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29 October 2014
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BBC Proms 2008 
Nigel Kennedy on the steps of the Royal Albert Hall in London to launch the BBC Proms 2008

BBC Proms 2008 – a festival spirit
The 114th BBC Proms
18 July to 13 September 2008


Update – 17 July 2008: this page has been updated to reflect changes to the details of some of the events.


The BBC Proms, one of the world's greatest music festivals, celebrates key anniversaries of four major composers in 2008 – 50 years since the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the centenaries of both Olivier Messiaen and Elliott Carter and the 80th anniversary of Karlheinz Stockhausen.


There are many new works – including 11 BBC commissions and a further nine UK premieres.


Some of the finest artists and orchestras from across the globe perform this season, and there are welcome returns from both Murray Perahia and Nigel Kennedy after absences of 20 years.


The eight-week season presents more events than ever – 76 concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, eight at Cadogan Hall, four Proms In The Park around the UK on the last night and more than 70 events in a new series entitled Proms Plus – a total of more than 150 happenings.


The BBC Proms is available to the widest possible audience via BBC radio, television and online. Every Prom is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, streamed live online via the BBC iPlayer and available on demand for seven days.


Roger Wright, Director, BBC Proms, says: "It is a huge honour and pleasure for me to take over this unique institution and to guide one of the world's greatest music festivals through the next chapter of its history.


"The BBC Proms this summer represents not just one but a myriad of festivals with a vast range of music on offer. I hope audiences will enter into the festival spirit with something for everyone of any age to enjoy.


"In my first season I am particularly pleased to pay tribute to Vaughan Williams, and to present his music in context; to offer a new extended pre-Prom series, Proms Plus, enhancing the concert-goers' experience; as well as days celebrating Bach, Stockhausen and folk.


"Accessibility lies at the heart of the Proms with promming tickets remaining at £5 and the first ever free Prom in the Royal Albert Hall in 2008.


"Every concert is broadcast live on Radio 3, streamed live online and there is extensive coverage on BBC Television with a range of new viewing opportunities."




YouTube BBC channel: at the BBC Proms photocall, on the South Steps of the Royal Albert Hall, Nigel Kennedy performed the Doctor Who theme on an electric violin with a backing track especially arranged by Murray Gold.



Firsts in 2008 include:


  • New Proms Plus series extends pre-Prom events to more than 70, including a new Proms Literary Festival, talks, films, composer portraits, Family Orchestra and Family Music Intro – all held for the first time in a single location, the Royal College of Music's Britten Theatre.

  • The first free Proms concert in the Royal Albert Hall as part of Folk Day (20 July).

  • A Doctor Who Prom, presented by Freema Agyeman (aka Martha Jones). A family concert featuring a specially filmed scene written by Russell T Davies and starring David Tennant, plus a selection of classical favourites with a strong flavour of time and space (27 July).

  • The London Lasses and Pete Quinn lead the dancing in the Proms' first traditional ceilidh, an energetic finale to Folk Day (20 July).

  • A concert by the winners of the Radio 3 Awards for World Music showcasing talent from across the globe (30 July).

  • All televised Proms available to watch on-demand for seven days via the BBC iPlayer for the first time.

  • All BBC Two transmissions offered on BBC HD TV in 5.1 surround sound for the first time.


Summary of the season


Composer anniversaries


In 2008 the Proms celebrates two major composer anniversaries – the 50th anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams and the centenary of the birth of Olivier Messiaen.


An all-Vaughan Williams concert is performed on the exact date of his death 50 years ago (26 August), while Ashley Wass plays his rarely heard Piano Concerto and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sir Roger Norrington close the 2008 season with the composer's Sea Songs.


In Messiaen's centenary year the Proms celebrates his work and life with an organ series featuring Messe de la Pentecôte and La Nativité du Seigneur; the Turangalîla Symphony; and rare performances of his two largest works, La Transfiguration de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ and the opera Saint Francis Of Assisi.


In another Proms centenary celebration this year, Elliott Carter has four works performed including two UK premieres – Caténaires and Soundings.


