BBC Proms Once Again Offers a Cavalcade of Free Listening

Janos Gereben on April 22, 2019
The BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall

Still three months away, the 2019 BBC Proms beckons with the detailed festival program being released now and tickets going on sale this week.

Grand as it is to be there (even in the crush of the standees), the main attraction of this, the biggest and best of summer music festivals, is that you can stream it free wherever you are. (If you’re in the UK, you can also see it on the telly, but not outside the country.)

This is the 125th festival season in and around the Royal Albert Hall, eight weeks of daily and nightly events — 150 of them, including more than 80 concerts of orchestral, choral, and chamber music. Of the many premieres, some 20 are BBC commissions.

Running daily from July 19 through Sept. 14, between First Night of the Proms and Last Night of the Proms, there are many irresistible highlights, so mark your listening calendar.

Broadcasts on BBC-3 begin at 7:30 p.m. in London — 11:30 a.m. PDT. There is nothing like a live concert, but if you miss it, or want to hear it again, the BBC keeps each recording available for a month.

Omer Meir-Wellber, from Israel, is the BBC Philharmonic’s incoming chief conductor | Credit: Wilfried-Hösl

The opening concert, on July 19, features the commissioned world premiere of Zosha Di Castri’s Long Is the Journey — Short Is the Memory, Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel, and the final (1928) version of Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

The conductor is Greek-American Karina Canellakis, the newly appointed chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. She will make her S.F. Symphony debut Oct. 24–26. Soloists for the Mass are soprano Asmik Grigorian, mezzo Jennifer Johnston, tenor Ladislav Elgr, and bass-baritone Eric Owens.

Before being alarmed about the inroads of pop into Royal Albert Hall when seeing the title of the Proms concert on July 20 — “Bohemian Rhapsody” — be advised that the Dvorák celebration continues, as Jakub Hrůša conducts the Bohemian composer’s Violin Concerto in A Minor, with Joshua Bell as soloist; fellow Bohemian Bedrich Smetana’s symphonic suite Má vlast (My country) completes the program.

Karina Canellakis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms | Credit: Chris Christodoulou

Highlights of the summer include:

- On July 23, Omer Meir Wellber makes his Proms debut as the BBC Philharmonic’s newly-appointed chief conductor designate, leading the orchestra in Schoenberg’s Five Orchestral Pieces and Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D Minor.

- July 24 will bring Péter Eötvös to the podium to conduct his Alhambra violin concerto, with Isabelle Faust as soloist; the program also includes Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Bartók’s Dance Suite.

Stuart Skelton, who performed in S.F. Symphony’s Das Lied von der Erde, is also scheduled to sing the role at the Proms on Aug. 1

- On Aug. 1, Britten’s youthful Piano Concerto is performed by Leif Ove Andsnes; Edward Gardner conducts. Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde features tenor Stuart Skelton and mezzo Claudia Mahnke.

- The world premiere of Outi Tarkiainen’s commissioned Midnight Sun Variations is bracketed on Aug. 4 by Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead and Shostakovich’s Symphony No 11; John Storgårds conducts.

- On Aug. 14, Mark Elder conducts Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ; the cast includes mezzo Sarah Connolly, tenor Allan Clayton, baritone Roderick Williams, and bass Neal Davies.

- Andrew Davis leads the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on Aug. 29 in Elgar’s The Music Makers and Hugh Wood’s Scenes from Comus, with soloists soprano Stacey Tappan, mezzo Sarah Connolly, and tenor Anthony Gregory; the concert also includes Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

Correction: Karina Canellakis does not have a position with the Milwaukee Symphony as the article as originally published suggested.