The BBC Proms is the largest and longest running free live broadcast 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 128th concert season, airing for the 95th year, but the show’s history goes back even further. It was first born as Promenades in 1838, and eventually Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) would be one of its directors.
“Proms” is short for concert walks, referring to outdoor concerts in London’s Pleasure Gardens, where the public was free to stroll around while the orchestra played. In 2022, a new challenge has arisen for indoor concerts as Europe suffers from an unprecedented deadly heat wave: is the Albert Hall air-conditioned? This being England, there is a complex answer steeped in history so that.
Over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or not, now, after two years of pandemic restraint, the Proms are back, until September 10, live broadcasts heard daily on BBC-3most concerts starting at 7.30pm British Summer Time (11.30am PDT).
The season started on July 15, but don’t worry. Here’s how to go back in time to the first night and how to catch up with the concerts that are simply not practical 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 nearly three weeks left of this opening concert, with Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a performance of Verdi’s Requiem.
The season features 84 concerts, including large-scale repertoire that has not been heard at the festival during the pandemic, the return of international orchestras and the debut of the new Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra – brought together by the Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera – by refugee musicians and Ukrainian members of European orchestras.
A few recommendations:
— July 27: Carwithen, Bishop’s Rock; G.Williams, Sea sketch; Vaughan Williams, A marine 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 location of an investigation; Brahms, A german requiem. Ilan Volkov conducts the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, with soprano Elena Tsallagova and bass-baritone Shenyang.
— July 30: Dukas, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Breathe, Fountains of Rome; Puccini, The tabaro. Mark Elder directs the Hallé, with George Gagnidze as Michele and Natalya Romaniw as Giorgetta.
— July 31 begins at 3:00 a.m. PDT (reminder: all concerts remain available for one 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.
– August 1st, “Gaming Prom – From 8 bits to infinity”: Hildur Guðnadóttir/Sam Slater, Battlefield 2042 After; Jessica Curry, Dear Esther, “I have begun my ascent”; extracts from Yoko Shimomura, Kingdom Hearts; extracts from Kow Otani, The shadow of the colossus. Robert Ames conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.