The 2018 Proms kick off on Friday, launching a season that includes a tango Prom, a Hungarian Gypsy Prom and a lot of Leonard Bernstein, whose centenary is being marked.
The first night will commemorate the end of the First World War, with two works composed as a response to the conflict: Holst’s much-loved The Planets and Vaughan Williams’s choral masterpiece Toward the Unknown Region.
There’ll also be a new work by Anna Meredith, which draws on telegrams sent by young soldiers on the front line in 1918.
After that, there are 74 more concerts to go before the famous Last Night on 8 September, which will see conductor Andrew Davis pick up the baton for his 130th Prom.
Here are five of the highlights.
The ‘look-no-hands’ Prom
Prom 32: Inside Shostakovich – Monday, 6 August
The Aurora Orchestra have become a regular highlight of the Proms, their unconventional approach (they play standing up!) making audiences sit up and pay attention.
That’s not their only USP – as the small, but closely-knit ensemble commit to playing all of their pieces from memory. It sounds like a gimmick, but it somehow makes their performances more intimate and engaging.
This year, they’re tackling Shostakovich’s 9th Symphony – not an easy piece even if you have the score in front of you.
Before their performance, Radio 3’s Tom Service and conductor Nicholas Collon will walk the audience through the piece, deconstructing its “fleet-footed melodies and dance-filled rhythms”, and drawing the audience even deeper into the music.
The spooky electric Prom
Prom 13: Pioneers of Sound – Monday, 23 July
Sixty years ago, the most celebrated electronic music studio in the world was established at the BBC. The Radiophonic Workshop went on to produce some of the most ground-breaking sound effects and electronic music in the business – not to mention the thrilling whoosh of the Doctor Who theme.
Their work will be celebrated at the Pioneers of Sound Prom on 23 July, which culminates with a performance of Daphne Oram’s visionary, dreamy Still Point.
Written in 1949, when Oram was just 23, it is thought to be the first work to combine an orchestra with turntables. Oram, who went on to found the Radiophonic Workshop, submitted it as a BBC entry for the Italia Prize, only to have it rejected by management, who dismissed it as weird and impenetrable.
The work went unheard until 2016, when it was resurrected by The London Contemporary Orchestra, who now bring it to the Proms.
They’ll also play The Delian Mode – a spooky piece of incidental music that Doctor Who arranger Delia Derbyshire composed for a 1969 episode of The Sky At Night.
More about the 2018 Proms
The so-crazy-it-might-just-work Prom
Prom 29/30: The Brandenburg Project – Sunday, 5 August.
On 5 August, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra will play Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos – which is reason enough for fans of Baroque to make the journey to the Royal Albert Hall.
But in a fascinating experiment, each of the concertos will be paired with a newly-commissioned companion piece.
It’s a massive undertaking, spread across two concerts in a single day – and there are bound to be a few surprises along the way.
The composers include Steven Mackey, whose previous works include an electric guitar; and Olga Neuwirth, whose use of laptops, turntables, and electronics have made her one of the most consistently surprising musicians of her generation.
The stress-free Prom
Prom 59: Relaxed Prom – Monday, 27 August
Attending the Proms can be a tough experience for young people and adults with autism, learning difficulties or sensory impairments – which is why the Relaxed Prom exists.
The concert offers an informal and welcoming environment – with chill-out spaces outside the auditorium for anyone overwhelmed by the experience. There’ll also be sign language interpreters and video screens showing picture symbols about the concert.
Best of all, the music – from the The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra – is a world-class selection of pieces by Tchaikovsky, Holst and Bernstein.
If you’re thinking of attending, there are flash cards and videos on the BBC Proms website to help young people familiarise themselves with the event.
Schoolchildren may also enjoy the Ten Pieces Prom on 29 July.
The ‘I saw Sheku’ Prom
Prom 3: BBC Young Musician – Sunday, 15 July
Nineteen-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has had a crazy year – with his debut album going to number one, and a starring role at the Royal Wedding.
He made his Proms debut last year; and returns to the Royal Albert Hall this weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the BBC Young Musician competition, which he won in 2016.
The teenage prodigy will be joined on stage by Young Musician finalists from the last four decades, including Nicola Benedetti, Jess Gillam and Jennifer Pike – who was just 12 when she won the competition in 2002.
There’ll also be a chance to catch this year’s winner, pianist Lauren Zhang, whose recital of Prokofiev’s challenging Piano Concerto No 2 left judges “breathless”.
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