Having largely ignored the hype and hullabaloo surrounding the launch of this year’s Proms season, my concert guide arrived this morning and so i’ve finally taken a proper look at what lies ahead; it promises to be an interesting and, at times, exciting experience. Once again the season will begin with a new work, this time by Mark-Anthony Turnage, and i for one can only hope he’s not been listening to any R‘n’B lately. Beyond this, the number of world premières is considerable, and i’ll be particularly looking forward to those by Benedict Mason, Charlotte Bray, Elaine Agnew, Bob Chilcott, and Simon Bainbridge; new works by Fung Lam, Julian Philips, Nicole Lizée, Thea Musgrave, James MacMillan, Tim Garland, Brian Elias, Gavin Higgins, Gavin Bryars, Helen Grime, Eric Whitacre and Mark Simpson will also be receiving their first performances. A diverse list indeed, but it’s the UK premières i’m more excited about, especially the works by Kaija Saariaho, Per Nørgård, Harrison Birtwistle, Olga Neuwirth and Michael Finnissy. In fact, the concert featuring Finnissy’s Piano Concerto No. 2, given by the Britten Sinfonia and also including the Birtwistle and Elias premières, plus Brian Ferneyhough’s Prometheus, may just turn out to be the highlight of the whole season.
As usual, all these premières will be featured on 5:4, but aside from the new pieces Daniel Barenboim will be presenting six works by Pierre Boulez during the first half of the season (as a curious counterpart to his Beethoven symphony series), and the centenary of John Cage’s birth will be marked with a large-scale concert in his honour, including that most excellent of choirs, EXAUDI. Having pulled out all the stops last year in resurrecting Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony, Proms director Roger Wright has gone even further this year with performances of two of the largest works ever written, Berlioz‘ Requiem and Schoenberg‘s ravishing Gurrelieder (the cost of this year’s season must be truly eye-watering).
So, lots to look forward to, and it all kicks off on 13 July.