Gigs, gigs, gigs: Proms 2016

by 5:4

i’ve recently returned from a trip to Tallinn to experience some of the annual Estonian Music Days (my reviews can be read over on Bachtrack). In a bit of spare time one afternoon, i finally got around to examining the forthcoming Proms season, and i don’t think it’s entirely due to the fact i was in the midst of a genuinely bold, experimental festival that, from the perspective of new music, Proms 2016 seems so poor bordering on lamentable. In terms of quantity, contemporary music – always a tertiary concern at the Proms after 1) established repertoire and 2) the increasingly desperate need to appear ‘trendy’ – isn’t represented too badly, with 52 works scattered throughout the season (only six of which are by women composers), including 13 world and 10 UK premières. But the choices, particularly in the case of the world premières, are appallingly predictable and narrow-minded, and the less said about the decision to perform Steve Reich in Peckham’s Bold Tendencies car park the better, as it may be an all-time low for the Proms, clearly trying to imitate LCMF. It’s hard to believe the decision-makers have a meaningful grip on what’s actually going on in contemporary music; certainly, if this is indicative of David Pickard’s vision for the Proms, that vision is suffering from an extreme case of myopia.

At this point, having done some cursory analysis, i was going to present some statistics to elaborate on just how feeble the selection is—but to be honest, i really can’t be bothered, it simply isn’t worth the time. Suffice it to say that there are a few personal highlights, particularly Galina Ustvolskaya‘s Symphony No. 3, Mark Simpson‘s Israfel, (which impressed me at its première) and David Sawer‘s new work April \ March; having enjoyed her music at last year’s HCMF i’m keen to hear Iris ter Schiphorst‘s Gravitational Waves, it’ll be interesting to hear if Charlotte Bray‘s new piece Falling into the Fire will live up to the promise of 2012’s At the Speed of Stillness (my gut tells me it will), and as ever it’ll be good to experience music by composers presently unknown to me, including Lera AuerbachPaul Desenne and Tom Harrold, the last of whom unfortunately drew the short straw for the Last Night. Beyond this, very little to get excited about and much to bemoan. If familiarity still breeds contempt, the Proms is becoming downright loathsome, and at this stage i’m not sure whether i’ll review the premières this year; we’ll see.

Below is a complete list of the contemporary music at Proms 2016 (** = world première, * = UK première):

Prom 4, Mon 18 July

• Galina Ustvolskaya – Symphony No. 3 ‘Jesus Messiah, Save Us!’ (14 mins)

Proms Chamber 1, Mon 18 July

• Henri Dutilleux – Ainsi la nuit (15 mins)

 Prom 13, Sun 24 July

• Magnus Lindberg – new work** (15 mins)

Prom 15, Tue 26 July

• Anthony Payne – Of Land, Sea and Sky** (20 mins)

Prom 16, Wed 27 July

• Michael Berkeley – Violin Concerto** (20 mins)

Prom 21, Sun 31 July

• Wolfgang Rihm – Gejagte Form (revised version, 2002) (13 mins)

Prom 22, Sun 31 July

• Lera Auerbach – The Infant Minstrel and His Peculiar Menagerie* (30 mins)

Prom 23, Mon 1 August

• Jörg Widmann – Armonica* (14 mins)

Prom 26, Thu 4 August

• Reinbert de Leeuw – Der nächtliche Wanderer* (54 mins)

Prom 27, Fri 5 August

• Helen Grime – Two Eardley Pictures – 1: Catterline in Winter** (8 mins)

Prom 29, Sat 6 August

• Iris ter Schiphorst – Gravitational Waves (8 mins)

Prom 30, Sun 7 August

• Helen Grime – Two Eardley Pictures – 2: Snow** (8 mins)

Proms Chamber 2, Mon 8 August

• Tobias Broström – Sputnik (5 mins)
• Kurt Schwertsik – Adieu Satie – excerpts (10 mins)
• HK Gruber – Three MOB pieces (10 mins)

Prom 32, Mon 8 August

• Henri Dutilleux – The Shadows of Time (30 mins)

Prom 33, Tue 9 August

• Mark Simpson – Israfel (12 mins)
• Henri Dutilleux – ‘Tout un monde lointain …’ (28 mins)

Prom 34, Wed 10 August

• Henri Dutilleux – Timbres, espace, mouvement (20 mins)
• HK Gruber – Busking (30 mins)

Prom 35, Thu 11 August

• Malcolm Hayes – Violin Concerto** (24 mins)

Prom 37, Fri 12 August

• Huw Watkins – Cello Concerto** (25 mins)

Prom 39, Sun 14 August

• Charlotte Bray – Falling into the Fire** (22 mins)

