From Bernstein to Benedetti, Haitink to Hvorostovsky, Mackerras to Kanneh-Masons, musical greats, from the past and the present, are coming together in one extraordinary Proms season.
BBC Radio 3 opens this summer’s Fantasy Proms with a programme of great Proms moments including Iain Farrington’s world premiere for the BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra, putting Beethoven’s symphonies in a spin.
Nicola Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Simon Rattle, Anoushka Shankar and Mitsuko Uchida, amongst artists performing live from the Royal Albert Hall.
Live performances from the RAH to begin with a momentous opening night conducted by BBC Symphony Orchestra Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo.
A unique Last Night to unite the world led by Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska with South African soprano Golda Schultz
BBC Four selects six momentous Proms from across the archive from the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and Chineke! Orchestra
Katie Derham, Tom Service, Suzy Klein, Danielle de Niese and Josie d’Arby lead the line-up of TV presenters.
An ambitious, challenging and celebratory multi-platform season.
In the year that the Proms turns 125 years old, the 2020 season brings the spirit of the Proms to music-lovers at home. BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four broadcasts treasures from the past 30 years of the Proms across six weeks, before two weeks of incredible live performances at the Royal Albert Hall.
In challenging times, the BBC Proms aims to shine a beacon of hope, with its mix of seminal moments from Proms history alongside live performances from the Royal Albert Hall. The season will bring a summer of music to celebrate a wealth of talent, genres and styles, creating a line-up which brings together legendary performers from the past through its unrivalled archive, with a diverse line-up of the biggest stars of the present and future.
The Proms Opening Weekend
BBC Radio 3 kicks off this special season with the debut performance by the BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra, comprising over 350 musicians from the BBC Orchestras and Choirs. Joining Beethoven Unleashed - a year-long, BBC-wide marathon marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth - the Grand Virtual Orchestra will perform a completely original arrangement of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, created by Iain Farrington.
On Sunday 19 July the premiere of the film accompanying the piece will air on BBC Four. Farrington describes the work as “taking Beethoven's music and putting it in a musical washing machine to see which colours run”.
Following Farrington’s curtain-raiser, the First Night continues [on Radio 3] with highlights from three Proms across the past 25 years. The BBC Symphony Orchestra features both in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (with soloist Igor Levit, under Edward Gardner) from 2017’s First Night, and in the world premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Panic which won instant notoriety at the Last Night of the 100th-anniversary Proms season (1995). The evening closes with celebrated Italian conductor Claudio Abbado’s final Proms performance (2007), leading the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson in Mahler’s Third Symphony.
The Opening Weekend continues on BBC Four on Sunday 19 July, when audiences will have the opportunity to watch electrifying conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla lead the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in a programme of Beethoven, Stravinsky and Gerald Barry with violinist Leila Josefowicz and tenor Allan Clayton (2017).
Delving into the rich Proms archive
In the 125th-anniversary year of the Proms, audiences have the chance to reflect back on some of the outstanding performances and biggest moments in Proms history, with a fantasy season celebrating the greats of the past and providing a snapshot of the ever-changing classical music scene of our times.
BBC Four, fronted by Katie Derham, will broadcast BBC Proms Classics, a range of blockbuster archive concerts each Sunday throughout the festival, presenting the breathtaking scale of orchestral power showcased on the Royal Albert Hall stage. The TV offering reflects innovative highlights such as the 2017 debut of Chineke! Orchestra, Europe’s first majority BME orchestra, conducted by Kevin John Edusei, and the now-legendary 2007 Proms debut of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. BBC Four will also air the groundbreaking 2012 John Wilson Orchestra Prom that celebrated The Broadway Sound - sending the orchestra to new heights.
Across the season, Radio 3 has curated a vast array of show-stopping archive performances covering four decades of unforgettable musical stories. Across six weeks there will be a wealth of big-name orchestras and conductors, including: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Leonard Bernstein; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Riccardo Chailly; Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Mariss Jansons; Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Bernard Haitink; Boston Symphony Orchestra / Andris Nelsons; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle; and soloists: Martha Argerich, Alfred Brendel, Dame Sarah Connolly, Renée Fleming, Maria Friedman, Dimitri Hvorostovsky, Janine Jansen, Evgeny Kissin, Jessye Norman, Murray Perahia, and Andreas Scholl.
