Proms 2017: Our writers pick their highlights of the coming season

From reformation to revolution, oratorios to orientalism and the electrifying and the epic, here’s the concerts not to miss in this year’s BBC Proms season, which begins on 14 July

Proms 2 & 4: Staatskapelle Berlin/Barenboim, 15/16 July

I probably should choose something “boundary-breaking” (as the Proms programme describes Bang on a Can’s late-night prom on 17 August), but I can never resist Elgar’s Symphony No 1. I was slower to appreciate his second – I suffered some early dawdling disappointments – but that, too, now speaks to me as few other works do. On disc, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin have shown themselves to be sympathetic interpreters of these inexhaustible symphonies, and their pair of concerts on the opening weekend are unmissable. The couplings are enticing too: Lisa Batiashvili performing the Sibelius violin concerto on Saturday, and on Sunday the UK premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s Deep Time, dedicated to the memory of Peter Maxwell Davies. Stephen Moss

Prom 10: Aurora Orchestra/Collon, 22 July

Previous years have seen Nicholas Collon and the Aurora perform symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven from memory. This season they return to Beethoven to tackle his Third Symphony, the Eroica – nearly 50 minutes of complex, dynamic music. They precede it with Metamorphosen, Richard Strauss’s 1945 threnody for German culture (which movingly quotes the Eroica itself), and a discussion in which Tom Service and the conductor explore Beethoven’s score with live musical examples. George Hall

Prom 16: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Volkov, 26 July

Julian Anderson has often chosen visual starting points for his pieces, and his new piano concerto, The Imaginary Museum, which Steven Osborne introduces with the BBCSSO under Ilan Volkov, promises a tour around “contrasting worlds and sensations”. It’s the centrepiece of a very pictorial programme, which also includes two of Liszt’s symphonic poems and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Andrew Clements

Handel hero … William Christie conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
William Christie conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Photograph: Pepe Torres/EPA

Prom 23: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Christie, 1 August

William Christie’s first Proms appearance, in 1979, was as harpsichordist in Christopher Hogwood’s performance of Messiah. He has returned regularly to direct French baroque repertoire, but Handel has long been a specialism, too. This year he and the OAE choir and orchestra offer the magnificent oratorio Israel in Egypt – a choral feast recounting the plagues of Egypt in music of almost cinematic realism. GH

Prom 26: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Järvi, 3 August

Paavo Järvi, one of the busiest conductors in the business, has shaped his Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen into a chamber orchestra to be reckoned with; this is an ensemble whose clean, transparent way with the warhorse romantic repertoire could really make Brahms’ Symphony No 2 sing in this venue. The pairing of violinist Vilde Frang and violist Lawrence Power as soloists in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante promises much, and Järvi also brings a dynamic string piece by his fellow Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür. Erica Jeal

Prom 28: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/Adès, 5 August

There’s always a buzz about the NYO Prom, an infectious energy and focus that comes from the stage being packed not with weathered pros, but with budding players ticking an item off their bucket list. This year’s programme is a gloriously in-your-face celebration of new, recent or eternally young music: the London premiere of Francisco Coll’s “grotesque symphony” Mural, then Thomas Adès’ Polaris, conducted by the composer himself, and finally, irresistibly, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. EJ

Polaris … Thomas Adès will conduct his own composition.
Polaris … Thomas Adès will conduct his own composition. Photograph: Boston Globe/Getty Images

Prom 42: Les Siècles/Roth, 16 August

François-Xavier Roth and his period orchestra Les Siècles tackle the tricky subject of orientalism in 19th century French music. Cédric Tiberghien is the soloist in Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No 5, The Egyptian, inspired by a trip down the Nile. There’s music by Delibes and Franck, and a rare opportunity to hear Édouard Lalo’s glorious ballet Namouna, inspired by an episode from Casanova’s memoirs. Tim Ashley

Prom 44: Bang on a Can All-Stars, 17 August

What three young New York-based composers started 30 years ago as an annual showcase has become one of the world’s most important platforms for new music. Premieres from Bang on a Can’s three founders, Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang, feature in their ensemble’s late-night programme, alongside pieces by two of the composers who have influenced the group’s aesthetic so much, Philip Glass and Louis Andriessen. AC

Prom 46: London Symphony Orchestra/Rattle, 19 August

A Prom to fill the Albert Hall to bursting: Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder is a huge, late romantic choral work about love and death, with the classiest of narrators in Thomas Quasthoff, top tier soloists – Eva-Maria Westbroek, Simon O’Neill, Karen Cargill, Peter Hoare, Christopher Purves – and the unmissable united forces of the CBSO Chorus, Orfeó Catala, London Symphony Chorus and London Symphony Orchestra, all conducted by Simon Rattle. Fiona Maddocks

Proms 47, 48, 49: Reformation Day, 20 August

The Proms mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation with a day of concerts that thoughtfully examine its impact on musical history. John Butt’s Dunedin Consort perform Bach’s St John Passion in the evening, while in the afternoon, organists William Whitehead and Robert Quinney juxtapose newly commissioned chorale preludes with works by Bach, Mendelssohn and Wesley, and the BBC Singers and City of London Sinfonia survey the development of Passion music from Schütz to MacMillan. TA

A tribute to Charles Mingus … saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings.
A tribute to Charles Mingus … saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. Photograph: Alamy

