The BBC Proms returns to the Royal Albert Hall this year for a summer of live music, as it has done every year since 1941. Carrying the Covid-19 theme, one prom – the opera on 16 August – will focus on painfully topical theme about loss, separation, and coming together.
Featuring fifty two concerts over forty four days, the Proms is also hosting thirty orchestras and ensembles and more than two thousand musicians. This ambitious season promises a celebration of live music on a scale not seen since before the pandemic.
The programme this year is cut short, yet Pickard and his team have masterfully bring together most of the current best in the business, an enormous reprieve to get back to some resemblance for one of the world’s most popular music festival.
Although the hall will not be maintaining a socially-distance audience capacity, the BBC is taking no chances and have strongly encouraged attendees to wear masks. Admissions will be contingent either on evidence of a negative lateral flow test, proof of double vaccination, or proof of “natural immunity”.
Here is our 7 selection of the best from the BBC Proms 2021:
First Night of the Proms 2021 (30 July): Taking over the conductor’s podium on the first night is up-and-coming Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Performing Vaughan Williams’s “Serenade to Music”, Francis Poulenc’s “Organ Concerto”, and Jean Sibelius’s Second Symphony. Plus a new work by Sir James Macmillan, “When Soft Voices Die”.
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra celebrates Stravinsky (6 August): Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky’s death, Pulcinella takes on a witty approach to an 18th-century Baroque work and teamed up with Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. Soloist performing on this night include Carolyn Sampson, Benjamin Hulett, Tim Mead and Simon Shibambu.
Stravinsky from Memory (11 August): The Aurora Orchestra under conductor Nicholas Collon will play Stravinsky’s ballet “The Firebird” entirely from memory. With Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov playing Rachmaninov, this should be an evening quite unforgettably priceless.
To Sooth the Aching Heart (16 August): If an evening of opera excerpts wouldn’t sooth your pain, than I wouldn’t know what else can. Sung by a posse of British soloist led by sopranos Sally Matthews and Natalya Romaniw, be ready with your kerchief for some of Handel, Gluck, Beethoven, Puccini and Janacek.
Sir Simon Rattle conducts the London Symphony Orchestra (22 August): Rattle’s devotion to Stravinsky’s idea of symphonies as it evolved over the years marks this evening as one of the gold-plated events of the Proms 2021: first the “Symphonies of Wind Instruments”, then “Symphony in C”, and finally “Symphony in Three Movements”.
The Last Prom (11 September): Once again, the final night will continue to carry a deafening political overtone over the “Rule Britannia” controversy. A rather anachronistic ritual that has become a staple to the Proms’ annual gathering.
The Carnivals of Animals (BBC Proms Family): Inspired by the 2021 Family Prom (the Kanneh-Masons’ The Carnival of the Animals), the project is specially dedicated for families to get creative with fun activities. Whether you’re an elegant swan, a bouncing kangaroo or a majestic lion, draw along, move musically and create fantastical animal poetry.
For the Proms 2021 FULL season guide, please click here. Every Prom will be live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds with 20 Proms on TV and iPlayer.