As always the season celebrates the many faces of classical music, with repertoire ranging from Beethoven to Anna Meredith, Varèse to Mozart, Sally Beamish to Britten, Bach to Thomas Adès. It also presents the many talents that have made waves in an ever-changing scene. Amongst the treasure trove of performances on offer, Radio 3 will broadcast the 2015 Proms debut of composer and keyboard wizard Nils Frahm with ambient duo A Winged Victory For The Sullen; and the 2014 appearance of Jules Buckley conducting the Metropole Orkest with special-guest singers and composing sensations Laura Mvula and Esperanza Spalding.
The Afternoon Concert series on BBC Radio 3 will also feature some of the greatest Proms of the past 25 years given by the BBC Orchestras and Choirs.
This year also sees the first ever TV broadcast of the hugely popular Radio 1 Ibiza Prom from 2015, featuring Pete Tong, Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra, who transformed dance classics into orchestral masterpieces with the help of John Newman and Ella Eyre (BBC Four, Friday 28 August).
On BBC Radio 3, presenter Georgia Mann will host a new Sunday-evening programme that looks ahead to each week’s array of archive Proms. She’ll be joined by a selection of guests to preview the vintage performances, to recall behind-the-scenes stories of the concerts and to recommend highlights to look out for.
Radio 3 will also be broadcasting some of the most stimulating pre-Prom public events that have been held over the past decade, with great interviews and conversation from leading musicians, artists, actors and writers.
Live performances from the Royal Albert Hall
In the final two weeks of the Proms, from Friday 28 August there will be a series of live performances from the Royal Albert Hall from some of the greatest musicians of our time alongside emerging talent. In what promises to be an emotional return to the Royal Albert Hall, the Proms presents a range of performances fulfilling our founding to mission to present the best of classical music for the widest possible audience.
As the beating heart of the Proms, each of the BBC Orchestras will perform as part of the live element of the festival, and in long-standing Proms tradition, the BBC Symphony Orchestra will open and close the series, beginning with an opening night conducted by Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo and culminating in a Last Night Of The Proms to bring the nation together. Led by the BBC SO’s Principal Guest Conductor, Dalia Stasevska, the 2020 Last Night Of The Proms features soprano Golda Schultz, in what promises to be a unique and poignant occasion.
Celebrating a wide range of musicians and music the line-up includes pianist Mitsuko Uchida with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, violinists Nicola Benedetti and Alina Ibragimova with the Orchestra of the Age Of Enlightenment under Jonathan Cohen, a recital from cello sensation Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his pianist sister Isata Kanneh-Mason, Aurora Orchestra led by Nicholas Collon, performances from pianist Stephen Hough, singers Sophie Bevan, Allan Clayton and Robert Murray and sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar with electronic artist Gold Panda and the Britten Sinfonia under Jules Buckley.
New music is central to the Proms and a number of composers will be commissioned to write works that respond to the current worldwide situation caused by Covid-19. Composers include Thomas Adès writing a new piece for the LSO Prom and Andrea Tarrodi for the Last Night Of The Proms. Alongside these works Richard Ayres explores Beethoven’s journey into deafness, as well as his own hearing loss, with a very personal new work performed by Aurora Orchestra.
The presenting team for the live TV performances includes Katie Derham, along with Tom Service, Suzy Klein, Danielle de Niese and Josie d’Arby.
Whilst it’s unlikely there will be an audience at the Royal Albert Hall, the live performances will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.
The full schedule of artists and programmes will be announced nearer the time of the performances to allow for the utmost flexibility in responding to the safety guidelines at the time.
A digital summer
Audiences are always at the heart of the Proms, but this year is truly the People’s Proms. By utilising the many BBC platforms, this summer will provide equally meaningful journeys for the most loyal of Proms audiences and for those discovering the delights on offer for the very first time.
Each weekday morning throughout the season, Radio 3’s Breakfast will invite audiences to share their favourite Proms memories to be reflected on air each morning. In a time of isolation for so many of us, the BBC Proms aims to unite the nation with music. We’ll be cracking open the Proms Time Capsule, remembering some of the best moments of the past 125 years and inviting everyone to join the conversation on social media - hearing from audiences about their favourite Proms memories. Audiences will be able to enjoy shared moments through watching and listening parties hosted by BBC Proms on social media platforms.
Whilst Proms are normally available on BBC catch-up services for 30 days after broadcast, this year the season will remain online on both BBC Sounds and BBC iPlayer for 30 days after the Last Night on the 12 September.
BBC Sounds will also release themed and mood-led Proms mixes which will be updated throughout the season.
