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Thursday 27 Nov 2014

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BBC Proms 2009: leading musicians join young talent for biggest ever Proms, Friday 17 July-Saturday 12 September – Anniversaries

Harrison Birtwistle

Radio 3 Composers of the Year

Purcell, Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn all have major anniversaries in 2009, and the BBC Proms now becomes the focus of Radio 3's ambitious year of programming to celebrate their lives and work.

Their music permeates the season from the first week – which has star-studded performances of Haydn's oratorio The Creation (18 July), Handel's opera Partenope (19 July), and Purcell's The Fairy Queen from Glyndebourne (21 July) – to the Last Night, when Alison Balsom plays Haydn's Trumpet Concerto and Sarah Connolly sings the famous lament from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, alongside Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks and arrangements of Purcell by Henry Wood
(12 Sept).

Highlights for all four composers of the year:

Sir Roger Norrington conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a celebratory concert of popular work by each of the year's four major anniversary composers, to be televised on BBC Two, including: Purcell's Abdelazar (including the theme later made famous in Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra); Handel arias Ombra mai fu from Xerxes and Ah, mio cor! from Alcina; Haydn's "mad scene" for the distraught Berenice – all with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato – and Mendelssohn's "Scottish" Symphony (25 Aug)

Radio 3 New Generation Artists past and present give a Cadogan Hall concert featuring arias, duets and canzonets by Purcell, Handel and Haydn plus Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor (30 Aug)

screening of BBC Two's four-part documentary series The Birth of British Music with Charles Hazlewood, which tells the story of music in Britain through the lives of these four composers (25 & 26 July)

A website dedicated to Radio 3's Composers of the Year, with background information, broadcast details and expert blogs, is available at

Purcell highlights:

The Fairy Queen from Glyndebourne with William Christie and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (21 July)

Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (based on a theme from Purcell's Abdelazar) in the Free Family Prom (26 July)

selections from Michael Nyman's scores to the Peter Greenaway films The Draughtsman's Contract and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover – both based on music by Purcell (25 Aug)

Evening Hymn, songs and other vocal and keyboard music from Iestyn Davies and members of the Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr (7 Sept)

Dido's Lament with Sarah Connolly on the Last Night, together with arrangements of Purcell by Henry Wood (12 Sept).

Handel highlights:

the first complete performance at the Proms of the comic opera Partenope with a cast including Inger Dam-Jensen in the title-role, and counter-tenor Andreas Scholl as Arsace, with Concerto Copenhagen directed by Baroque specialist Lars Ulrik Mortensen (19 July)

an all-Handel concert with best-known works including The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon, all four Coronation Anthems and excerpts from the oratorio Semele – with Harry Christophers, The Sixteen and soprano soloist Carolyn Sampson (12 Aug)

the oratorio Samson with a starry British cast, including Mark Padmore in the title-role, and The English Concert under Harry Bicket (20 Aug)

Messiah performed by the Northern Sinfonia, massed youth choirs from around the UK and top soloists conducted by Nicholas McGegan, on Proms Singing Day, in which the BBC Proms is inviting everyone to come and sing in the Royal Albert Hall earlier in the day (6 Sept)

world premiere of a specially commissioned new work from Michael Nyman, based on music by Handel (25 Aug)

Music for the Royal Fireworks on the Last Night (12 Sept)

Tony Palmer introduces his film on the life of Handel, God Rot Tunbridge Wells (5 Sept).

Haydn highlights:

The Creation sung in Paul McCreesh's own English version with Rosemary Joshua, Sarah Tynan, Mark Padmore, Neal Davies and Peter Harvey with large-scale forces, the Gabrieli Consort & Players, together with Chetham's Chamber Choir under Paul McCreesh
(18 July)

The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross in a Late Night Prom with the BBC Singers and Manchester Camerata alongside James MacMillan's work on the same theme (20 July)

three symphonies given by major artists include: Symphony No. 97 from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Nikolaus Harnoncourt (10 Sept); Symphony No. 100, Military, from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Mariss Jansons (1 Sept); and Symphony No. 101, Clock, from Osmo Vanska and the BBC Symphony Orchestra (23 Aug)

string quartets from the Belcea Quartet (3 Aug) and Jerusalem Quartet (29 Aug) – both esteemed former Radio 3 New Generation Artists, as well as Meta4, who are current NGAs (30 Aug)

Trumpet Concerto with Alison Balsom on the Last Night (12 Sept).

