BBC Proms 2015

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    July 18: First Night of the Proms

    Live from London's Royal Albert Hall

    Hello, I'm Katie Derham live from London's iconic Royal Albert Hall bringing you the first of the new, restructured BBC Proms. The Proms, or Promenade Concerts, started 1895, are a series of concerts, previously 70 until this year, where in the interest of better coverage across Europe, they have been streamlined into main events. Across the United Kingdom there are many concerts going on. In Cardiff, there will be a concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio, his singular opera and one of the toughest orchestral and vocal scores for an opera. In Dublin, Miracan pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is performing a concert entitled Nocturnes through the Ages: From Field to Alkan, which include the famous Chopin Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2, Grieg's Nocturne, and Charles-Valentin Alkan's 5 nocturnes. Even Scriabin's nocturnes will make an appearance in the 2 hour concert. Edinburgh has a celebration of the string quartet with the Emerson String Quartet performing some of the most well known string quartets including Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak, Mendelssohn, and Schoenberg.

    In London, however, it's a celebration of Irish compositions. Many in the United Kingdom have neglected the substantial Irish contribution to the classical music repertoire. From John Field to Charles-Villiers-Stanford and beyond, Ireland has contributed tremendous works of great originality to Europe. Whether it is the form called the nocturne, pioneered by John Field, or the magnificent works of the screen, Irish composers and Irish music is rich in cultural history. Today, we focus on its art music. Ah! There is the First Minister of Ireland in attendance, Mr. Enda Kenny of the Fine Gael party, a branch of the Conservatives. This celebration of Irish music here in London is about to get underway.

    The BBC Symphony Orchestra, Cambridge Singers, and British pianist Paolo Restani are ready for their programme. The first piece is John Field's 7th piano concerto. A student of Musio Clementi, the famous Inquistan composer/publisher who moved to London in the late 18th Century, Field was original from the very start with his piano compositions. He wrote some sonatas, but his most famous works came in the form of his nocturnes, which he was the first to innovate. During his lifetime, he also wrote several piano concerto before dying in Moscow. Let's go to the stage for the first work, Piano Concerto No. 7 in C Minor.


    A light interlude now from the Cambridge Singers with a delightful set of three motets of Charles Villiers Stanford. Stanford was an absolutely astounding Irish composer of substance, and the next two works are by him. The beautiful Three Latin Motets are standard choral repertoire across much of Europe, with their dramatic colourations and setting contrasted by its heavenly last motet, "Beati Quorum Via". Following that will be the magnificent Nunc Dimitis in G Major, Magnificat in A Major, and Te Deum in B-Flat Major, The order of performance is:

    Justorum Animae Coelos Ascendit Hodie Beati Quorum Via Nunc Dimitis in G Major Magnificat in A Major Te Deum in B-Flat Major


    An uplifting performance by the Cambridge Singers with the BBC Symphony Orchestra joining them for the Te Deum. Charles Villiers Stanford was not only a brilliant composer of choral works but of symphonic works as well. He wrote seven symphonies, one of which you will be hearing shortly, several piano concertos, violin concertos, a suite for violin and orchestra, cello concerto, and a concert piece for orchestra among others, and his most often performed works, the six Irish Rhapsodies. The BBC Symphony Orchestra will now take over and perform one of his more well-known and oft performed works, the Symphony No. 3 in F Minor, nicknamed the "Irish"


    The last piece is actually by an English composer, Frank Bridge. However, this is by far the most popular melody to have come out of Ireland in nearly its entire existence, known throughout Europe simply as the Londonderry Air. This setting by Frank Bridge is exclusively for the string section and is simply labelled "An Irish Melody".

    An Irish Melody

    That was the Irish Melody, a composition by English composer Frank Bridge and the end of the First Night of the Proms. Tune in next week for a reshuffled Prom: the best of the West End from London starring Sierra Boggess, Seth MacFarlane, Julian Ovenden and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. This will feature works from Camelot, West Side Story, the Phantom of the Opera, Guys and Dolls and other musical theatre show pieces.

