The BBC Promenade concerts are upon us once more. This Spectacular Summer festival is celebrating its 120th anniversary, and it’s enjoyed by music lovers around the world. I’ve written about this inspiring concert series here on my blog for the past few years, and each year the variety, diversity and selection of music, concerts and artists expands significantly. Many question the idea of presenting anything other than Classical music, but by developing, changing and introducing many different genres, the BBC has simply made this impressive festival a much more attractive proposition for those who would probably not attend this type of event.
The Proms commence on Friday 17th July 2015 and showcase eight weeks of concerts, talks, workshops, family events and more, ending with the famous Last Night of the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The majority of the events are held at the Royal Albert Hall, but Cadogan Hall and the Royal College of Music also play host too, as well as The Proms in the Park performances which are held around the country. With over 75 concerts, plus many lectures and other events, the selection on offer is amazing; jazz, pop, rock, rap, swing, musical theatre, cabaret, words and music, film music, educational music, family concerts, and of course, classical (and a few I’ve probably missed!) features this year, and all are broadcast on BBC Radio 3. The list of artists is, as one would expect, world-class, but young performers have also been given an opportunity to shine as well.
With so many appealing programmes to choose from, selecting can be tricky! So here is my brief survey of concerts featuring the piano as soloist.
The Proms kicks off with a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K.466 played by German pianist Lars Vogt (Prom 1). Mozart’s late concertos are a feature this year, and this piece is sandwiched between works by Nielsen and Sibelius (both celebrating their 150th birthday years), and Walton and Carpenter.
Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes will enjoy a three concert residency (Prom 9, 10 and 12), playing all five Beethoven Piano Concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, with whom he has worked with over the past four years. The performance of all five Prokofiev Piano Concertos (Prom 14) in one night has to be a highlight. Played by three towering pianists, Daniil Trifonov, Sergei Babayan, and Alexei Volodin, who will appear with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev.
French sisters, Katia and Marielle Labèque, return to the Proms for a performance of Mozart’s dramatic Concerto in E flat major for Two Pianos K 365 (Prom 18), continuing the Mozart theme. Prom 22 features another late Mozart concerto, No. 26 in D major K 537 ‘Coronation’ played by Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi and the Aurora Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Collon. Prom 29 is a Ravel dominated programme including the composer’s beautiful Piano Concerto in G major, played by French Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, conducted by Nicholas Collon and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
BBC Young Musician 2914, Martin James Bartlett, returns to the Proms performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Eric Whitacre (Prom 32), and Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by François-Xavier Roth, for a performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. (Prom 36). Scottish pianist, Steven Osborne is soloist at Prom 38, in Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony which will no doubt be captivating.
Argentinian pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim joins Guy Braunstein (violin), and Kian Soltani (cello), for an account of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C major accompanied by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (Prom 44). More Mozart in Prom 45; Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major K. 482, played by celebrated Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit.
The late concerts (which start at 10.15pm) look interesting and are the perfect way to extend your evening; Hungarian pianist András Schiff’s account of J S Bach’s towering Goldberg Variations is not one to miss (Prom 50).
American pianist Jeremy Denk will play a recital at Cadogan Hall as part of the Chamber Music Series, and he will also play Henry Cowell’s Piano Concerto in Prom 60 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Denk’s solo programme includes Sonatas by Bartók, Scriabin and Beethoven (Proms Chamber Music 6). Pianist David Fray (Prom 53) continues Mozart’s late piano concertos with a performance of Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor K 491 (conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen with the Philharmonia Orchestra).
Prom 61 showcases Chinese virtuoso Yuja Wang, who plays Bartok’s formidable Second Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.
Russian pianist Igor Levit will play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major K. 595 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian (Prom 63), and Prom 66 sees the return of Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida who will play Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.
Prom 76 (the last night), features British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor who will play Shostakovich’s sparkling Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop.
The performances I’m looking forward to are Prom 57; Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires is soloist in Mozart’s exquisite Piano Concerto in A major K. 488, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bernard Haitink. And Prom 70, which is a Russian feast; Rachmaninov’s ever popular Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op.18 will be played by Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted Yuri Temirkanov.
Quite a selection, as I’m sure you’ll agree, and I’ve not really mentioned the many chamber music concerts. If some events are already sold out (and many are), you can listen on Radio 3, or become a ‘Prommer’ and queue for promenade tickets (a bargain at £5!). See you there!
Find out more here: www.bbc.co.uk/proms
Watch the official Proms launch film here.
For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.
You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.