall, the Proms presents a range of performances fulfilling our founding to mission to present ‘the best of classical music for the widest possible audience’
As the beating heart of the Proms, each of the BBC Orchestras will perform as part of the live element of the festival, and in long-standing Proms tradition, the BBC Symphony Orchestra will open and close the series, beginning with an opening night conducted by Chief Conductor, Sakari Oramo and culminating in a Last Night of the Proms to bring the nation together. Led by the BBC SO’s Principal Guest Conductor, Dalia Stasevska, the 2020 Last Night of the Proms features soprano Golda Schultz, in what promises to be a unique and poignant occasion.
Celebrating a wide range of musicians and music the line-up includes pianist Mitsuko Uchida with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, violinists Nicola Benedetti and Alina Ibragimova with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Jonathan Cohen, a recital from cello sensation Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his pianist sister Isata Kanneh-Mason, Aurora Orchestra led by Nicholas Collon, performances from pianist Stephen Hough, singers Sophie Bevan, Allan Clayton and Robert Murray and sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar with electronic artist Gold Panda, Manu Delago and the Britten Sinfonia under Jules Buckley.
New Music is central to the Proms and a number of composers will be commissioned to write works that respond to the current world-wide situation caused by Covid-19. Composers include Thomas Adès writing a new piece for the LSO Prom and Andrea Tarrodi for the Last Night of the Proms. Alongside these works Richard Ayres explores Beethoven’s journey into deafness, as well as his own hearing loss, with a very personal new work performed by Aurora Orchestra.
The presenting team for the live TV performances includes Katie Derham, along with Tom Service, Suzy Klein, Danielle de Niese and Josie d’Arby.
The Royal Albert Hall live performances will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Four and iPlayer. 17 JUL 20 – 12 SEP 20, EIGHT WEEKS OF CONCERTS, FROM THE ARCHIVE AND LIVE