Wider global reach for BBC Proms


At the Royal Albert Hall – violinist Janine Jansen, conductor Sakari Oramo, vocalist Paloma Faith, BBC presenter Katie Derham and Joey from ‘War Horse’ © BBC-Robert-Viglasky

The 2014 BBC Proms season has just opened at the Royal Albert Hall in London, heralding the start of the world’s largest and longest-running classical music festival – eight weeks of concerts by some of the finest artists, orchestras and ensembles of today, performing the works of some of the greatest composers which the world of classical music has produced. There are 92 concerts in all, four of which will take place at venues around the United Kingdom on the Last Night of the Proms.

Nearly 50 years after the first appearance of a non-British orchestra at the festival, this season features 10 international ensembles – more international orchestras than have ever performed at a Proms season in the past – coverging on London from China, Greece, Iceland, Lapland, Melbourne, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea and Turkey.

Those orchestras making a welcome return visit include the Berlin Philharmoniker, Cleveland Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

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Daniel Barenboim will conduct the West-Eastern Divan in a programme featuring works by Mozart and Ravel        © BBC Chris Christodoulou

Among the illustrious conductors appearing this season are Marin Alsop, Daniel Barenboim, Semyon Bychkov, Iván Fischer, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon Rattle, Franz Welser-Möst and David Zinman who gives his last ever performance as Music Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich.

The line-up of guest artists is impressive, too. Amongst those appearing are Alison Balsom who plays a new trumpet concerto by Chinese composer Qigang Chen, with the China Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Long Yu. Joshua Bell appears as both Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and soloist, in a concert which includes Beethoven’s First Symphony and Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1.  Sir Neville Marriner conducts.

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Semyon Bychkov will conduct  Strauss’ ‘Elektra’        Photo courtesy BBC

James Ehnes plays the Walton Violin Concerto, Julia Fisher is the guest artist in Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, and Benjamin Grosvenor plays the Franck Symphonic Variations and the Chopin Piano Concerto No 1. Violinist Janine Jansen appears in a programme of chamber music by Prokofiev and Schubert – with Sakari Oramo (violin) and Itamar Golan (piano) – and as guest soloist in Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, with Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Truls Mørk plays the Elgar Cello Concerto, and Alisa Weilerstein makes her second appearance at the Proms with a performance of the Cello Concerto by Dvořák.

This is a year of notable anniversaries, with the Proms festival itself celebrating its 120th season. 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, and this will be reflected in programming across the season, including performances of works by composers who lost their lives during the hostilities – Butterworth, Stephan and Kelly – as well as later works inspired by the conflict – Britten’s War Requiem and Sally Beamish’s violin concerto inspired by the novel All Quiet on the Western Front.


Joey – from the National Theatre production of ‘War Horse’        © BBC – Robert Viglasky

In line with this theme, Tasmin Little plays the Violin Concerto by E J Moeran who was wounded whilst on active service during the War, and in collaboration with the National Theatre, the War Horse Prom will feature the life-size puppets from the stage production, together with an appearance by the Proms Military Wives Choir – directed by Gareth Malone – and the modern day premiere of the New War Hymn by Sir Henry Wood, founder of the Proms. On August 4th – the day on which Britain entered the war – the special Late Night Prom will feature the second of two posthumous world premieres by the late John Tavener, his Requiem Fragments, performed by the Tallis Scholars and the Heath Quartet led by conductor Peter Phillips – a work commissioned by the BBC.

The 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss will be celebrated with the performance of three of his complete operas – Der Rosenkavalier, Salome and Elektra, as well as a number of his instrumental and choral works.

Also reflected in the programmes will be the concerts to mark the 80th birthday of two of Britain’s most important living composers, Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and four British conductors celebrate significant birthdays with appearances during the season – Donald Runnicles (60), Sir Andrew Davies (70), Sir Roger Norrington (80) and Sir Neville Marriner (90).

As ever, the Proms concerts offer a broad range of programming. Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passions are both to be performed this year, there are 12 world premieres – 10 of which are BBC commissions – and 23 European, UK and London premieres. John Wilson and his orchestra bring Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate to the Proms for the first time, there’s a recreation of Count Basie and Duke Ellington’s Battle of the Bands, a BBC Sport Prom and two special concerts devoted to CBeebies, the BBC’s pre-school channel.

