For those of you who still retain an interest – or even a smattering of excitement – for what the Proms festival has to offer, here’s a summary of the contemporary music that’ll be served up this year. No comment from me, except to say that, having explored all of the premières for the last 13 years, i wonder if the time may have come for 5:4 to abandon the Proms to its cosy, enervated noodling and stay focused on genuinely imaginative, adventurous music-making. (Though i am excited about finally hearing Kurtág’s Endgame.)
** = world premiere; † = European première; * = UK première;
14 July – Prom 1
- Bohdana Frolyak – new work **
16 July – Prom 4
- Andrea Tarrodi – Birds of Paradise
18 July – Prom 6
- Grace-Evangeline Mason – new work **
22 July – Proms at Sage Gateshead
- Missy Mazzoli – Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres)
23 July – Prom 12
- Helen Grime – Meditations on Joy *
24 July – Prom 13
- Catherine Lamb – Portions Transparent/Opaque ** (portions 2 & 3)
25 July – Prom 14
- Noriko Koide – Swaddling Silk and Gossamer Rain †
25 July – Prom 15
- Olivia Belli – new work **
30 July – Prom 20
- Mason Bates – Piano Concerto *
30 July – Prom 31
- Derrick Skye – Nova Plexus **
2 August – Prom 24
- Ivan Karabits – Concerto for Orchestra No. 1, ‘A Musical Gift to Kyiv’ *
3 August – Prom 26
- Gerald Barry – Kafka’s Earplugs **
4 August – Prom 27
- Jimmy López Bellido – Perú negro *
6 August – Proms at Dewsbury
- Lara Weaver – A Thing That Holds
9 August – Prom 34
- Roxanna Panufnik – Floral Tribute **
17 August – Prom 43
- György Kurtág – Endgame *
18 August – Prom 44
- Samy Moussa – Symphony No. 2 †
19 August – Prom 46
- Hannah Peel – Neon
- Ben Nobuto – SERENITY 2.0
- Oliver Leith – A different ‘Fantasie from Suite No. 5 in G major’
- David Lang – Mystery Sonata No. 7, ‘Glory’
- Steve Reich – Double Sextet
24 August – Prom 51
- Judith Weir – Begin Afresh **
25 August – Prom 52
- Julia Adolphe – Makeshift Castle †
26 August – Prom 54
- Rachel Laurin – Prelude and Fugue in G major **
26 August – Prom 55
- Carlos Simon – Four Black American Dances †
6 September – Prom 68
- Lera Auerbach – Sogno di Stabat Ma
- Max Richter – Recomposed: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
7 September – Prom 69a
- Joanna Marsh – SEEN
- Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur – Cantique des cantiques
- Soumik Datta – Awaaz
8 September – Proms at Great Yarmouth
- Sarah Rodgers – new work **
8 September – Prom 70
- Gabriela Ortiz – Clara *
9 September – Prom 71
- James B. Wilson – 1922 **
In a word, Simon: no! Provided you still have the stomach for “cosy, enervated noodling”, I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting (nay, begging) you to continue – your write-ups are invaluable in providing something Proms-related to read (and, of course, listen to ;-)) that doesn’t just follow the “party line” of this or that publication/institution. Besides, if you didn’t continue to “take one for the team” by steeling yourself for each relevant broadcast/stream, how would you ever know what passed for “contemporary concert music” outside the comparatively rarified confines of those concerts you attend in person…?
The concerts i usually attend are “rarified”?
I did only say they were “comparatively rarified”. You must admit that the festivals, etc. you tend to write about on here (necessarily) have a certain niche appeal (they shouldn’t be niche; however, this is the world we live in)! And even the concerts you write about for Bachtrack would predominantly not involve the types of composition that tend end up as Proms fodder, I would venture…
I disagree; contemporary music is a niche anyway, and the festivals i go to are the norm from that perspective, they’re not a niche within that niche. You could only regard them as rarified from the perspective of standard repertoire concerts, and that’s not where I’m coming from at all (as far as 5:4 is concerned). Do you regard what you call “contemporary concert music” as being different from what goes on at those festivals?
Honestly, I merely think that you may be reading too much into what was intended as a fairly light-hearted (even gently teasing) remark…!
Ok. I just wasn’t sure I understood (or agreed with) exactly what you meant.
OK, to clarify, then, what I’m saying proceeds on the assumption (which you are, of course, welcome to correct me on) that you mainly attend two kinds of musical event:
1) contemporary music festivals: these, we seem to agree, are pretty niche events by definition (regardless of the rights and wrongs of this state of affairs).
2) concerts predominantly involving canonical works (i.e. the kind you write about for Bachtrack): these generally attract a more “serious” (that dread, utterly vague adjective!) species of listener than the deliberately cosmopolitan Proms; the premieres one might hear there are (or at least aspire to be) therefore of a more “serious” nature also.
So while I may have been talking about two wholly separate degrees of “niche-ness”, at no point was I suggesting there were niches within niches!
It’s interesting the distinction you make in 2), between concerts that attract more serious listeners and the “deliberately cosmopolitan Proms”. Is that a real distinction? Unless you’re specifically referring to the non-classical fare at the Proms? i only ask because my assumption is always that the organisers of the Proms hope that they’ll be taken very seriously indeed, but maybe that’s wrong on my part.
I told you it was a slippery adjective! I didn’t mean the Proms’ comparative lack of “seriousness” denoted frivolousness, more informality – the standing-up, the people-bringing-picnics, the (slightly) more relaxed attitude to noise-making, etc., at least if you’re Promming “properly”. Certainly the atmosphere I’ve encountered while Promming is unlike anything elsewhere (although, bizarrely, HCMF’s Shorts day comes close, but the broader context there is very different), and with that, I think, comes an expectation that what’s heard won’t stay too far from making the “casual” punter feel at home – it’s the only festival I know that “needs” a Last Night in the Proms sense of the term, to pick an extreme example. Hence the general lack of adventurousness in your average Proms premiere, which (to drag this discussion back to my initial point) nevertheless we’re all still hoping won’t ever put you off fulfilling your “critiquing duties”.
I’ve been following your explorations of the Proms for almost as long as you’ve been doing them. If this is the end of that road, thank you for a job very well done!
Looking through my collection, I found that I’ve been saving all or most of the works you’ve covered since 2012. As the years went by, I switched to saving only the ones I stand a chance of listening to again, which was down to five last year…
Much as I’ve enjoyed the Proms coverage, I’d support a switch to a focused/curated selection of the premieres that you think are particularly interesting, perhaps along the lines of the Lent and Advent series. The Proms concerts have their place in the world, and your approach to them has been informative and stimulating, but if it’s gone stale for you, I wouldn’t want to ask you to climb all those mountains just because they’re there.
Thanks for this comment, Chris. i’ve wondered about the kind of thing you’re suggesting, switching to just writing about the actually good premières, or a round-up of everything at the end of the season (as i did in 2020, the lockdown season). We’ll see; i’m going to keep mulling it over. i can’t escape from the fact that my Proms coverage is among the most popular articles i write all year, so…