    Thank you for tuning in, I'm Katie Derham, goodnight from London.

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    25 July 2015: The Musical Theatre Prom

    Hello, we're back with the BBC Proms celebrating this weekend across Britain the joys of musical theatre across Europe. London has been for the better part of a century the hub of theatre and performing arts, exemplified by the popular status of the West End and West End musicals. In Edinburgh, Marti Pellow and Bonnie Langford are holding their own concert series. In Cardiff, Bryn Terfel, Rhydian and Only Men Aloud are hosting a night of men's music from popular West End musicals. Dublin sees Rachel Tucker hosting an event where her latest CD is being performed. She is also sharing the stage with Audra McDonald, a six time Olivier Award winner.

    At the Royal Albert Hall in London, we have the best and biggest stars across the European Union coming to perform their favourite theatre hits. First we start off with the longest running musical play, earning nearly £2.1 billion in receipts and it will celebrate it's 30th anniversary this year after being opened at the Barbican Theatre in 1985: Les Miserables.

    Performing pieces from Les Miserables, the story of the Jean Valjean and his travails after being imprisoned for 19 years in 19th Century Miraco. The June Rebellion of 1832 which led to a failed student uprising is the subject of the novel by Victor Hugo transformed into a musical spectacular by Claude Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubil. First, a tribute to the French language origin of the musical with the Mertz cast of Les Miserables performing what we know as In My Life.

    Samantha Barks, Alfie Boe, and the current West End cast of Les Miserable will take over proceedings now with a medley of the English language production of Les Miserables. Samantha Barks was also featured in the movie adaptation which won several BAFTA awards including Best Musical or Comedy Film. Enjoy!

    Now we turn to a different musical set in Miraco: The Phantom of the Opera. Beneath the Mertz Opera House lives a ghost that terrorizes all of its tenants, teaching the beautiful Christine Daae how to become the star of the Miracan opera scene. This romantic drama by Andrew Lloyd Webber has become the second longest running musical play and the most profitable and successful piece of entertainment that the world has ever known, raking in nearly £12.6 billion worldwide. Sierra Boggess, the star of tonight's proceedings, and Ramin Karimloo will perform four scenes from the show that have become timeless favourites among the general public across Europe. We also will hear from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which has done the playing this evening.

    Wonderful! Next is an array of musical hits from Sierra Boggess, Julian Ovenden, Dame Judi Dench, Seth MacFarlane and Anna-Jane Cassey:

    What a wonderful evening! Thank you to Sierra Boggess, Ramin Karimloo, Dame Judi Dench, Julian Ovenden, Seth MacFarlane, Anna-Jane Casey, Alfie Boe, Samantha Barks, the casts of Les Miserables and the Phantom of the Opera.

    Tune in next week for the New Birmingham Symphony and London Symphony Orchestras in the proms called 19th Century standards including the Chopin First Piano Concerto, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, and Beethoven 5th Century.

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    1 August 2015

    Welcome back to the Proms! I'm Katie Durham and we've got a firecracker of 19th Century Standards for you from across Europe. The New Birmingham Symphony Orchestra all the way from Angleter have come to entertain us this evening with cracking performances of Mozart...the Halsbergian young prodigy that came to change the direction of music for all time. We also have Beethoven and Tchaikovsky on the programme. Welcome to the third prom in London: The Innovators of the Symphony.

    The symphony as a composition began as sinfonias in the baroque era, and once sonata form was soon transformed and elevated by composers of the Classical era. Johann Christian Bach, Antonio Salieri, many took on the form, but Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn elevated it to new structure and form. Ludwig van Beethoven, the biggest innovator of music took it a step further, adding length, gravitas, purpose and eternity. From there Tchaikovsky would add passion, depth, soul, and a uniquely Romantic and Russian flavour. Mahler would then expand even further the emotional breadth. It is a great challenge to play these well known symphonies back to back like this, but the New Birmingham Symphony Orchestra are up to the challenge. One of the finest symphony orchestras in the world, winning numerous awards internationally, coming second behind Deutsche Grammophon's Berliner Philharmoniker and ahead of the London Symphony Orchestra (which is in third).

