The announcement of the 2021 BBC Proms brings with it the tantalizing prospect of new works, a celebration of musical milestones and several surprises. Highlights from Wise Music composers include premieres from Britta Byström and Nico Muhly, performances marking the anniversaries of Igor Stravinsky and Malcolm Arnold, and the first inclusion of works by Florence Price and Julius Eastman at the festival, which takes place every summer at London's Royal Albert Hall.
When asked to write a piece celebrating the achievements of science and the arts (as depicted in the mosaic frieze around the Royal Albert Hall, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year), Britta Byström turned to the Swedish-American cosmologist Max Tegmark’s theories of ‘multiverses’, or multiple parallel universes. “For me,” she writes, “this is science that comes close to art”. Her piece, Parallel Universes will be performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Storgårds on August 10.
In contrast, Nico Muhly looks to the past in his choral work A New Flame, to be premiered by the BBC Singers and musicians conducted by Sofi Jeannin on August 19. The piece is a response to Sweelinck’s 16th-century chanson Je sens en moy une flamme nouvelle and is scored for voices and a small instrumental ensemble.
This year’s season is also notable for the inclusion of music by Florence Price and Julius Eastman for the first time in the history of he Proms. Jeneba Kanneh-Mason is the soloist in Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement with Chineke! Orchestra conducted by Kalena Bovell on August 24. Eastman’s The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc has recently been arranged in a new version for string orchestra, to be performed for the first time by Manchester Collective on August 17. Their concert also features a pair of harpsichord concertos – by Henryk Mikolaj Górecki and Joseph Horovitz – with soloist Mahan Esfahani.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra will include a tribute to composer Anthony Payne, who died earlier this year, in its concert conducted by Sir Andrew Davis on August 13. Spring’s Shining Wake was composed in 1982 and pays homage to Delius’ late romantic masterpiece In a Summer Garden.
The centenary of Malcolm Arnold is marked in two concerts. On August 27, his Symphony No. 5 will be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of its Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo. Regarded by many as Arnold’s masterpiece, it is the first time the symphony has been heard at the Proms. The BBC Concert Orchestra will celebrate Arnold’s film music on September 2 in a performance featuring some of the composer’s best-loved scores.
The music of Igor Stravinsky features throughout the Proms season, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the composer. Performers include the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski, and Aurora Orchestra. The latter will perform The Firebird Suite from memory under the direction of Nicholas Collon on August 11.
This year’s Proms welcome live audiences back to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time since 2019. All performances will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds. In addition, the concerts featuring the London Symphony Orchestra, Aurora and Chineke! Orchestra will be broadcast on BBC television.
Tuesday August 10 2021
Britta Byström: Parallel Universes (World Premiere)
John Storgårds, conductor
Wednesday August 11 2021
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird Suite (1945)
Nicholas Collon, conductor/presenter
Thursday August 12 2021
Igor Stravinsky: Jeu de cartes
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
Friday August 13 2021
Anthony Payne: Spring's Shining Wake
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor
Tuesday August 17 2021
Henryk Mikołaj Górecki: Harpsichord Concerto, Op. 40
Julius Eastman: The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc (Arranged for string orchestra)
Joseph Horovitz: Jazz Concerto
Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord
Rakhi Singh, violin/director
Thursday August 19 2021
Nico Muhly: A New Flame (after Sweelinck) (World Premiere)
Liam Byrne, viola da gamba
Sofi Jeannin, conductor
Sunday August 22 2021
Igor Stravinsky: Symphony in C, Symphony in Three Movements
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
Tuesday August 24 2021
Florence Price: Piano Concerto in One Movement
Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, piano
Kalena Bovell, conductor
Friday August 27 2021
Malcolm Arnold: Symphony No. 5
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sakari Oramo, conductor
Monday August 30 2021
Cadogan Hall (1pm and 6pm)
Henri Dutilleux: Oboe Sonata
Francis Poulenc: Oboe Sonata
Eugène Bozza: Fantaisie pastorale
François Leleux, oboe
Eric Le Sage, piano
Thursday September 2 2021
Malcolm Arnold Hobson's Choice - Concert Suite
Malcolm Arnold Scherzetto for clarinet and orchestra (from ‘You Know What Sailors Are’)
Malcolm Arnold The Belles of St Trinian’s – Comedy Suite
BBC Concert Orchestra
Bramwell Tovey, conductor
Monday September 6 2021
Philip Glass Mad Rush
James McVinnie, organ