The late Karlheinz Stockhausen's 80th anniversary is celebrated with a day dedicated to his work, including a world premiere of Harmonien, the UK premiere of Cosmic Pulses and, on his actual birthday, Punkte.


Other anniversaries marked in the 2008 season include Michael Berkeley (born 1948); Simon Holt (born 1958); Leoš Janáček (died 1928); Thea Musgrave (born 1928); Nigel Osborne (born 1948); Giacomo Puccini (born 1858); Rimsky-Korsakov (died 1908); and Ethel Smyth (born 1858).


Vaughan Williams in context


Around the Vaughan Williams anniversary, and in the spirit of BBC Proms founder-conductor Henry Wood, the Proms celebrates British music in 2008, and in particular places Vaughan Williams's music in context – with works by his friends, teachers and fellow students.


Friends of Vaughan Williams include Finzi with his Intimations Of Immortality and Holst with his suite The Planets; his students are featured with Grace Williams's Sea Sketches; and there is music by his teacher Max Bruch, with the ever-popular Violin Concerto No. 1, and his fellow student George Butterworth (alongside whom he fought in World War One) with A Shropshire Lad.


The first public performance of Bax's In Memoriam, Patrick Pearse is juxtaposed with Vaughan Williams's Fourth Symphony, a work that was dedicated to Bax and, in celebration of Ethel Smyth's 150th anniversary, Tasmin Little and Richard Watkins perform the little-known Concerto For Horn And Violin, dedicated to Proms founder-conductor Henry Wood.


Another work dedicated to Wood is Vaughan Williams's Serenade To Music, which is performed by 16 young British singers on the exact anniversary of the composer's death.


Great artists return


Nigel Kennedy and Murray Perahia make welcome returns to the Proms for the first time in 20 years.


Kennedy gives two performances – Elgar's Violin Concerto, the work which established him as one of the great violinists with the now-classic recording of it, under the conductor Paul Daniel, and a Late Night Prom with his jazz quintet, NKQ.


Murray Perahia returns to perform Mozart with Bernard Haitink, a conductor with whom he has a great rapport, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


Great conductors bring top orchestras


Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker give two concerts, including a performance of Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10.


Following his sensational Prom last season with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel returns in 2008 to make his first Proms appearance as Principal Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.


Daniel Barenboim brings his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra – formed of young Arab and Israeli musicians, with the aim of promoting mutual understanding through music between these historically opposed peoples.


The Chicago Symphony Orchestra gives two concerts with Bernard Haitink, including the UK premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Chicago Remains – a work inspired by the city of Chicago; and Lorin Maazel's New York Philharmonic performs the world premiere of a BBC co-commission by Steven Stucky, entitled Rhapsodies.


Festival Days


There are three days dedicated to either a composer or a genre.


On 20 July a day full of folk-influenced events takes place in and around the Royal Albert Hall; Stockhausen Day on 2 August marks the late composer's 80th anniversary with a world premiere, a UK premiere and performances of Stimmung and Gruppen; Bach Day on 24 August features three concerts: an organ recital by Simon Preston, the St John Passion conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardner and a Late Night Prom of three solo cello suites given by Chinese cellist Jian Wang, marking the end of the Beijing Olympics and handing the baton over to London for 2012.


Exciting new work


The BBC Proms presents 11 BBC commissions and eight UK premieres – a total of 20 commissions and premieres from today's composers, including: Michael Berkeley, Chen Yi, Kenneth Hesketh, Simon Holt, Stuart MacRae, Anna Meredith, Gwilym Simcock, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steven Stucky, Huw Watkins and Jason Yarde (world premieres) and Elliott Carter, Peter Eötvös, Jonathan Harvey, Anders Hillborg, Magnus Lindberg and Sir John Tavener (UK premieres) and Mark-Anthony Turnage (European premiere).




Several "recreations" are programmed, in particular looking back 50 years to 1958.


The BBC Symphony Orchestra recreates a Prom programme from 1958 of Mendelssohn and Brahms, including two symphonies, a piano concerto and an overture.


