Britten at the BBC Proms

(C) BBC, 2013

This is a big Proms year for Britten, and the very fact that in my interview with Roger Wright on this blog he was not able to reveal plans for the festival’s Britten centenary celebrations says much for what was kept on hold. All we knew until today was that Glyndebourne would be bringing their Billy Budd to the festival. So what of the announcements today?

Well, at first glance, there is less than might be expected – but I would strongly maintain this is a good thing, and fits in with Roger Wright’s previous strategy of ‘less is more’ at the Proms, especially knowing that later in the year there are big weekends on the South Bank and at the Barbican, not to mention the BBC’s own celebrations.

The focus is on perhaps the two biggest influential forces in Britten’s musical life – his partner Sir Peter Pears, and his home county of Suffolk. What Wright does very well, in my opinion, is to use these important strands to also place Britten in context with Tippett, who has suffered unaccountable neglect over the last decade or so, and composers such as Berkeley, Bantock and even Imogen Holst.

The full list of Britten at the Proms is as follows:

Four Sea Interludes from ‘Peter Grimes’, Op.33a
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
12 July 2013, First Night of the Proms

Sinfonia da Requiem, Op.20
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Thomas Adès
17 July

Canticle I ‘My beloved is mine’, Op.40; A Charm of Lullabies, Op.41; Night Piece (Notturno); Songs from the Chinese, Op.58; Canticle II, ‘Abraham and Isaac’, Op.51; Master Kilby
Imogen Cooper (piano), Christoph Denoth (guitar), Christianne Stotijn (mezzo-soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor)
29 July (Proms Chamber Music)

Prelude and Fugue for strings, Op.29; Phaedra, Op.93
Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Britten Sinfonia / Sian Edwards
3 August (Proms Saturday Matinee)

Young Apollo, Op.16; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op.10
Alison Balsom (trumpet), Camerata Ireland / Barry Douglas
10 August (Proms Saturday Matinee)

Les illuminations, Op.18
Ian Bostridge (tenor), London Symphony Orchestra / tbc (was to have been Sir Colin Davis)
20 August

Purcell arr. Britten: Chacony; Variations on an Elizabethan Theme (Sellinger’s Round); Serenade for tenor, horn and strings, Op.31
Ben Johnson (tenor) Richard Watkins (horn), English Chamber Orchestra / Paul Watkins
24 August (Proms Saturday Matinee)

Billy Budd, Op.50
Cast includes: Jacques Imbrailo (Billy Budd), Mark Padmore (Captain Vere), Brindley Sherratt (Claggart), Glyndebourne Festival Opera, London Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Andrew Davis
27 August

Simple Symphony, Op.4; Elegy for strings (world premiere); Lachrymae, Op.48
Catherine Bullock (viola) Camerata Nordica / Terje Tønnesen
31 August (Proms Saturday Matinee)

Violin Concerto, Op.15 (prefaced by Arvo Pärt – Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten
Janine Jansen (violin), Orchestre de Paris / Paavo Järvi
1 September

A Boy was Born, Op.3
Choristers of the Temple Church, BBC Singers / David Hill
3 September (late night, with the George Lloyd Requiem)

The Building of the House, Op.79; National Anthem arr. Britten
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop
7 September (part of Last Night of the Proms)

More details can be found at the BBC Proms website.

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