This year’s Proms season has been announced in the last few days, and alongside all the standard fare, there’s the usual small smattering of contemporary music to get mildly excited about. Scanning through the programme, the most immediate thing that leapt out was familiarity, even predictability, the festival in general opting for composers whose music has been previously featured at the Proms (in some cases many times), rather than exploring relatively unknown names. i guess by this stage that’s not something that should take anyone by surprise – nor indeed the very small amount of new music included. If the Proms is anything, it’s 100% safe. Reflecting on this year’s season announcement, and remembering the recent death of Harrison Birtwistle, his famous 1995 Last Night work Panic now seems such a terribly long time ago. It would be wonderful if James B. Wilson’s Last Night opener might have a similarly scandalous effect, though it’s probably a bad idea to get too many hopes up about that.
Nonetheless, it’s nice to see a very small-scale acknowledgement of the 100th anniversary of Xenakis’ birth, with his chamber works Allegro molto, Akea and À r. (Hommage à Ravel) being performed at a remote Prom in Belfast, in addition to the orchestral Jonchaies, and mini percussion concerto O-Mega. Also, the prospect of Jennifer Walshe’s 2019 kind-of-sort-of-symphony The Site of an Investigation at the Proms is a nice surprise and something to look forward to. As for the rest, judge for yourselves; in the the following list, * = UK première, † = European première and ** = world première.
(updated 17 July)