Crowd at the BBC Proms 2021
Crowd at the BBC Proms 2021

The BBC Proms is the greatest, oldest free livestreaming of classical music, with two months of daily broadcasts from London’s 5,000-seat Royal Albert Hall (itself 150 years old).

This is the concerts’ 128th season, broadcast for the 95th year, but the series’ history goes back even further. It first originated as the Promenades in 1838, and eventually Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) would serve as one of its directors.

Statue of Prince Albert outside the Royal Albert Hall | Credit: David Levene

“Proms” is short for promenades concert, referring to outdoor concerts in London’s pleasure gardens, where the audience was free to stroll around while the orchestra was playing. In 2022, a new issue has arisen for indoor concerts while Europe is suffering from an unprecedented, deadly heatwave — is the Albert Hall air-conditioned? This being England, there is a history-laden, complex answer to that.

Over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or not, now, after two pandemic-constrained years, the Proms is back, running through Sept. 10, the live broadcasts heard daily on BBC-3, with most concerts beginning at 7:30 p.m. British Summer Time (11:30 a.m. PDT).

The season began on July 15, but not to worry. This is how to go back in time to the first night and how to catch up with concerts just not convenient to hear on the West Coast on weekend mornings: For a month after each concert, the program is available on BBC-3. There are still almost three weeks remaining of that opening concert, Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a performance of the Verdi Requiem.

The season features 84 concerts, including large-scale repertoire not heard at the festival during the pandemic, the return of international orchestras, and the debut of the newly formed Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra — brought together by the Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera — of refugee musicians and Ukrainian members of European orchestras.

A few recommendations:

— July 27: Carwithen, Bishop Rock; G. Williams, Sea Sketches; Vaughan Williams, A Sea Symphony. Andrew Manze conducts the BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC National Chorus of Wales, and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, with soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and bass-baritone Jacques Imbrailo.

— July 28: Jennifer Walshe, The Site of an Investigation; Brahms, A German Requiem. Ilan Volkov conducts the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, with soprano Elena Tsallagova and bass-baritone Shenyang.

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— July 30: Dukas, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Respighi, Fountains of Rome; Puccini, Il tabarro. Mark Elder conducts the Hallé, with George Gagnidze as Michele and Natalya Romaniw as Giorgetta.

— July 31 starts at 3 a.m. PDT (remember: all concerts remain available for a month): Valentin Silvestrov, Symphony No. 7; Chopin, Piano Concerto No. 2 (Anna Fedorova, soloist); Beethoven, Fidelio: “Abscheulicher! … Komm Hoffnung” (Liudmyla Monastyrska, soprano); Brahms, Symphony No. 4. Keri-Lynn Wilson conducts the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra.

— Aug. 1, “Gaming Prom – From 8-Bit to Infinity”: Hildur Guðnadóttir/Sam Slater, Battlefield 2042 Suite; Jessica Curry, Dear Esther, “I Have Begun My Ascent”; excerpts from Yoko Shimomura, Kingdom Hearts; excerpts from Kow Otani, Shadow of the Colossus. Robert Ames conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.