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Launching the 2014 BBC Proms

Thursday 24 April 2014, 14:03

Roger Wright Roger Wright Controller, Radio 3

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Janine Jansen, Sakari Oramo, Paloma Faith, Katie Derham and Joey from War Horse celebrate the launch of the 2014 BBC Proms Janine Jansen, Sakari Oramo, Paloma Faith, Katie Derham and Joey from War Horse

It’s that time of year again and so the day has come for the launch of this year’s BBC Proms – always an exciting day for the Proms team, when we finally get to talk publicly about the plans that have been built over the last three years.

It’s also a relief that, despite rumours and second guessings on websites and message boards, the whole season manages to remain under wraps until the embargo time is reached today.

Though this year marks our 120th season, the vision of the festival has remained the same since its inception – to bring the best classical music to the largest possible audience. The Proms has always sought to build new audiences. One of the key areas of our work in this area is our ticket prices, not least our Promming (standing) tickets, which this year are held at £5 for the ninth year running. Without the support of the BBC licence-fee payers, this extraordinary value for money would not be possible.

The audience for the Proms is now genuinely international and it is the global classical music world that we celebrate in welcoming many international orchestras to the Proms (and indeed to the UK) for the first time this summer. I am delighted that, alongside our more regular orchestral visitors from across Europe and the USA, we are able to welcome ensembles from Australia, China, Greece, Iceland, Lapland, Qatar, South Korea, Singapore and Turkey.

Almost half of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall are given by our BBC orchestras and I cannot remember a time when such flourishing and exciting partnerships have existed in these groups. Without these orchestras, the BBC Singers and the two BBC choruses, planning the Proms on this scale would not be possible, or as creative and distinctive. It would also be impossible to keep exploring new ideas and fresh programming without the dedication and sheer hard work of the Proms team.

In addition to the feast of music from abroad, we have in recent years celebrated British music. We continue that momentum this year, not least by honouring two fine living composers both celebrating their 80th birthdays this year. The music of Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is featured this summer as is that by Walton, another knighted Lancastrian!

We also mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss as we present three of Strauss’s operatic masterpieces: Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier and Salome. There is also the staging of a non-operatic work when Sir Simon Rattle, star soloists and the Berlin Philharmonic present Peter Sellars’ realisation of Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

Bach’s other great Passion setting, the St John, is conducted by Sir Roger Norrington, one of our British conductors celebrating significant birthdays this year. Sir Roger (80 this year) will, like Sir Andrew Davis (70), Donald Runnicles (60) and Edward Gardner (40), conduct two Proms and it is a thrill to welcome back Sir Neville Marriner in his 90th-birthday year, with the orchestra he founded, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, alongside its new Music Director, Joshua Bell.

Sakari Oramo, Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, will be in charge of the Last Night for the first time, and there are two Proms each conducted by Jirí Behlolávek, Semyon Bychkov, Riccardo Chailly and Valery Gergiev.

Joey from War Horse Joey from War Horse Among the concerts honouring the World War One anniversary is the War Horse Prom, in which the extraordinary puppets from the National Theatre’s acclaimed production make an appearance alongside the Proms debut of Gareth Malone and the Proms Military Wives Choir.

There are more debuts too. Look out for the first ever CBeebies and BBC Sport Proms, and first appearances at the Proms by Paloma Faith, the Pet Shop Boys and Rufus Wainwright, as well as other special Late Night Proms including Laura Mvula making her first solo appearance.

All this and much more, including the wide-ranging and attractive Proms Chamber Music and Proms Saturday Matinee series at Cadogan Hall; an array of commissions and premieres, including two of the last works by the late Sir John Tavener; and soloists such as Janine Jansen and Roderick Williams on the Last Night.

As ever, all the Proms are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and there will be additional broadcasts on Radio 1, Radio 2 and for the first time on both Radio 4, with a commission for its PM programme, and Radio 5 live in its 20th anniversary year. There is a remarkable commitment from our TV colleagues to bring the Proms to an ever expanding audience across BBCs One, Two and Four and for the first time CBeebies will broadcast a special prom. We’re also delighted to welcome presenters from the worlds of music and arts, many of whom have not presented Proms before and will join our established presenters to bring these Proms to our television audiences. There is also a significant development in our digital Proms offer with new initiatives such as a dedicated Proms button on the BBC iPlayer Radio app, six interactive BBC iWonder guides, and the addition of BBC Playlister.

So, wherever you are and however you choose to listen, watch and interact, I hope you enjoy the 2014 BBC Proms.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Pity there's nothing by Sullivan, surely our most important composer of the 19th century. Also, there's no solo organ concert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Essential listening for all of us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Every year, as the schedule is announced, I check to see whether any Gerald Finzi compositions are being performed, yet again no Finzi.
    I find it a little disappointing that we get Paloma Faith and The Pet Shop Boys, yet there’s no place for a man, who is a quintessential British composer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The prom concerts are an annual celebration of classical music. It's already been hijacked by hip-hop/rap/jazz/Michael Ball.................and now the Pet Shop Boys, I really do despair. Let the Proms be a vehicle to promote classical music, the other genres have plenty of other opportunities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Pity you blow hot & cold with Tippett, however the programming of Tippett is a good indicator of
    the level of confidence within the
    management of Radio 3.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I’m with Dostrovosky; the proms should be a celebration of classical music and classical music only, I guess it’s called “moving with the times”.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Every year we wait in vain for an improvement to the booking system, yet it seems as unfair as ever this year (random opening of postal bookings, people without computers having little chance of getting the tickets they want, etc), plus the indignity of a likely £20 charge on top of the 2% booking fee. Last year we tried every avenue of complaint and attempted to get an answer to the simple question "where does our £17 go?" (note the £3 hike this year, and the £10 hike since 2010...). Sadly, nobody had the courtesy to answer the question. Please, BBC and RAH, could someone explain to us why this is by far the most expensive booking fee in London, and where does the money go?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    @snagglepuss. This is on the RAH FAQs:

    "In order to provide a venue-based Box Office service to customers, the Royal Albert Hall, which is a registered charity, charges a booking fee of 2% of the total transaction (when a debit or credit card transaction is made without the customer being present, we pay the relevant bank 2% and so the 2% fee covers this cost) plus £2.50 per ticket (which covers administration costs such as wages, ticket stock, stationary [sic] and postage).

    "If a customer buys a ticket at the counter of the Royal Albert Hall, there is no booking fee. Group bookings are capped at £20 per booking, in addition to the 2% charge for card transactions."
    So it appears to be the RAH who gets it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    @french frank - Many thanks for that - I don't normally have much success with FAQs on other sites, so had missed the information. The card charge I understand, it's the additional charge for each ticket that's so different from other venues in London, and still feels like a rip-off (maybe other venues include it in the ticket price?). It's also difficult to equate that charge per ticket with the admin costs you list. For example, it shouldn't cost double the amount to administer two tickets going to the same address rather than one (especially as I suspect it's all done by machine anyway). Having said all that, the season doesn't look to have too many 'must-sees', and of those that there are, several clash with other commitments. So perhaps we won't get too angry this year when it again takes us two and a half hours (or longer) to queue online to submit our request.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    No Haydn for the 2nd year running, I see -- someone has blundered!
    You could have shown some imagination and played all 12 London Symphonies in 3 or 4 evenings; or done the Creation; or the Nelson Mass. All good box office stuff, and more suitable than pop music.


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