From the first ever BBC Sport Prom to David Zinman’s last ever performance as music director of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, this year’s classical smorgasbord promises to be the most diverse ever.
With an emphasis on global music, The Proms will gather 10 ensembles from China, Greece, Iceland, Lapland, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea and Turkey to regale audiences with iconic pieces past and present.
Contemporary composers and performers are also given room to flourish, with appearances from Laura Mvula, Paloma Faith, Pet Shop Boys and Rufus Wainwright.
So, with all this on offer from the biggest classical music festival on the planet, what should be on your must-see list? Let our experts help you decide…
For me, Prom 41 on 16 August is one of the most anticipated Proms this year, featuring the world premiere of a new work from composer Benedict Mason. Meld was commissioned by the BBC and will be performed by the ever adventurous Aurora Orchestra. Benedict is always an interesting composer who is constantly challenging perceptions and beliefs about his work. More recent pieces have addressed spatial dimensions and in many respects can be regarded as installation art. I have no idea how he will treat the very particular acoustic of the Royal Albert Hall. Also look out for Dobrinka Tabakova’s Spinning a Yarn, featuring the world’s greatest hurdy gurdy player – Stevie Wishart – on the same programme.
In a season of highlights, the concert I am most looking forward to is Prom 60 on 1 September, given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Charles Dutoit. The second half is made up of Ottorino Respighi'sRoman Trilogy, concluding with Pines of Rome. Written in 1924, this atmospheric and evocative work depicts pine trees in different locations in Rome at different times of the day. The piece ends with the Pines of the Appian Way, featuring a part for the magnificent organ of the Albert Hall. It is one of the most exciting moments in all concert music. Spine tingling and not to be missed!
I’m really looking forward to Prom 31 on 9 August, featuring works by Beethoven, Berlioz, Elgar and Helen Grime. The programme will span over 200 years, but the common theme will most certainly be the drama, excitement and dynamism that the music will offer. I’m always drawn to concerts with a premiere, and I’m a huge fan of Helen’s music. Near Midnight will no doubt conjure a wonderfully distinctive sense of virtuosity, lyricism and character. Also, I think Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 is simply one of the best pieces ever written.
It has to be Prom 41 on 16 August with the Aurora Orchestra performing Dobrinka Tabakova, Benedict Mason and Mozart. I’m a big fan of Aurora’s style of mixing up eras and genres – I love the way you can hear a well known piece of repertoire in a completely different way next to something new. I’m sure Benedict’s premiere will be full of (and make the most of Aurora’s) flexibility and invention, and Dobrinka’s music is captivating – we had a choral premiere and her film Pulse at Cheltenham this month and both were great!
I’m looking forward to Prom 25 on 4 August - a late night performance by Tallis Scholars. The group will be performing works by the late John Tavener, including Requiem Fragments, created shortly before the composer’s death. At the 2011 Proms, Tallis Scholars gave an incredible performance of works by the Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria, which led me to purchase some of their excellent recordings. I’m also excited about Prom 45 on 19 August, featuring the brilliant Laura Mvula.
The Proms 2014 runs from 18 July until 13 September 2014, with ticket prices starting at £5. With Late Night Prom options and family-orientated events, there really is something for everyone. Check out the full programme here - www.bbc.co.uk/proms