Play on, maestros … our pick of the BBC Proms 2021

The season may be slightly shorter than usual, but this year’s Proms will still include many tantalising pairings, several premieres and a fond farewell

First Night of the Proms 2021: BBC Singers/BBCSO/Stasevska

Friday 30 July
With Finland’s Dalia Stasevska in charge, the First Night promises a special occasion. Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music is an ideal musical benediction to the season, followed by Poulenc’s grandly austere organ concerto. James MacMillan’s When Soft Voices Die, a world premiere setting of two Shelley poems, is conceived as a companion piece to the Serenade, and is followed by Sibelius’s majestic second symphony. (MK)

Prom 4: Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Emelyanychev

Sunday 1 August
A whole evening of Mozart wouldn’t be my desert-island orchestral Prom. And yet if anyone can freshen up the classical repertoire it’s the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and I can’t wait to hear what they do with the three last symphonies under their dynamic principal conductor, Maxim Emelyanychev. (EJ)

Prom 8: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Thursday 5 August
The works that the CBSO commissioned to celebrate its centenary last year are finally getting performed. Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel Symphony, based on material from his 2016 opera, was one of them; its London premiere is framed here by two more symphonies, Ruth Gipps’s Second and Brahms’s Third. (AC)

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou

Prom 9: BBCSSO/Carneiro/Sampson/Mead

Friday 6 August
Joana Carneiro and the BBC Scottish Symphony mark the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky’s death with Pulcinella, his 1920 ballet based on themes by Pergolesi, and a landmark in the development of 20th-century neoclassicism. Carolyn Sampson and Tim Mead, meanwhile, are the soloists in Pergolesi’s own austerely beautiful Stabat Mater, among the great devotional works of the 18th century. (TA)

Prom 10: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/Heyward/Benedetti

Saturday 7 August
The Proms and the NYO are made for each other, and it will be an especial joy to see this teenage orchestra back on stage after so long. Alongside new works by Laura Jurd and Jessie Montgomery the programme includes Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 2 with Nicola Benedetti, and conductor Jonathon Heyward will be whipping up the revolutionary spirit of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. (EJ)

Prom 11: BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Ryan Bancroft

Sunday 8 August
A “made in America” programme from Bancroft and his orchestra, which ends with Dvořák’s ninth symphony, “From the New World”. They begin with the world premiere of a BBC commission, Dance Foldings by Augusta Read Thomas; Charles Ives’s masterpiece Three Places in New England is the concert’s centrepiece. (AC)

Prom 14B: Aurora Orchestra/Collon/Kolesnikov

Wednesday 11 August
Does performing music from memory add a charge of electricity to an orchestra’s playing? It seems so when you watch and hear the Aurora Orchestra. This year it’s Stravinsky’s glorious Firebird Suite that will get the full Aurora treatment of sparky mini-lecture followed by sparkier performance. Before that there is Rachmaninov with the ever-intriguing Pavel Kolesnikov as soloist. (EJ)

Prom 15: LPO/Jurowski/Isserlis

Thursday 12 August
The programme for Vladimir Jurowski’s final concert as the London Philharmonic’s principal conductor is typically uncompromising. Stravinsky’s Jeu de Cartes and Walton’s Cello concerto, with Steven Isserlis, are followed by Friedrich Goldmann’s orchestration of the 14 Canons from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, then by Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler Symphony, derived from his powerful opera about the nature of artistic responsibility in dark times. (TA)

Vladimir Jurowski gives his final concert as the LPO’s principal conductor for Prom 15.
Vladimir Jurowski gives his final concert as the LPO’s principal conductor for Prom 15. Photograph: Drew Kelley

Prom 27: Chineke! Orchestra/Bovell

Tuesday 24 August
The orchestra that celebrates its players’ diversity does the same for composers under the African American conductor Kalena Bovell. Music by the 19th-century black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor begins and ends the concert: his overture to Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast and the youthful symphony in A minor. Between come Nigerian composer Fela Sowande’s African Suite for string orchestra and a remarkable one-movement piano concerto by the African American composer Florence Price, with soloist Jeneba Kanneh-Mason. (MK)

Prom 33: Mahler Chamber Orchestra/ George Benjamin

Monday 30 August
The multinational Mahler Chamber Orchestra are conducted by George Benjamin in the world premieres of two of his own works – a set of Purcell arrangements and his Concerto for Orchestra. Oliver Knussen’s The Way to Castle Yonder and Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard as soloist, complete the programme. (AC)

Proms at Cadogan Hall: Ema Nikolovska/Malcolm Martineau

Monday 6 September
Liszt described Pauline Viardot as the first female composer of genius. Berlioz called her one of the great artists of the age. Famous as a singer and hostess, she also wrote more than 200 songs and five salon operas, some to librettos by her lifelong admirer Ivan Turgenev. In her bicentenary year, this chamber Prom offers a fascinating chance to hear some of Viardot’s own songs interspersed with others from her circle, including Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and her opera-singing sister, Maria Malibran. (MK)

Prom 42: Hallé/Elder/Lapwood/Grosvenor

Tuesday 7 September
To mark the centenary of Saint-Saëns’s death later this year, Mark Elder, the Hallé and organist Anna Lapwood perform his popular Organ Symphony, No 3 in C Minor, while Benjamin Grosvenor plays Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto – the symphony’s companion piece at its 1886 premiere. The curtain raiser is the first UK performance of Unsuk Chin’s Subito Con Forza, written for the Beethoven anniversary last year. (TA)


Martin Kettle, Erica Jeal, Andrew Clements and Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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