Pianists at the Proms
The 2011 BBC Proms (the one hundred and sixteenth season, for those of you who are counting!) runs from Friday 15th July to Saturday 10th September. It is one of the most famous institutions in British musical life and, in the world of classical music, the greatest show on Earth. While other festivals have to pick and choose the Proms has it all, and the unashamed extravagance of this season's concerts will once again be second to none.
Pianophiles are in for a treat, beginning with Benjamin Grosvenor (Prom 1) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra on the First Night. Grosvenor, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, will be the youngest musician ever to open the Proms, which is perhaps fitting as he is also the youngest musician to be signed by Decca Classics and the youngest musician to be nominated for a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award.
Having won the BBC Young Musician Keyboard Final in 2004, Grosvenor now studies at the Royal Academy of Music. He will be performing Liszt's second Piano Concerto (S. 125), before returning with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain on Saturday 6th August (Prom 30) for Benjamin Britten's Op. 13 Piano Concerto (which was in fact commissioned for the Proms in 1938, with the first performance given by the Britten himself).
Many other top-flight pianists will be taking to the stage, including Proms veteran Martha Argerich (Prom 5). She will perform Beethoven's Op. 35 'Triple Concerto' with brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuçon (violin and 'cello) on Monday 18th July, and András Schiff (Prom 9) will be the soloist for Bartók's third Piano Concerto (Sz. 119) on Thursday 21st July. He will be joined by the Manchester-based Hallé Orchestra, under conductor Sir Mark Elder.
If you like Bartók's concertos then you won't want to miss Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Prom 15). Fresh from his appearance in Cheltenham at the start of the month, he will be performing Bartók's first Piano Concerto (Sz. 83) on Tuesday 26th July. The trio will be completed by Yuja Wang (Prom 43) and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Tuesday 16th August, with a performance of Bartók's second Piano Concerto (Sz. 95).
Fully recovered from last year's Tchaikovsky marathon, Stephen Hough (Prom 23) returns to the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 1st August to perform Saint-Saëns' fifth Piano Concerto (Op. 103) with the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. Alice Sara Ott (Prom 33), meanwhile, will be the soloist for Grieg's Concerto in A minor (Op. 16) on Monday 8th August, alongside the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.
The brilliant Emanuel Ax (Prom 47) will be performing Brahms' first Piano Concerto (Op. 15), which originally began life as a sonata for two pianos, on Friday 19th August. He will be joined by Bernard Haitink, one of the world's most respected and celebrated conductors, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The following evening (Prom 49) they will do it all over again, this time with Brahms' mighty second Piano Concerto (Op. 83).
Two 'Late Night Proms' have caught my eye this year. On Friday 19th August Angela Hewitt (Prom 48) will play Schumann's Introduction and Concert Allegro (Op. 134) and Brahms' first Piano Quartet (Op. 25) with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. And on Wednesday 24th August Marc-André Hamelin (Prom 54) will play a selection of pieces from his recent Hyperion recording, which celebrates the bicentenary of Franz Liszt's birth.
Hamelin returns to play Rachmaninov's ever-popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini on Saturday 3rd September (Prom 65), a piece I wrote about earlier this year, and Maria Joăo Pires (Prom 57) will be the soloist for Mozart's Piano Concerto K. 595 on Saturday 27th August. David Fray (Prom 60), meanwhile, will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto K. 503 with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra on Tuesday 30th August.
Hélčne Grimaud (Prom 68) will take to the stage on Monday 5th September, for a performance of Beethoven's fourth Piano Concerto (Op. 58) with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and on Saturday 10th September Lang Lang (Prom 74) will join conductor Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the Last Night. Their programme includes Chopin's Op. 22 Grande Polonaise and Liszt's first Piano Concerto (S. 124).
Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling the RAH box office on 0845 401 5040.
Martha Argerich has sadly had to cancel her Proms appearance for health reasons, and will be limiting all of her public performances over the coming months. Conductor Myung-Whun Chung will replace her, making his Proms debut as a pianist.