All of Rachmaninov's works for piano and orchestra were last heard at the Proms in 1958, and will be performed for the first time since, by some of today's leading pianists: Yevgeny Sudbin (making his debut at the Proms), Stephen Hough, Boris Berezovsky, Olga Kern (in her Proms debut) and Nikolai Lugansky.


The same year also saw the premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gruppen, which features in Stockhausen Day. Mahler's Symphony No. 5 was written for and premiered by the Gürzenich Orchestra in 1904; the same orchestra makes its debut at the Proms with Principal Conductor, Markus Stenz, recreating the programme – with the addition of Stockhausen's Punkte, on the composer's 80th anniversary (22 August) – and new orchestrations of the four Schubert songs from the original programme.


Both The King's Singers and the London Sinfonietta celebrate their 40th birthdays in 2008. The King's Singers perform a Late Night Prom with an Anglo-French programme. The London Sinfonietta's inaugural concert included the premiere of Sir John Tavener's The Whale, the work that helped establish the composer's reputation in the late Sixties; the narrator was BBC announcer Alvar Lidell, whose centenary falls this year, so it seemed highly appropriate to feature this rarely heard work.


New Sunday afternoon recital series


A new series of Sunday afternoon recitals takes place throughout August with five concerts on consecutive Sundays at the Royal Albert Hall.


Four of these are organ recitals by eminent players Wayne Marshall, James O'Donnell, Jennifer Bate and Simon Preston, with a particular focus on the works of centenary composer Olivier Messiaen, and of JS Bach.


The series ends with a recital by Chinese pianist sensation Lang Lang.


Further organ moments occur throughout the season – the first night opens with Strauss's Festliches Präludium; Olivier Latry performs Messiaen's L'Ascension and is the soloist in Saint-Saëns's 'Organ' Symphony (No. 3) and Simon Preston is the soloist in Janáček's Glagolitic Mass.


Proms debuts


Yevgeny Sudbin has been hailed as potentially one of the greatest pianists of the 21st century, and makes his Proms debut on 24 July performing the first of the Proms' complete cycle of Rachmaninov's works for piano and orchestra. It was a close call as to whether he would be able to play since he has had to change his wedding plans to make his debut.


Julia Fischer makes her Proms debut on 5 August performing Brahms's Violin Concerto with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yakov Kreizberg, with whom she performs and records regularly; she also appears with him – this time with Kreizberg at the piano – as part of the Proms Chamber Music series.


One of the youngest performers to appear at the Proms,
nine-year-old Marc Yu, plays the piano alongside Lang Lang in his recital on 31 August.


Further debuts include Emmanuelle Haïm (conductor); Nishat Khan (sitar); Vasily Petrenko (conductor); Christophe Rousset (harpsichord/director); Jordi Savall (bass viol/viola da gamba) and Carolin Widmann (violin).


Three short operas


This season sees three rarely heard short operas – Janáček's Osud marks the 80th anniversary of the composer's death, featuring the BBC SO and its Czech Chief Conductor, Jiří Bělohlávek; to celebrate Puccini's 150th anniversary Gianandrea Noseda conducts Il Tabarro with Barbara Frittoli as Giorgetta; Rimsky-Korsakov's centenary is marked with Kashchey The Immortal, juxtaposed with his pupil Stravinsky's The Firebird, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and its Russian Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski.


Fun for all the family


Folk Day (20 July) offers families the chance to experience music of the British Isles and Eastern Europe with morning workshops including the Proms Folk Family Chorus (in which up to 400 singers can learn new folk arrangements) and the Proms Folk Family Orchestra (offering the opportunity to perform alongside professional musicians).


There are four further opportunities to join the Proms Family Orchestra throughout the season.


Families are invited to enter the world of Daleks and Cybermen at the first Doctor Who Prom, on 27 July, with Freema Agyeman (aka Martha Jones) hosting a family concert featuring a specially filmed scene written by Russell T Davies, and starring David Tennant, plus a selection of classical favourites with a strong flavour of time and space.


This year's Out+About will take place in locations across London – musicians of the BBC Symphony Orchestra will appear in a variety of locations across the city providing surprise tasters of classical music.


BBC Music Intro offers insightful, participatory pre-Prom workshops at seven events across the season.