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The traditional Last Night of the Proms         © BBC – Chris Christodoulou

The ever-popular Last Night of the Proms will be conducted by Sakari Oramo, with guest artists Janine Jansen and baritone Roderick Williams. The programme features a combination of British patriotism and a celebration of the Strauss anniversary with a performance of the composer’s cantata Taillefer. In addition to the nautical overture Plymouth Hoe and Ravel’s Tzigane, there’ll be the usual mass singalong of Last Night favourites – and this is just at the Royal Albert Hall.  Rufus Wainwright heads the line-up at the Hyde Park Proms in the Park, Katherine Jenkins hosts the performance at Glasgow Green, and there’ll be concerts in Belfast and Swansea as well.

To ensure the widest possible audience for this unique festival, every Prom will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, with additional broadcasts on Radio 1, Radio 2 and – for the first time – on both Radio 4, and Radio 5 live in its 20th anniversary year.  There will also be much more content available online, as well as on mobile and on tablet.

A full list of what’s on, when, and how it can be accessed, is to be found on:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms

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The Royal Albert Hall – home of the BBC Proms        © Photo courtesy BBC

Monaco Boys Choir tours the East Coast of the USA

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The Monaco Boys Choir at the Prince’s Palace in the Principality of Monaco © G Luci

The Monaco Boys Choir celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion, the award-winning ensemble has just embarked on a tour of the East Coast of the USA.

Formerly known as The Little Singers of Monaco (Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco), this world-renowned choir, under the direction of Pierre Debat, opened its tour with two free concerts in New York City – in the Cathedral of St John the Divine on July 11th and at the Alliance Francaise’s annual Bastille Day Street Festival on July 13th.

The official choir of the Monaco Cathedral, and recognised as one of the Principality’s musical treasures, the Monaco Boys Choir was founded in 1974 by Prince Rainier III, to highlight the Principality’s historic association with culture and the performing arts. It is composed of over 30 singers aged between eight and 18 years, each of whom has had to undergo a series of rigorous examinations to gain admission.

Now under the patronage of H S H Prince Albert of Monaco, and with the support of the Monégasque government, the choir is able to donate its time and talents to the presentation of concerts for the benefit of many international humanitarian associations.

The choir’s repertoire includes sacred works by Charpentier, Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Fauré and Franck, as well as French and Monégasque folk songs, traditional English songs and patriotic American songs. It is particularly popular for the unusual repertoire of works written for children.

Traditionally, the choir undertakes a European tour in spring, followed by a summer tour to more distant destinations. It performs an average of 30 to 40 concerts each year, and has visited more than 40 nations around the world.

Following a special concert for invited guests at the Embassy of France for their National Day celebrations on Bastille Day, July 14th, the choir presents two more concerts in Washington DC. Both free and open to the public, the first of these takes place at 11.30 am on July 15th in the main Atrium at the Children’s National Health Center for the patients, their families and guests. Later that day, at 5.00 pm, the choir will mark the 200th anniversary of writing of the poem by Francis Scott Key which provided the lyrics for the American national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. This performances takes place in Flag Hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“The Principality has attracted discerning visitors for centuries by offering unique cultural, sporting, and lifestyle experiences,” says Monaco’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Maguy Maccario Doyle, “and it is always very exciting when our cultural emissaries come to town.”

Following its appearances in Washington DC, the choir will visit Charlotte NC, Atlanta, Orlando (at Disneyworld), West Palm Beach, Port St Lucie and Miami. A final appearance will feature a special pre-game rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at the Washington Nationals vs Miami Marlins game at Marlins Park in Miami at the end of July.

For further information, visit http://monacoconsulate.populr.me/monacoboyschoir or www.lespetitschanteurs.mc.

See a Fox Business video clip of the choir singing God Bless America and an interview with Karla Modolo, Senior Officer of the Consulate General of Monaco in New York, recorded shortly after the boys arrived in the city on July 9th: http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/3666766306001/monaco-boys-choir-sings-god-bless-america/#sp=show-clips.


Aerial view of Monte-Carlo, Principality of Monaco © Monaco Press Centre Photos