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Launching the 2011 BBC Proms ...

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 10:50 UK Time, Thursday, 14 April 2011

Photo of Proms Controller Roger Wright at the Royal Albert Hall


It's the morning of the BBC Proms launch. I have a real sense of anticipation and excitement because, at last, it's possible to tell everyone about the 2011 plans.

I always feel rather unfriendly keeping the plans as secret as possible until now.
We need as much publicity as possible on launch day as we have hundreds of thousands of tickets to sell and therefore want to spread the word as widely as we can. Leaks beforehand would simply drip the news out and potentially undermine the launch day splash.

Of course, in these days of social networking, rumours spread very quickly - and some of them were really wide of the mark! The first Proms performance of Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony, however, has been one of the worst kept secrets in recent history!  It's been fun to read the message boards full of 'will they, won’t they?' comments. So now it’s clear - we will! I'm not, by the way, one of those who, in order to make the case for a neglected work, overstates its importance. I don't claim the Gothic as a masterpiece, any more than I do the Second Symphony of Arnold Bax (also receiving its Proms premiere this year),  but I do think they are important pieces, worth hearing in good performances and then letting audiences make up their own mind, rather than being influenced by second- or third-hand opinions.

Last year I was shocked (or perhaps just disappointed) when enquiring further of those who dismissed Parry's symphonies to discover that they had never heard any!  I will, however, very much fight the corner for the quality of music by Frank Bridge'There is a willow', 'Enter Spring' and the Piano Quintet are fine works to stand alongside more regularly performed pieces and his place in musical history should stand for more than being simply Britten's teacher.

Of course with two months of concerts and a rich array of satellite events there is plenty for me to announce and lots of information for our audiences to take in and respond to. It's good to be able to give out all the details although I find there is far too much to talk about; so keeping it clear is one thought uppermost in my mind when talking about the music and performers featured this year.

If there is one event I would single out as an intriguing and fun concert to which I am particularly looking forward it is the Audience Choice Prom which will be given by the wonderful Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer. This will be the first Prom in which the whole programme has been selected by the audience in the hall. Pity the orchestra librarian!

I started to do interviews last week for those outlets with long lead times. It is around this time that we try to nail down as much of next year as possible and so my biggest challenge in giving interviews is not to get the years mixed up. It would be all too easy for me to give out the 2012 details now as they are most fresh in my mind!  

One of the regular questions I get asked is 'what are the highlights?' or 'What is new this year?' It will be easier to talk about what seems to have particularly engaged and surprised the audience in the next few weeks when the discussion really gets into full swing. But there's no doubt that some of the star artists will excite ticket buyers as well as the international orchestras. I look forward to answering questions online once the season gets under way.


  • Comment number 1.

    My son and I have been looking forward eagerly to the BBC Proms programme being announced, after we were so thrilled and inspired to have the chance to perform at the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms Family Orchestra and Chorus last August in the premiere of Graham Fitkin's PK. It was such a great experience thoughout, right from the intensive rehearsals at Cecil Sharp House and eventually alongside the BBC Concert Orchestra at the BBC Maida Vale Studios, up to the rehearsal and performance at the Royal Albert Hall. As you yourself said there afterwards, this is what the Proms should be about, inspiring families and especially young musicians towards a lifetime's love of classical and contemporary music. I perhaps have missed something in my search through this year's Proms listings but it does not appear to be an event that is being repeated. If that is the case, it would be a great shame. I hope that I have just failed to find it, and that you have indeed been able to arrange a similarly inspiring experience for families who would love to play music together.

  • Comment number 2.

    As a paid-up member of the Havergal Brian Society, I was one of the individuals you mention champing at the bit for confirmation that the “Gothic” would be performed. I am therefore extremely disappointed to discover that the BBC seems to be passing up the opportunity to televise it. I cannot be the only individual for whom this would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to SEE a performance as well as HEAR it, but who would find a Sunday evening performance in London impossible to get to. If room in the television schedules really is impossible to find, perhaps a podcast could be arranged instead? Let me start the petition here: those in favour of a televised “Gothic” say “aye”!

  • Comment number 3.

    Have those who plan the proms not heard of Ralph Vaughan Williams? Why does this great Bristish festival continue to pay so little regard to this great British composer? Not one item from him this time! If this were an Austrian festival, would they have left Johann Strauss or Mahler out?

    John Blore.

  • Comment number 4.

    I am deeply upset that not a single note of Vaughan Williams is to be heard over the entire season! I am also struggling to find a reason why. I cannot believe his huge output of particularly characteristic English music has simply been overlooked by accident. Something is going on and it is not good.

