More new music at Lucerne than at BBC Proms

More new music at Lucerne than at BBC Proms


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2016

Here’s a telling comparison:

There are 14 world premieres this year at the BBC Proms, which runs for 8 weeks, July 15-September 10.

There are 14 world premieres at the Lucerne Festival which runs for 4 weeks, August 13-September 11.

Six of those premieres are short works, performed in the same concert.

But it does seem that the Proms are slipping on the new-music front.


UPDATE: The BBC would like it to be known that there are 31 premieres in total, 16 of which are BBC commissions (including co-commissions). Of these,

14 are world premieres

10 UK premieres

7 London premieres

UPDATE2: The year’s major premiere by a British composer takes place tonight at the Salzburg Festival. Thomas Ades’s Exterminating Angel will be seen at Covent Garden next April.


  • John Borstlap says:

    This does not say very much: it is not a quantative competition. And then: which are these works? Are they modernist, postmodernist, traditionalist, minimalist, satanist, cubist? Because the style says something about whether they fit within the orchestral performance culture or not and whether they theaten ticket sales.

    • Hilary says:

      Not sure what relevance style has.
      You are the style, so to speak, and some of the most distinctive new music evades easy categorisation. Looking at Ligeti, I can identify Modernist, post modernist and minimalist within his catalogue, and even within particular pieces.

      • John Borstlap says:

        True, but in practice, orchestras are quite reluctant to offer something suspiciously foreign to the performance culture of the medium. Their predicament is, that they don’t want to be seen as ‘conservative’ and thus want to present something new now and then, while audiences mostly have no interest in ‘new’. Programmers mostly don’t have the time, stamina, patience and mind set to explore the field, while conductors mostly are very busy cultivating their career, in which new music simply has no place because they very rarely can ‘sparkle’ with a new work. It is a complex issue where one cannot put the finger on only one aspect.

    • BrianB says:

      I can’t help but wonder how many of the Proms “world premieres” over, say, the last twenty years has had any lasting impact whatsoever. I would hazard a guess: none or virtually none.
      All seem to be ephemeral, uninteresting pieces whose memorability scarcely outlasts their running time.

  • Halldor says:

    “London premiere”. Oh for goodness’ sake. How meaningless.

  • alvaro says: mean setting Hip Hop, Electronica, and making fart jokes while playing Mozart is NOT new music? But, that’s the future of classical music! That will finally bring young audiences to concert halls, right?

  • Saxon Broken says:

    Actually, rather than premiers, I would much rather that they played more pieces from the last 20-30 years that have already been premiered. Which of those previously heard pieces are worth hearing again (and again). In my view far too many pieces get played once and then ignored. It is the second, third, fourth and more performances which really need our support. Which pieces are worth persevering with which will, in time, win a permanent audience.