Proms Chamber 5, Mon 15 August

• Huw Watkins – The Phoenix and the Turtle (6 mins)
• Nico Muhly – Gentle sleep (7 mins)

Prom 40, Mon 15 August

• Francisco Coll – Four Iberian Miniatures (12 mins)
• Thomas Adès – Lieux retrouvés* (15 mins)

Prom 41, Tue 16 August

• Colin Matthews – Berceuse for Dresden (15 mins)

Prom 42, Tue 16 August

• Arvo Pärt – Nunc dimittis (7 mins)
• Arvo Pärt – Triodion (14 mins)

Prom 43, Wed 17 August

• Jörg Widmann – Con brio (11 mins)

Proms at … Roundhouse, Camden, Sat 20 August

• Harrison Birtwistle – The Message (3 mins)
• György Ligeti – Ramifications (9 mins)
• Georg Friedrich Haas – Open Spaces II* (16 mins)
• Mica Levi – Signal Before War**
• David Sawer – April \ March** (20 mins)

Prom 46, Sat 20 August

• Gérard Grisey – Dérives* (13 mins)

Prom 47, Sun 21 August

• Piers Hellawell – Wild Flow** (20 mins)

Prom 48, Sun 21 Aug

• Matthias Pintscher – Reflections on Narcissus (35 mins)

Prom 51, Wed 24 August

• Marlos Nobre – Kabbalah* (10 mins)

Prom 53, Thu 25 August

• Emily Howard – Torus** (20 mins)

Prom 55, Sat 27 August

• Hans Abrahamsen – let me tell you (35 mins)

Prom 57, Sun 28 August

• Thomas Larcher – Symphony No. 2* (35 mins)

Proms Chamber 7, Mon 29 August

• Sally Beamish – Merula perpetua** (10 mins)

Prom 62, Wed 31 August

• Bayan Northcott – Concerto for Orchestra** (15 mins)

Prom 64, Fri 2 September

• Pierre Boulez – Éclat (10 mins)

Prom 65, Fri 2 September

• Pierre Boulez – Anthèmes 2 (20 mins)
• Pierre Boulez – Cummings ist der Dichter (13 mins)
• Elliott Carter – Penthode (20 mins)

Proms at … Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park, Sat 3 September

• Steve Reich – Vermont Counterpoint (10 mins)
• Steve Reich – Eight Lines (18 mins)
• Steve Reich – Music for a Large Ensemble (18 mins)

Prom 66, Sat 3 September

• Julian Anderson – Incantesimi* (9 mins)

Prom 67, Sun 4 September

• Paul Desenne – Hipnosis mariposa* (13 mins)

Prom 75 (Last Night), Sat 10 September

• Tom Harrold – Raze** (5 mins)
• Jonathan Dove – Our revels now are ended (8 mins)

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Chris L

Personally, I wouldn’t be too hasty in writing off Payne – his last Proms piece (Time’s Arrow, way back in 1990) was mighty impressive.

Chris L

My comment wasn’t meant to be accusatory; it was more my roundabout way of saying “please keep up the good work with your Proms reviews!” – I’m sure far more people rely on them than ever make themselves known to you.


As far as I can see, the longest piece is Reinbert de Leeuw’s. Do you know anything about it? I’m intrigued, especially given Knussen is conducting it and therefore I assume chose it.


from a a longtime reader of your blog::
this blog is a valuable resource to introduce contemporary music;looking fwd to your bbc prom reviews;

Daniel Childers

Lera Auerbach is unknown to you? That’s… surprising. Different strokes for different folks I guess, but as an admitted semi-worshiper of Schnittke, I find her cello and violin preludes unbelievably fantastic. , They’re so delightfully witty, so breathtakingly insane. “The Infant Minstrel and His Peculiar Menagerie”… July 31 can’t come soon enough!

Matthew Whittall

I had the good fortune to hear de Leeuw’s “Der Nachtliche Wanderer” at the Helsinki Musica nova festival last year. Along with Abrahamsen’s “let me tell you”, it was a highlight of the week. It’s epic and intimate simultaneously, and deeply moving. I couldn’t describe it stylistically if I tried, except to say that it’s hard to pin down, very pluralist, yet completely coherent. Hear it live if you can. The percussion effects are very subtle and quiet, and way he moves sound through the orchestral space really has to be experienced in situ.

[…] so that it sounds and looks bigger than it is. And this summer’s Proms have been widely derided for being one of the worst for new music in years. (And if the last two or three years are any […]


Found a live recording of the De Leeuw piece on YouTube:

Simon Hall

Much as I like his music, you can’t really count Dutilleux as a contemporary composer – he’s been dead for three years. And I don’t see a particular problem with the Peckham car park gig, or the popular programmes.

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