There will be a special collection of past Proms on BBC iPlayer for audiences to enjoy, as well as performances live from the Royal Albert Hall streamed directly to BBC iPlayer.
Proms at home for families
After the success of this year’s highly popular BBC Ten Pieces at Home initiative, this season families will be able to experience Proms at Home. Families will be able to take part in special free activities built around selected Prom broadcasts, and are encouraged to upload their creative results to be featured on the Proms website. The activities have been created in partnership with organisations around the UK that work to change lives and bring music and the arts to children and young adults, including The Irene Taylor Trust, Heart n Soul, Mousetrap Theatre Projects and Literacy Pirates.
As part of a wider offering for young people, the deadline for the BBC Young Composer competition for 12-18 year-olds has also been extended until 20 July and young composers can take part in our 30 Second Challenge until 31 August. Winners of the BBC Young Composer competition, which encourages students of all technical abilities, backgrounds and musical influences to get creative and submit an original composition, will participate in a tailored development programme, and will work with a mentor composer on a project with the BBC Concert Orchestra which will be performed and broadcast as part of the 2021 BBC Proms.
David Pickard, Director BBC Proms, says: “The 2020 Proms will be a season unlike any other in its 125-year history. Music can be a powerful friend in difficult times and Sir Henry Wood’s mission - to bring the best of classical music to the widest possible audience, "making its beneficent effect universal" - is more important now than it has ever been.
"Over the eight-week season we are proud to celebrate the BBC’s 93-year guardianship of the festival as well as its continued support for live music. The riches to be found in the archive of the past four decades - including legendary concerts with some of the greatest names in classical music - bear witness to the international standing of the Proms, while two weeks of live performances in the Royal Albert Hall will celebrate the beating heart of music today.”
Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 and Classical Music Controller, says: “The 2020 Proms are a timeless mix of conductors, artists and great performances from across many eras as well as two weeks of memorable new performances. As an audience member, at these Proms, whether vintage or new, you know you will have the best seats in the house for experiencing them on air and online.
"Savour the atmosphere of the past and the newly forged - and I hope electric - atmosphere of the present, with the one constant being the magnificent Albert Hall and the great music that happens and has happened there. Throw yourself into this year’s Proms - without limits - and see where great music can take you."
Jan Younghusband, Head of Music TV Commissioning, says: “It has never been more important for us to deliver great classical performance for our audiences and also support musicians to work in these incredibly difficult times. Working within the confines of what we can do, we really hope the Proms on TV this year will deliver from the archive some of the iconic orchestral concerts of recent years. And the live concerts in August at the Royal Albert Hall will, we hope, be a positive start to being able to do more in the future.”
All of us at the BBC Proms stand with music-lovers everywhere and musicians around the world affected by COVID-19.
For full listings of the archival Proms being broadcast this season, please visit www.bbc.co.uk/proms
Notes to Editors
Opening the series on BBC Four is the 2017 Prom with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla leading the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, just one year after being appointed Music Director of the ensemble. Amongst other highlights of the Archive Performances on BBC Four is the 2017 Proms debut of Chineke! Orchestra, Europe’s first majority-BME orchestra, with Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Jeanine De Bique as soloists; the highly requested John Wilson Orchestra Prom (2012), the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain under Sir Simon Rattle (2002) and the now-legendary 2007 Proms debut of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, the first South American orchestra to perform at the Proms, presenting a triumphant, bombastic encore after a trademark change of clothes.
Proms on BBC Four – both BBC Prroms Classics archival broadcasts and live content – are produced by Livewire Pictures.
BBC Radio 3
Broadcasts include - among many others - gems such as a 1987 performance of Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in a programme of Mozart and Mahler; a 2000 appearance of opera icon soprano Jessye Norman with the London Sinfonietta, presenting the UK premiere of Judith Weir’s woman.life.song and the Proms premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s 6 Brettl Lieder; Daniel Barenboim leading the ensembles he has nurtured and brought to international acclaim: the Staatskapelle Berlin in Wagner’s Die Walküre with a stellar cast of soloists such as Bryn Terfel, Nina Stemme and Simon O’Neill (part of the conductor’s 2013 Proms Ring Cycle); and the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra with celebrated pianist Martha Argerich in 2016, presenting Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and an all-Wagner second half (this particular performance will also be presented on BBC Four).
Also on the airwaves as part of the Proms archives is Bernard Haitink conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Verdi’s Don Carlo.