Prom 53: Beneath The Underdog – Charles Mingus Revisited, 24 August

Some of the most dramatic and soulfully evocative jazz composed and performed in the 20th century came from Charles Mingus, the US double-bass virtuoso whose experiences as an ensemble player were inseparable from his original insights into both African-American and European classical music as a composer. Mingus’ huge legacy is creatively cherished on this star-packed jazz Prom, featuring the Netherlands’ eclectic Metropole Orkest under conductor Jules Buckley, Mobo-winning saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, Miles-inspired American trumpeter Christian Scott, and rising US vocal star Kandace Springs. John Fordham

Prom 50: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Gražinytė-Tyla, 21 August

The CBSO and its electrifying music director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, serve up a menu to cater for all tastes. There’s Stravinsky’s spiky neoclassical violin concerto performed by the ever-magnetic Leila Josefowicz, a double dose of Beethoven in full-on revolutionary mode, and the latest Proms commission from Gerald Barry with tenor Allan Clayton, fresh from his acclaimed Hamlet in Brett Dean’s new opera for Glyndebourne. Irresistible. Flora Willson

Prom 56: BBC Symphony Orchestra & Singers/Hrůša, 26 August

The 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation is a Proms theme this year. But this concert of Czech music celebrates the much earlier Bohemian Reformation and its leader Jan Hus. A fascinating programme follows the Hussite influence through works by Smetana, Dvořák and Janáček. The real treat, though, are two less often performed pieces: Prague by Josef Suk and the Field Mass by Martinů. Martin Kettle

Prom 61: Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Oramo, 30 August

The BBC Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor Sakari Oramo has a big Proms workload, including the last night. This Prom, with one of his other orchestras, features a new piece by Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi, plus an Oramo speciality in the shape of Nielsen’s Second Symphony. For many, the chance to hear Renée Fleming in the closing scene from Strauss’ Daphne, and Barber’s magical Knoxville Summer of 1915, will give this concert special lustre. MK

Prom 72: Vienna Philharmonic/Harding, 7 September

The hero of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is, according to the composer, “assaulted by three hammer-blows of fate, the last of which fells him as a tree is felled”. It’s in every sense epic, needing a king-sized orchestra, complete with cowbells, celesta, two timpani players and multiple woodwind and brass. Daniel Harding conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, which Mahler himself used to conduct. Fiona Maddocks

The BBC Proms are from 14 July to 9 September. Every concert is live on Radio 3 and online and available for 30 days thereafter on iPlayer.


Guardian music

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The top classical, world, folk and jazz of summer 2017
Comedy choirs, desert rock, a trip to the moon and a musical tour of Hull are the standout sounds of the season. Plus Django Bates jazzes up Sgt Pepper

Tim Ashley, Robin Denselow, John Fordham and Imogen Tilden

19, Jun, 2017 @5:00 AM

Article image
Into the classical music bear-pit: Alan Johnson goes to the Proms
Growing up in North Kensington Alan Johnson used to play around the Albert Hall but never went inside. 60 years later we sent the former home secretary along to experience the Proms for the first time. What did he make of it?

Alan Johnson

03, Sep, 2017 @2:00 PM

Article image
Proms 2017: Pickard hasn't messed with an established formula
This year’s BBC proms might be the first David Pickard can truly call his own, but the director has not risked changing a successful formula – and there’s plenty to savour in a season that fits in Reformation, revolution, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Hull

Andrew Clements

20, Apr, 2017 @5:12 PM

Article image
Christmas crackers: the best shows (plus top ways to escape the tinsel)

From the Nutcracker to American Psycho, from Mary Poppins to Kurt Vile, our critics pick their must-sees of the festive season

Guardian Critics

24, Nov, 2013 @6:30 PM

Article image
Andrew Clements' top 10 classical music of 2016
Thrilling concert collaborations, virtuoso opera stagings and the emergence of fresh new stars – our classical music critic’s picks of 2016

Andrew Clements

08, Dec, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
My first night of the Proms: meet the young stars making their festival debuts
The chameleon saxophonist, the competitive composer, the solitary pianist … three young musicians about to make their first appearances at the world’s mightiest music festival tell us how it all began

Interviews by Imogen Tilden

16, Jul, 2017 @3:00 PM

Article image
From Adès’ angel to Verdi’s fat knight: what to see as classical and opera venues reopen
Live music is back across the UK; we pick ten events to brighten the coming months

Andrew Clements

14, May, 2021 @3:42 PM

Article image
The top 10 classical shows of 2017
A magisterial Monteverdi cycle, Oliver Knussen’s adventures in haiku – and a hero’s return for Simon Rattle. Our critic picks his highlights

Andrew Clements

18, Dec, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
First night of the Proms review – the moon, and female stars
Zosha Di Castri’s evocative tribute to the Apollo moon landing led an opening night that, under the baton of Karina Canellakis, felt subtly like an upward leap

Erica Jeal

21, Jul, 2019 @10:22 AM

Article image
Prom 50: CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – fierce solos and jagged riffs, superbly played
An unconventional programme of Beethoven and Stravinsky alongside a fresh, discomfiting work from Gerald Barry proves thrillingly dramatic

Andrew Clements

23, Aug, 2017 @2:19 PM