At first glance, this year's Proms appeared to be depressingly heavy on forgettable 20th century British minnows, secondrate-by-nature 'light' music and Russian canon fodder. But as I looked closer I found quite a few I need to go to (and a handful I don't). I intend to stand for most - I'm cheap that way - but my feet have demanded I buy a proper seat for the Wagner operas.
In date order, here are my top 20 picks:
- Prom 8: Britten, Lutosławski & Thomas Adès Wed 17 July 2013, 7.30pm. The premiere of Tom Ades's symphony-length Totentanz. Plus Simon Keenlyside. What else do you need?
- Prom 11: Stockhausen Fri 19 July 2013, 10.15pm. The awe-inspiring choral centrepiece of Mittwoch, Welt-Parlament, is paired with Stockhausen's early electronic masterpiece, Gesang der Jünglinge.
- Prom 12: Viva Verdi! Sat 20 July 2013, 7.30pm. Anyone who moans there's not enough Verdi in this year's Proms must promise to shut their gob next time the Royal Opera House schedule a run of back-to-back Traviatas. Here, Tony Pappano and his Santa Cecilias offer a rare chance to hear Verdi's non-operatic work, including the String Quartet (orchestra version) and the Four Sacred Pieces, with the exciting soprano Maria Agresta. I'll also be going along to Mary King's free singalong at 5pm in the Royal College of Music to "experience some of the vocal writing of Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces".
- Prom 19: Wagner – Tristan and Isolde Sat 27 July 2013, 5.00pm. That great Wagnerian Semyon Bychkov conducting, Peter Seiffert (superb in Berlin) as Tristan and Violeta Urmana as Isolde. Could be something very special.
- Prom 22: Naturally 7 Mon 29 July 2013, 10.15pm. Anyone who thinks beatboxing is 'just shouting' will be astounded by these guys. Bewitchingly perfect close harmonies as well.
- Prom 26: Henze, Stravinsky & Tippett Thu 1 Aug 2013, 7.30pm. I just like the sound of this well-balanced Olly Knussen-conducted programme. At 5.45pm there's an introductory talk about Michael Tippett in the RCM.
- Prom 29: Wagner – Tannhäuser Sun 4 Aug 2013, 6.00pm. Runnicles conducts; Robert Dean Smith takes the title role. Foreplay comprises a Mary King singalongawagner at 2pm and an introductory talk at 4.15pm (both in the RCM).
- Prom 33: Beethoven, Berlioz Thu 8 Aug 2013, 7.00pm. Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra could play the phone book and I'd still be there, but Beethoven's fourth piano concerto (Mitsuko Uchida) and the Symphonie fantastique seal the deal.
- Prom 35: Mahler – 'Resurrection' Symphony Fri 9 Aug 2013, 7.00pm. More BRSO. More Jansons, in one of his specialities.
- Prom 36: Sir John Eliot
Gardiner conducts Bach Fri 9 Aug 2013, 10.00pm. Why is there never enough Bach at the Proms? This year's meagre ration comprises the unseasonal Easter Oratorio and Ascension Oratorio.
- Prom 37: Urban Classic Prom Sat 10 Aug 2013, 8.00pm. No, lazy journalists, it's not a night of hip-hop. It's a mixture of contemporary classical music and urban music arranged for orchestra, and the format has been successfully run (and broadcast) before. More than once. The classically-trained Laura Mvula is the highlight; autotune-junkie Fazer and pubsinger Maverick Sabre are less of a draw.
- Prom 50: White, Barry, Rzewski & Feldman Mon 19 Aug 2013, 10.15pm. Barry White, now there's an idea. Gerald Barry and John White, nearly as good. A rare hat-tip to contemporary composers.
- Prom 51: Tippett, Britten & Sibelius Tue 20 Aug 2013, 7.30pm. With the sad death of Sir Colin Davis, this LSO Prom is currently conductorless. Whoever picks up the baton, Sibelius's second and our Ian Bostridge in Les illuminations should make a worthwhile evening.
- Prom 53: Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Prokofiev Thu 22 Aug 2013, 7.00pm. Anna Caterina Antonacci does the Wesendonck-Lieder. Nothing else required, so a nice bit of Tchaikowsky and Prokoviev from Yannick Nézet-Séguin is a bonus.
- Proms Saturday Matinee 4: English Chamber Orchestra Sat 24 Aug 2013, 3.00pm, Cadogan Hall. Ben Johnson sings Britten's Serenade for tenor, horn and strings.
- Prom 57: Wagner – Parsifal Sun 25 Aug 2013, 4.30pm. Peopled with singers (Lars Cleveman, Katarina Dalayman, Robert Holl and Iain Paterson) who actually sing Wagner rather than shout, if this is anything like as good as Mark Elder's recent Wagner escapades with the Hallé, it may prove to be the highlight of the season.
- Prom 60: Britten – Billy Budd Tue 27 Aug 2013, 7.00pm. This is getting a semi-staging, but as it's one of the rare operas that works just as well without, I intend to score a £5 Arena ticket then lie on the floor at the back. Out of my way, please.
- Proms Chamber Music 8: Dowland Mon 2 Sept 2013, 1.00pm, Cadogan Hall. Dowland songs from Ian Bostridge and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny should make up for skipping lunch.
- Prom 70: Britten & Lloyd Tue 3 Sept 2013, 10.00pm. Britten's A Boy was Born is well-known; George Lloyd's tuneful mid-20th century organ/countertenor Requiem is not. Iestyn Davies may help change that.
- Prom 73: Imogen Cooper and Paul Lewis play Schubert Thu 5 Sept 2013, 10.15pm. The awesome late C minor sonata, D958, and the Grand Duo sonata, D812. If they did this at Wigmore Hall, there'd be queues round the block.
An event I urge everyone to attend is on Wed 4 Sept at 5.45pm in the Royal College of Music. "Join Proms Director Roger Wright and Chris Cotton, Chief Executive of the Royal Albert Hall, as they look back over the 2013 season with Petroc Trelawny." If they allow audience questions I shall probe Mr Wright on his bizarre crush on Granville Bantock. If not I may poo into my hand and throw it at him. Haven't decided yet.
Here are my no-shows:
- Proms 14, 15, 18 and 20: the Ring. Surprised? I'd like to go, but I'm not paying the £58-68 (x4) that acceptable seats cost. And I can't stand for the nine hours (including queuing time) each night that promming would involve. Come to think of it, I can't spend all afternoon queuing either. By Proms time, I will have seen Barenboim's Ring fully staged twice anyway - the first time, more cheaply than the Proms. Enough reasons for missing what for many will be the highlight of the season?
- Prom 40: 6 Music Prom. I think this has arisen from a misunderstanding about how Urban Classic gigs work, and who they appeal to. Dear Radio 3, the Stranglers are pensioners. The young whippersnappers are not that easily fooled. Also, John Adams alert.
- Prom 45: Tippett – The Midsummer Marriage. Actually I'd love to go to this, for curiosity value if nothing else, but I'll be in Salzburg that day.
- Prom 74: Vienna Philharmonic. Finding out the Vienna Phil are scheduled, then learning that, yet again, Maazel is down to conduct is like finding a fly in your soup, dogshit on your Louboutins and Bryan Hymel standing in for Jonas Kaufmann - all at once.
- Prom 75: Last Night of the
Proms. On top of the usual compelling reasons for avoiding the annual jingo-fest, may I remind you that Simon Keenlyside and Bryn Terfel will be gracing the Wigmore stage that night.