Mendelssohn highlights:

all five orchestral symphonies across the season, given by: BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Thierry Fischer (No. 1, 4 Aug); Halle under Mark Elder (No. 2, Lobgesang, 30 July); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with Sir Roger Norrington (No. 3, Scottish, 25 Aug); BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda (No. 4, Italian, 6 Aug); and Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin (No. 5, Reformation, 31 July)

Violin Concerto with Isabelle Faust and BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Thierry Fischer (4 Aug)

Octet with members of Daniel Barenboim's West–Eastern Divan Orchestra (21 Aug)

Piano Trio No. 1 with Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis and Denes Varjon (24 Aug) and Piano Trio No. 2 with New Generation Artists (30 Aug)

Piano Concerto No. 1 with Palestinian-Israeli Saleem Abboud Ashkar and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly (7 Sept)

The Hebrides overture conducted by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (8 Sept) and excerpts from A Midsummer's Night Dream conducted by Jiri Belohlavek (9 Sept)

in tandem with the Mendelssohn celebrations, "The Victorians" is a theme that recurs throughout the Proms Literary Festival, with highlights including Andrew Motion (Poet Laureate, 1999–2009) introducing his choice of Tennyson poems, 200 years after the poet's birth in 1809 (2 Aug); Roy Hattersley and Professor Valentine Cunningham in defence of the Victorian novel (4 Aug), and A N Wilson, author of The Victorians, and Steven Moffat, co-creator of the BBC's new modern-day Sherlock, discussing the enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes and his special love of Mendelssohn (7 Sept)

Mendelssohn's great-great-great-great-niece, Sheila Hayman, talks about the composer's life and music with Professor John Deathridge in a Proms Music Intro (30 July).

1934... A landmark year for British Music

Two of today's most celebrated British composers were born in 1934 – Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies – but it was also the year in which three towering figures of British music died: Frederick Delius, Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst. All five composers are celebrated at the Proms in 2009.

The 1934 weekend commemorating Delius, Elgar and Holst includes:

Sir Charles Mackerras conducting the BBC Philharmonic in Elgar's Cockaigne, Delius's The Song of the High Hills (with soloists Rebecca Evans and Toby Spence, joining the BBC Singers) and Holst's The Planets in a Prom to be televised by BBC Two (25 July)

Holst's First Choral Symphony, Delius's Brigg Fair and Elgar's Enigma Variations from BBC National Orchestra of Wales, joined by Susan Gritton, the BBC National Chorus of Wales and the BBC Symphony Chorus, under David Atherton (26 July)

Radio 3 New Generation artist Jennifer Pike plays Holst's A Song of the Night for violin and orchestra with the BBC Philharmonic under Tecwyn Evans, in the Free Family Prom, which also includes Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 (26 July)

organ recital by David Titterington features both Elgar Sonatas (25 July)

songs and chamber works by all three composers also feature in one of the special Radio 3 New Generation Artist weekend concerts with cellist Natalie Clein, tenor Andrew Kennedy, violinist Jennifer Pike, bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu and pianist Tom Poster (29 Aug).

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies at 75:

On the very day of his 75th birthday, 8 September, Master of The Queen's Music Sir Peter Maxwell Davies:

conducts the UK premiere of his Violin Concerto No. 2, alongside Mendelssohn's The Hebrides overture, in a concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (8 Sept)

is the subject of a Late Night Prom given by the BBC Singers under David Hill, which includes his unaccompanied choral work Westerlings and his settings of texts by Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown, Solstice of Light (with organist David Goode), which traces the history of his home islands, Orkney, and their emergence from the ice (8 Sept)

also has his major orchestra work Roma amor performed by BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda (6 Aug).

Sir Harrison Birtwistle at 75:

To mark the 75th birthday of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, there is:

a Late Night Prom devoted to three of his major early works – Carmen arcadiae mechanicae perpetuum, Silbury Air and Verses for Ensembles – performed by the London Sinfonietta, which premiered all of these works during the ensemble's first decade, rejoined by its founder-conductor David Atherton (4 Aug)

a rare chance to hear the central act of his celebrated opera The Mask of Orpheus with a cast including Alan Oke in the title-role with Christine Rice, Anna Stephany and Claron McFadden, joining the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and conductors Martyn Brabbins and Ryan Wigglesworth (14 Aug).

Other notable composer anniversaries

Radical Dutch composer Louis Andriessen turns 70 in 2009 and is celebrated with the UK premiere of a new two-piano concerto, The Hague Hacking, with the Labeque sisters conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen (17 Aug), and his Seventies classic De staat performed by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble in a Late Night Prom which also includes music by his former students Steve Martland and Cornelis de Bondt (28 Aug).

The 60th birthday of Barnsley-born composer John Casken is celebrated with a performance of Orion over Farne conducted by Andris Nelsons as he makes his Proms debut with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (28 July).