All seats remain half price for under-16s (excluding the last night) and for selected concerts there are £5 tickets for families attending for the first time.


Late Night Proms


Late Night Proms have established themselves as an unmissable opportunity to hear a broader and more eclectic range of repertoire in an intimate atmosphere. The programme for 2008 aims to enhance this.


Vocal delights include the Tallis Scholars, The King's Singers in celebration of their 40th birthday and Rachmaninov's Vespers, as well as Daniel Barenboim and members of his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a cello recital by Jian Wang as part of Bach Day and a unique collaboration between the BBC Singers and sitar master Nishat Khan.


Proms Chamber Music


Proms Chamber Music continues at Cadogan Hall in 2008 with eight Monday lunchtime concerts throughout the season.


Leading artists from home and abroad present a variety of programmes reflecting the strands running through the Proms, with opportunities to hear smaller-scale works of composers whose anniversaries we celebrate – Vaughan Williams, Olivier Messiaen and Elliott Carter.


The festival spirit continues as several artists return throughout the season – Pierre-Laurent Aimard opens both the first night and the Proms Chamber Music series, and Mark Padmore, Elizabeth Watts, Julia Fischer and Yakov Kreizberg all perform at both the Royal Albert Hall and in the Proms Chamber Music series.


Other highlights include early music groups I Fagiolini and Les Talens Lyriques and bass viol/viola da gamba player Jordi Savall, as well as a performance by one of Britain's leading chamber groups, the Nash Ensemble, of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Clarinet Quintet and Vaughan Williams's On Wenlock Edge.


Proms Plus


Proms Plus, a new extended series of pre-concert events, offers Proms ticket-holders the opportunity to learn more about the evening performance, enhancing the concert experience, and for the first time the events are held in a single location, the Royal College of Music's Britten Theatre.


The series presents a rich and broad variety of content surrounding the concert, with highlights including Proms Intro talks by Sir Roger Norrington, Pierre Boulez and Sir John Eliot Gardiner; five Proms Films celebrating three of the most important composer anniversaries of 2008 – Vaughan Williams, Messiaen and Stockhausen – plus animal frolics in the BBC-commissioned animation of Janáček's opera The Cunning Little Vixen; Composer Portraits offering the opportunity to hear discussions with, and chamber music by, four of today's leading composers – Simon Holt (25 July), Anders Hillborg (13 August), Steven Stucky (28 August) and Mark-Anthony Turnage (8 September), all of whom have new orchestral works featured in the Proms; seven Family Music Intros and Proms Family Orchestra, for children and families.


The new Proms Literary Festival is launched this season, exploring the themes surrounding the inspiration and relationships between writers and composers, complementing the season's concerts and looking more broadly at the literary and cultural world with talks from leading experts on Russian, English and contemporary writers, plus a number of special literary commissions.


The last night


Sir Roger Norrington leads the last night festivities for the first time, and is joined by Bryn Terfel and Hélène Grimaud.


The second half of the evening includes a new commission by Anna Meredith, and Bryn Terfel leads Rule, Britannia! – preceded by an orchestral version of Vaughan Williams's Sea Songs (rather than Henry Wood's Fantastia On British Sea-Songs) in celebration of the composer's anniversary in 2008.


Proms In The Park this year comes from four parks across the UK – London, Belfast, Swansea and Glasgow.


The expanding programme of BBC Big Screens brings Proms In The Park to Birmingham, Bradford, Derby, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Rotherham and Swindon, with more to be announced.


More ways to watch and listen than ever


The BBC Proms is available to the widest possible audience via BBC radio, television and online. Every Prom is broadcast live on Radio 3, streamed live online via BBC iPlayer and available on-demand for seven days.


There are more Proms-related programmes than ever on Radio 3 in 2008. For the first time there is a consistent pattern of broadcasts on TV with more than ever on BBC Two, bringing together many of the season's big events in primetime Saturday night broadcasts, in addition to the regular weekly broadcasts on BBC Four.


Also for the first time all televised Proms are available to watch on demand for seven days via the BBC iPlayer and many are on BBC HD.




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