BBC Proms 2019 guide: The world’s greatest classical music festival
Tea, pub curry, complaining about the weather — BBC Proms can count itself amongst these staples of British culture.
The 2019 series is running from Friday, 19 July to Saturday, 14 September. Now in its 125th season, the world’s greatest classical music festival has taken some contemporary steps this year including hosting more female conductors, climate change-themed concerts and other initiatives to bring in younger fans.
For 2019, there will be 75 Proms (short for “promenade concerts”) of orchestral, choral and chamber music — spread across the Royal Albert Hall and Cadogan Hall as well as Proms in the Park series across the UK, the annual Last Night of the Proms, and associated children’s and education events. This year’s edition will continue the tradition of “Promming” (aka standing in the audience), which allows up to 1,400 fans to enjoy classical music for just £6.
David Prickard, director of BBC Proms, said in a statement, “The Proms in 2019 gives a snapshot of all that is most exciting in our musical world today. It is the chance to hear some of the most celebrated ensembles and artists from across the globe, a showcase for the vibrant orchestral life that exists in the UK, and a celebration of the diversity of contemporary music in the 21st century.”
This year marks the 150th birthday of founder-conductor Sir Henry Woods, who launched The Proms in 1895, with the event continuing his life’s work of bringing “the best of classical music to the widest possible audience”. In keeping with this vision, the 2019 lineup will be more diverse than ever — from Murray Perahia performing Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink to a Prom dedicated to the genius of Nina Simone with Ledisi and Jules Buckley.
The 2019 concerts will also be nothing short of stellar. This year’s series is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, with organisers and conductors reflecting on how composers throughout the centuries have imagined the created the sound of space.
Lineup highlights: Karina Canellakis as the first female conductor to oversee the First Night of the Proms, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Jules Buckley celebration of Nina Simone, Solomon’s Knot…
Location: Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, across the UK
Dates: 19 July to 14 September, 2019
No. of attendees: 300,000 at all 2018 Proms events
Who’s playing BBC Proms in 2019?
While the event may lack the major star power of more mainstream UK music festivals, the Proms will have plenty of performances to get excited about. This year’s programme will kick off on 19 July with Karina Canellakis as the first-ever female conductor to launch the First Night of the Proms with Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.
Jules Buckley and the Metropole Orkest will also be doing a tribute to soul-jazz singer, songwriter and political activist Nina Simone on 21 August — titled “Mississippi Goddam”. It will "explore her background and enduring influence" as a musician, lyricist and activist — particularly relevant in today’s socially volatile times.
Did you know Radiohead lead guitarist and keyboardist Jonny Greenwood is also a celebrated avant-garde composer? His work has appeared on the soundtracks for films like There Will Be Blood, Norwegian Wood and Phantom Thread. On 10 September, he will make his Proms debut with a programme that includes Steve Reich's hypnotic Pulse and Heinrich Biber's Passacaglia in G Minor.
When is BBC Proms 2019?
This season will include over 150 events and more than 80 concerts, including 75 Proms. The First Night is 19 July and the legendary Last Night will be 14 September, with conductor Sakari Oramo and the BBC Singers, Symphony Chorus and Orchestra set to close out the event series.
What is the history of the Proms?
The first Proms was on 10 August 1895 with 2,500 fans gathered at the Queen’s Hall on Langham Place. Co-founded by conductor Sir Henry Wood and Queen’s Hall manager Robert Newman, the world’s greatest classical music festival opened with the National Anthem followed by the hits of the time likes of Saint-Saëns, Haydn and Liszt, plus the London premieres of works by Chopin and Bizet — all with the goals of making the acoustic arts as accessible as possible and the promotion of young, talented performers.
Two and half decades later, the event was running at a loss and the BBC took over the Proms in 1927. It began broadcasting the concert series that year, which cemented its position as a staple of British culture by reaching a wider audience and helped Wood achieve his goal, “of truly democratising the message of music, and making its beneficent effect universal”.
Wood led the Proms until his death in 1944, at which time the concert series was briefly renamed the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. Under his tenure, the event survived WWII and even played through both the Battle of Britain and the Blitz in 1940. This was the last Prom series at the Queen’s Hall as the venue was destroyed by a bomb in May 1941, and it subsequently moved to the Royal Albert Hall.
Over the course of the rest of the 20th Century and into the next, the BBC Proms would continue to innovate — first by inviting British orchestras from around the UK and then talent from around the world. Today, the event includes over 70 Proms annually and continues Wood’s tradition of presenting the widest possible range of music, performed to the highest standards, to large audiences.