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For classical music enthusiasts, the BBC Proms – or promenade concerts – have long been the highlight of the summer season. Each year, the broadcasting corporation puts on a series of concerts in London across a variety of venues, featuring many of the world’s most talented musicians. It is a real festival of music – an annual celebration of sounds and instruments in the capital.
Two months of fantastic concerts, staged at iconic venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, London’s parks and the Royal College of Music, culminate in the world famous Last Night of the Proms. The pomp and ceremony of this televised spectacle is like little else you can watch on TV throughout the year. But it’s even better if you’re there in person.
The Proms were founded in 1895 when music impresario Robert Newman arranged the first series of indoor promenade concerts in the Queen’s Hall at Langham Place. His intention was to develop greater appetite for classical music among members of the general public by offering low ticket prices and making the concerts accessible to the lower classes.
Henry Wood was employed as the sole conductor and his name remains closely associated with the festival. The BBC took over the running of the Proms in 1927 and three years later, when the BBC Symphony Orchestra was formed, it took centre stage at the concerts.
Today the concerts are broadcast live on TV and/or radio, introducing new classical music to the masses and celebrating the work of the maestros. There are BBC Proms aimed at families, children and the masses, along with those designed for more niche audiences.
The BBC Proms 2015
The piano has a starring role to play in this year’s festival. Prokofiev’s five piano concertos will be performed together in the same concert for the first time ever, by Alexei Volodin, Sergei Babayan and Daniil Trifonov. Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mehler Chamber Orchestra will focus on Beethoven’s complete piano concertos; while Maria João Pires, Elisabeth Leonskaja, and Katia and Marielle Labèque will showcase Mozart’s late piano works.
British conductor Sir Simon Rattle returns to the Royal Albert Hall this summer as the head of the BBC Proms Youth Choir and Vienna Philharmonic. In the Late Night Proms series, DJ and presenter Pete Tong will collaborate with Jules Buckley and his Heritage Orchestra to celebrate 20 years of BBC Radio 1 in Ibiza. Meanwhile, a number of J.S. Bach’s solo instrumentals will be performed throughout the season.
Sunday matinee performances are being introduced for the first time, with a series of concerts designed for people of all ages. One of the highlights will be a narrated Prom by Sir David Attenborough, inspired by his TV series ‘Life Story’.
Tickets are still available for many of the August and September BBC Proms. They can be booked online, over the phone, by post or in person, with ticket prices varying at each venue. At the Royal Albert Hall, restricted view seating is available from £7.50, with ticket prices rising all the way up to £95 for Band G seats in the Grand Tier Boxes.
The Last Night of the Proms
In 2015, the Last Night of the Proms will be on Saturday September 12th at the Royal Albert Hall (19:15). Highlights of the sold-out Prom 76 will include Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche and a Sound of Music medley. Then, of course, there will be the usual grand finale.
Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea-Songs will be followed by the ever-rousing Rule, Britannia! and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major – better known as Land of Hope and Glory. Next comes the famous hymn Jerusalem, followed by The National Anthem and Auld Lang Syne.
This year Marin Alsop will return to conduct on the Last Night of the Proms following her hugely successful debut performance in 2013. Conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, she will be joined by a stellar line-up including tenor Jonas Kaufmann, soprano Danielle de Niese and pianist Benjamin Grosvenor.
Getting to the Royal Albert Hall
If you’re heading to the Royal Albert Hall for the Last Night of the Proms, your best option is to take public transport due to the relative lack of parking around the venue. The hall is located on Kensington Gore in west London – postcode SW7 2AP – just to the south of Hyde Park.
South Kensington and High Street Kensington are the closest underground stations, approximately ten minutes away on foot, while the nearest National Rail station is London Victoria. Buses 9 and 10 travel from Green Park to the Hall.
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