    Let's begin the concert shall we! The orchestra has finished tuning.

    New Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Led by Maestro Valery Gergiev

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550

    This work was one of Mozart's most cunning and most innovative pieces. Written towards the end of his life, he seemed to write from the soul on this work. He was at the height of his notoriety in Europe during the completion of this symphony, with Cosi fan tutti on the horizon. This was also a time of deep depression and financial distress. The frantic nature of this symphony, the middle of the three Great Symphonies (No. 39, 40, and 41), particularly in its opening movement, indicate these were indeed troubled times for Mozart.

    Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

    The most famous work bearing symphony arguably has been written by this man (it's a toss-up between the 5th and 9th Symphonies). This 5th Symphony often gets the nickname of Fate, as it was Beethoven's letter to his own personal fate of deafness, but as the symphony unfolds, it is clear that Fate does not win, and that the character who undergoes the great symphony (perhaps Beethoven himself) comes out on the other side victorious, seemingly laughing at fate. Even the key, C minor, is Beethoven's key of choice for his own personal artistic character.

    Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

    The second of the 5th symphonies this performance is Tchaikovsky's. Long known for his unwinding, beautiful melodies, Tchaikovsky was not known for his symphonic prowess beyond colourful and powerful orchestrations until his Fourth Symphony (also themed with Fate). The last symphonies by Tchaikovsky all deal with different aspects of Fate. The Fourth, a frantic fight against Fate; the Fifth, overcoming Fate; the Sixth, a tragic end at the hands of Fate. Not very popular at its premier, the Fifth Symphony has become a standard in the orchestral repertoire.

    Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor

    Mahler nearly didn't live to finish writing this piece. He was within an hour of dying, thanks to haemorrhaging. During his time, he worked on his health and was married to his wife. Mahler also rediscovered the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, and improved his own compositional structure. Counterpoint became important, as did structure beginning with this composition. Embedded inside of the drama is its most beautiful and well-known melody, the Adagietto in the 4th movement. Sit tight for this colossal journey!

    That's the end of this week's Prom! What a marathon concert! Next week, we should have another special guest orchestra, the BBC Youth Orchestra performing the Mozart: Requiem and a few other works! Great concert tonight, and we will see you all next Saturday!

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    8 August 2015

    Hello, and welcome back to the BBC Proms. Katie Dunham here with the 4th Prom, the Youth Prom! The BBC Youth Orchestra have set up on the stage for their performance. This evening they'll be playing kids' favourites like Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, which is an expanded set of varations on the Rondeau for the play The Moor's Revenge written by Henry Purcell. We also have Peter and the Wolf and the Swan Lake Suite by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky.

    Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

    Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf

    Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake Suite, Op. 20b

    Now, don't let the term BBC Youth Orchestra fool you. These are still professional musicians of an adult age, but they specialise in giving performances to children. The three selections (which make this the shortest prom) are all children favourites from around Britain. The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is a perfect introduction into what the instruments of the orchestra sound like and look like. The Russian Peter and the Wolf not only gives more insight into how the orchestra works, but also the idea of leitmotifs and how they can propel a story forward through drama and interaction between themes and motifs. Finally, the sumptuous Swan Lake Suite provides some favourites from the famous ballet which inspired the children's movie The Swan Princess, which starred Liz Callaway as Odette, the princess who gets turned into a swan. Though none of Tchaikovsky's music is present in the film, this selected work is always a favourite with children.

    Next week, we will have the greatest compositions from the United Kingdom that make us feel British. The Fifth Prom: British Heritage will go backwards in time to Purcell, Handel, Byrd, and a little less far reaching with Vaughan Williams, Holst and Elgar. Thank you for tuning in this week!