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The BBC Proms presents the 118th season of Henry Wood Promenade concerts from Friday 13 July until Saturday 8 September 2012.
2012 is a special year for London as it takes its turn to host the Olympic Games. The BBC Proms 2012 in its entirety will be part of the London 2012 Festival; the cultural celebrations of the Games. On the opening day of the Olympics, 27 July, Daniel Barenboim will lead the West Eastern Divan Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven 9, the culmination of his complete Beethoven Symphony cycle. The concerts in the cycle will also feature significant works by living French composer Pierre Boulez, one of the most influential figures in contemporary music for the past sixty years.
The BBC Proms is the world’s largest classical music festival, presenting some of the world’s leading artists and orchestras, as well as a host of talks, workshops, free performances and family events. Bringing together great orchestras, ensembles, soloists and artists from across the globe, the BBC Proms presents two months of world-class classical music making at the historic Royal Albert Hall. The season culminates with the world famous Last Night of the Proms. In 2011 over 300,000 people attended the 86 concerts throughout the season.
All BBC Proms are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, in HD Sound on the website and selected Proms are broadcast on BBC TV and distributed around the world.
Full programme details of the BBC Proms 2012 will be announced on Thursday 19 April.
This festival has been an EFA member since 1995.
Each EFA member manages its own Calendar. In case there is no programme availabable for this year, please visit the festival's own website.
The first Proms concert took place on 10 August 1895 and was the brainchild of the impresario Robert Newman, manager of the newly built Queen’s Hall in London. While Newman had previously organised symphony orchestra concerts at the hall, his aim was to reach a wider audience by offering more popular programmes, adopting a less forma promenade arrangement, and keeping ticket prices low.
Born in 1869, Henry Wood had undergone a thorough musical training, and from his teens, began to make a name for himself as organist, accompanist, vocal coach and conductor of choirs, orchestras and amateur opera companies. Newman arranged to meet Wood at Queen’s Hall one spring morning in 1894 to talk about the project. ‘I am going to run nightly concerts to train the public in easy stages,’ he explained. ‘Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music.’ In February 1895 Newman offered Wood conductorship of a permanent orchestra at Queen’s Hall, and of the first Proms season.
The series was known as ‘Mr Robert Newman’s Promenade Concerts’ and the programmes were perhaps over-generous by today standards, lasting around three hours. The informal atmosphere was encouraged by cheap tickets – one shilling (5p) for a single concert, or a guinea (£1.05) for a season ticket. Eating, drinking and smoking were permissable (though patrons were asked to refrain from striking matches during the vocal numbers). The more ‘serious’ items were confined to the first half, and a major attraction of the shorter second half was the Grand Fantasia – choice morsels extracted from popular operas.
Wood and Newman were keen to introduce audiences to an ever wider range of music. In the first seasons a tradition was established of a Wagner Night on Mondays and a Beethoven Night on Fridays. Wood continued to present an enterprising mixture of the familiar and the adventurous, programming new works each season (referred to as ‘novelties’) He also promoted young, talented performers, and he fought to raise orchestral standards, making himself unpopular in 1904 with a successful bid to scrap the system whereby orchestral players could send deputies to the rehearsals and appear in person only for the concert. By 1920 Wood had introduced to the Proms many of the leading composers of the day, including Richard Strauss, Debussy, Rakhmaninov, Ravel and Vaughan Williams.
The onset of the First World War brought a public dislike for all things German, yet Wood and Newman – almost alone among the cultural establishment at the time – insisted that ‘The greatest examples of Music and Art are world possessions and unassailable even by the prejudices of the hour.’ In 1915 the publishers Chappell and Co., having earlier taken over the lease of the hall when Newman had ran into financial troubles, also took over the orchestra, which was renamed the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra.
But the Proms were running at a loss, and in 1927 Chappell’s announced its withdrawal of financial support. In the same year the BBC had established its status as a Corporation with a mandate ‘to inform, educate and entertain’, clearly a vision that Henry Wood held for the Proms. The BBC took over the Proms, and for three years the concerts were given by ‘Sir Henry Wood and his Symphony Orchestra’, until the BBC Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1930. The Proms now reached a far wider audience and although some feared that broadcasting would reduce audience numbers, Wood emphasised its role in achieving his aim ‘of truly democratising the message of music, and making its beneficent effect universal.’
Three days after Britain declared war on Germany the BBC decentralised its Music Department and announced it was unable to support the Proms. With characteristic determination Wood found private sponsorship for the 1940 and 1941 seasons, and replaced the BBC orchestra with the London Symphony Orchestra. But air-raids intensified and the 1940 season lasted only four weeks. On 10 May 1941 a Luftwaffe bombardment gutted the Queen’s Hall. The only other hall available in London for orchestral concerts was the Royal Albert Hall, opened in 1871. It was not until the following season that the BBC returned to sponsor the Proms.
1944 marked two anniversaries: the fiftieth anniversary of the Proms, and Henry Wood’s seventy-fifth birthday. By now Wood’s phenomenal energies were waning. His last concert was on 28 July, a whisker short of his half-century of conducting the Proms. He died three weeks later.