  • Comment number 5.

    I say "Aye" to a televised 'Gothic'... As a Dutch Brianite who perhaps won't make it to London, this would be a satisfying substitute!

  • Comment number 6.

    I too second Mr. Wright's enthusiasm for the music of Frank Bridge, which definitely deserves wider hearing. In fact, if I may humbly suggest a program for the future, I would like to suggest pairing Frank Bridge's "A Prayer" with the traditional Beethoven 9.

    For J. Blore and D. Allsopp, I too share your enthusiasm for Vaughan Williams' music. While I would have liked to have seen some of RVW's works programmed as well this season, I should remind you that just 3 years ago was the 50th anniversary of RVW's death, and in the 2008 season, there were no less than 16 works by RVW, including the August 26 program with 4 in one night, which I was fortunate enough to attend. Plus, I am aware that the Proms can't do everything in one season, and including something by one composer by default excludes someone else. In addition, I was at the pre-Proms talk last season where Mr. Wright was asked by an audience member, "What happens if the licence fee is cut?" Money isn't infinite for putting on all the works that we'd all like to see at the Proms.

    For Jezetha, why not travel to London for Havergal Brian 1? It's not that far from the Netherlands :) .

  • Comment number 7.

    Many thanks Jezetha! While I should point out that the views above are my own, and do not necessarily represent those of the Havergal Brian Society, I'm sure Jezetha and I are not alone, so please join us in showing your support for a televised "Gothic"!

  • Comment number 8.

    I heartily agree with the comments lamenting the complete absence of Vaughan Williams' music. What a dreary itsy-bitsy First Night (as a few seasons back with the disastrous 'taster' opening night.) An opening night that would be memorable woud be:
    Frank Bridge The Sea
    Debussy La Mer
    Vuaghan Williams A Sea Symphony

  • Comment number 9.

    Roger, great to see the proms site has caught up with 2011. The '2010' was fun while it lasted but it did make Three look a bunch of divs. Well done!

  • Comment number 10.

    I eagerly clicked on James Macmillan's name when I saw him in the "composers" listing on the Prom Page, only to find out that he wasn't in any concert.

    Was he included by mistake there, or is a work of his going to be added to one of the programs at one point?

  • Comment number 11.

    In terms of sheer visual spectacle, a concert performance of Havergal Brian's 'Gothic Symphony' is hard if not impossible to beat.

    I am quite frankly incredulous that the BBC hasn't already got this event down as a PRIORITY transmission on either BBC 2 or BBC 4 and can only add my support to the campaign to have it included in the televised schedule.

    Relative to the 'Gothic', performances of Mahler's 8th (which we were treated to on television last year) are ten-a-penny. Come on BBC - make this the ground-breaking event it so richly deserves to be!

  • Comment number 12.

    Am I correct in thinking that the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra playing Prom 29 is the Youth orchestra that we saw a few years back?

  • Comment number 13.

    Well said, nunc - thank you! Any more...?

  • Comment number 14.

    No BBC Proms messageboard this year, but come and join the discussion on The Radio 3 Forum http://www.for3.org/forums/ where we've just set up a special Proms board.

  • Comment number 15.

    I eagerly looked under the list of composers to see what works by Vaughan Williams
    were being played this year. Initially I thought his name must have been misplaced as there was nothing for him under "V" then it dawned, the BBC has once again ignored this leading British composer.

    Mahler symphonies are currently being played to the point of saturation in London.

    Surely an event funded by UK tax-payers should have room for regular performances of the greatest British symphonist . The music of Elgar and Britten are never left out of a Proms season. It does make one wonder why there is such antipathy to RVW at the BBC?

  • Comment number 16.

    Apologies for posting again so soon but I wanted to respond to BlueStatePrommers defence of the BBC regarding RVW.

    Yes in 2008, they did do some of the symphonies the highlight being the 9th. None by international orchestras. The Chicago SO and the San Francisco SO have done several symphonies in the last year, would have been great to have them play RVW at a Prom.

    But there has been no symphony since (or anything much else for that matter).

    Contrast this with the BBC's almost reverential attitude to and certainly automatic inclusion year on year at the Proms of other great 20th C. symphonists Sibelius, Shostakovich and Nielsen. All of course are represented this year as we have come to expect.

    RVW is their equal and with his uniquely varied cannon of symphonies should be given similar exposure at the Proms. Believe me there are many in the UK who want to hear them in the concert hall.

  • Comment number 17.

    There is one piece of music that I will travel anywhere to see performed, and that is Brian's Gothic. I'll be coming from Arizona for the performance. Might do so for a performance of his 4th symphony, too.


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