First Week of BBC Proms Features Kurt Masur's 80th Birthday, David Robertson, 40-Voice Party Pieces, and Rameau with South African Buskers

Classic Arts News   First Week of BBC Proms Features Kurt Masur's 80th Birthday, David Robertson, 40-Voice Party Pieces, and Rameau with South African Buskers
The BBC Proms, being the world's biggest classical music festival — with 90 concerts over two months and an enormous variety of orchestras, soloists, conductors and ensembles — have far too much music to preview in a single article.

Since anyone anywhere with a good Internet connection and half-decent computer speakers can listen to the Proms online — either as they're being broadcast live or on demand for up to seven days afterward — we offer a brief rundown of the first week's concerts below. (Clicking on the link will take you to the full entry in the PlaybillArts listings calendar.) The Proms schedule and webcasts can be found at

  • Prom 1 - First Night of the Proms (July 13)
    Jir‹ Belohlšvek conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Elgar's Cello Concerto (with soloist Paul Watkins) and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
  • PSM 1 - Shakespeare and Music (July 14)
    PSM stands for Proms Saturday Matinee, and this one offers Alexander Shelley conducting the Britten Sinfonia in Shakespeare-themed music by Mendelssohn, Korngold, Stravinsky, Bridge and Shostakovich.
  • Prom 2 - Music from Great British Films (July 14)
    The BBC Concert Orchestra plays selections from scores by Walton, Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold, Richard Rodney Bennett, Debbie Wiseman and John Williams.
  • Prom 3 - French Baroque and South African buskers (July 15)
    The Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble (there's a story there) joins John Eliot Gardiner and his English Baroque Soloists (plus dancers) in instrumental and dance music from nine different Rameau operas. Gardiner's ace Monteverdi Choir joins in for Andr_ Campra's Requiem.
  • PCM 1 - Alice Coote sings songs of love (July 16)
    The first Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall features acclaimed mezzo Alice Coote and pianist Graham Johnson. OK, the songs are about more than just love, but they are all British: composers include Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Roger Quilter and Judith Weir.
  • Prom 4 - Pappano, Rossini and Berio (July 16)
    Covent Garden music director Antonio Pappano conducts the chorus and orchestra of Rome's Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Here are two contrasting sets of soloists for you: the first half features the Swingle Singers in Berio's Sinfonia; after the interval, opera stars Emma Bell, Joyce DiDonato, Lawrence Brownlee and Ildar Abdrazakov take the stage for Rossini's Stabat Mater.
  • Prom 5 - David Robertson goes all-American (July 17)
    The St. Louis Symphony's music director, who is also Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, leads Bernstein's Age of Anxiety Symphony (No. 2), Ives's Symphony No. 4 and the world premiere of Sam Hayden's Substratum.
  • Prom 6 - 40-voice party pieces (except when they're for 60) (July 17)
    Not so long ago, performances of Thomas Tallis's famous 40-part motet Spem in alium were fairly rare, because it's so difficult and expensive to get 40 first-rate ensemble singers together to rehearse and perform. But now the work has become a party piece for the Tallis Scholars, who perform it just about every season. For the season's first late-night Prom, the group meets the BBC Singers for the Tallis masterpiece and the work that inspired it (actually, it was more like an answer to a challenge): Alessandro Striggio's Ecce beatam lucem. His Majesties Sagbutts and Cornetts (a Renaissance brass band) join in for the first modern performance of Striggio's Missa Ecco si beato giorno, which is mostly in 40 parts but expands toward the end to 60.
  • Prom 7 - Happy 80th Birthday, Kurt Masur! (July 18)
    The hard-working German maestro won't even take his 80th birthday off. The two orchestras he currently serves as principal conductor, the London Philharmonic and the Orchestre national de France, share the Royal Albert Hall stage for Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings and Bruckner's Seventh Symphony.
  • Prom 8 - Vassily Sinaisky goes Russian (mostly) (July 19)
    The BBC Philharmonic's Principal Guest Conductor leads Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (with pianist Nelson Goerner) and Glire's Symphony No. 3, Ilya Murometz, as well as Arvo P‹rt's Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten.
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