Where do you begin with the BBC Proms? Perhaps with its iconic setting: the Royal Albert Hall seems to embody the very spirit of the occasion, a national monument inviting all comers and embracing all tastes under its great dome.
And every summer, the Proms begins as it means to go on, with the pleasure and novelty, tradition and adventure of the gala First Night. On July 12, the 2013 season lifts off with the world premiere of a BBC commission, Julian Anderson’s aptly named Harmony, followed by Britten’s well-loved Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, the first of many centenary tributes.
Pianist Stephen Hough is the soloist in a typical Proms double: Rachmaninov’s romantic evergreen Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini precedes Variations on a Theme of Paganini, a rarity based on the same tune by Lutoslawski, also a centenary composer. And the concert ends with another British maritime classic, Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, with eminent soloists and a 300-voice choir, crowning a grand inaugural both for the Proms and Sakari Oramo, in his first appearance as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
But merriment descends on Saturday and Sunday, the 13th and 14th, with the return of a family favourite, the Doctor Who Prom, featuring music from the television show, including classical themes, and visits from otherworldly characters live and on screen.
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And so it continues throughout the season, with repertoire of all kinds offering a spectrum of musical delight. As ever, the classical tradition is at its heart, with this year’s anniversaries leading the way. There will be no less than seven Wagner operas, including the entire ‘Ring Cycle’ for the first time in a single Proms summer. Daniel Barenboim will be conducting his first complete ‘Ring’ in Britain, with starry casts including Bryn Terfel and Nina Stemme (Proms 14, 15, 18 and 20; July 22-23, 26, 28). Equally tempting will be Tristan and Isolde, with Peter Sieffert and Violeta Urmana, under Semyon Bychkov (Prom 19, July 27), Tannhäuser, starring Robert Dean Smith (Prom 29, August 4), and Parsifal, conducted by Mark Elder (Prom 57, August 25).
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