The highly original American composer George Crumb turns 80 in 2009, and his music is featured in a Late Night Prom with the Nash Ensemble under Diego Masson. It includes Night of the Four Moons, Vox balaenae and Ancient Voices of Children (4 Sept).

Cambridge graduate Jonathan Harvey celebrates his 70th birthday this year, marked with a performance of his choral piece Come, Holy Ghost, in a concert that marks the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the University of Cambridge (22 July).

Oboist-composer Heinz Holliger's punningly entitled (S)irato, an "angry" lament for his teacher, the Hungarian composer Sandor Veress, is performed in Holliger's 70th-birthday year (4 Aug).

James MacMillan, the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation, celebrates his 50th birthday at the Proms with Seven Last Words from the Cross in a Late Night Prom with the BBC Singers and Manchester Camerata (20 July).

Martinu's effervescent Concerto for two pianos is conducted by his compatriot Jiri Belohlavek 50 years after the composer's death.
Radio 3 New Generation Artists mark Martinu's anniversary in two chamber concerts (30 & 31 Aug).

Schnittke would have been 75 in 2009, and this anniversary is marked with the UK premiere of his only oratorio, Nagasaki for mezzo-soprano and chorus. It was written in the late Fifties as a response to the nuclear bombing of the Japanese city in 1945, but suppressed by Soviet authorities and not heard in the West until 2006. It is performed by Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with mezzo-soprano soloist Elena Zhidkova (24 Aug).

British composer and pianist John McCabe is 70 in 2009 and is celebrated with a new BBC commission for solo piano to be performed by Ashley Wass as part of the Radio 3 New Generation Artists weekend (31 Aug), and the London premiere of his Horn Concerto, Rainforest IV, with former BBC Young Musician of the Year David Pyatt as soloist (5 Sept).

Eight cellists – all current and former Radio 3 New Generation Artists – pay tribute to Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos, who died 50 years ago, with performances of his famous Bachiana Brasileira No. 5, with soprano Ailish Tynan, and an arrangement of a J S Bach Prelude and Fugue (31 Aug). His lively Choros No. 10 Rasga o Coracao for chorus and orchestra is also performed on the Last Night (12 Sept).

Other notable anniversaries

The 100th anniversary of the meeting of Stravinsky and the choreographer and impresario Diaghilev is celebrated across the season with performances of all 11 of Stravinsky's ballets (see Complete Cycles).

The 10th anniversary of Radio 3's New Generation Artists is celebrated with 12 concerts at Cadogan Hall over the August Bank Holiday weekend, featuring many stars of the scheme, both past and present, who also give performances across the season (29–31 Aug).

A trio of concerts marks the 10th anniversary of the foundation of Daniel Barenboim's West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, including a rare Proms performance of Beethoven's only opera Fidelio, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and a smaller-scale Late Night Prom
(21 & 22 Aug).

A concert marking the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII, from The Cardinall's Musick and Andrew Carwood, launches the Proms Chamber Music series. The programme includes songs by Henry VIII himself, as well as music by Fayrfax, Ludford, Tallis, Taverner and Sampson (20 July).

The University of Cambridge is celebrating the 800th anniversary of its foundation in 2009. The BBC Proms celebrates with a concert given by a convocation of the university's college choirs (including King's, St John's, Clare, Gonville and Caius, Trinity) and two soloists and a conductor – Simon Keenlyside, Thomas Trotter and Sir Andrew Davis – who are among its graduates. Music is by Vaughan Williams, Ryan Wigglesworth, Stanford, Jonathan Harvey, Judith Weir and Saint-Saens, all of whom have a strong connection with Cambridge
(22 July).

The great Hollywood film studios Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) began producing musicals 75 years ago, leading to a golden age of musicals on the big screen. Iconic MGM musicals such as The Wizard Of Oz, Meet Me In St Louis, Singin' In The Rain, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, High Society and Gigi are celebrated with a mixture of leading classical and musical theatre singers including Kim Criswell, Sarah Fox, Sir Thomas Allen and Curtis Stigers under film-music specialist John Wilson and his orchestra (1 Aug). The concert is preceded by a screening of Singin' In The Rain introduced by Matthew Sweet.

The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin triggers both Creation Day (18 July) – which features performances of Haydn's The Creation and Stan Tracey's Genesis – and the spectacular family concert of the season – Evolution! A Darwin-inspired Extravaganza for Kids – with children's TV presenters Barney Harwood and Gemma Hunt joining special guest Sir David Attenborough, the BBC Concert Orchestra and conductor Charles Hazlewood (1 & 2 Aug). The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma give the Late Night Prom on the penultimate night of the season (11 Sept), as part of their 10th-anniversary celebrations.

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