Missing from the 2019 BBC Proms

Missing from the 2019 BBC Proms


norman lebrecht

July 19, 2019

The Proms usually commemorate musical anniversaries, but there are some notable composer omissions this year.

Jacques Offenbach (200) – just one overture

Siegfried Wagner (150) – nothing

Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (50) – nothing

Galina Ustvolskaya (100) – nothing

Franz von Suppé (200) – nothing

Leopold Mozart (300) – apparently nothing.

These are major holes in an important tradition.

Any more?




  • John Sorel says:

    [[ Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (100) – nothing ]]

    And that’s what he should get. Nothing. A non-composer, a dilettante, and a failure in everything he ever attempted.

    • Adam Stern says:

      “If Sibelius is good, then all criteria of musical excellence valid from Bach to Schoenberg, such as complexity, articulation, unity in diversity, multiplicity in oneness, are frail.”

      — Theodor Adorno

      (And when’s the last time anyone ever heard any of Adorno’s works in concert?)

      • BrianB says:

        For sure, one of those quotes that says much more about its author than the subject of the quote.

      • Bruce says:

        Wow. For someone with a reputation for being smart, he doesn’t sound very perceptive.

      • fflambeau says:

        Adorno was certainly wrong about Sibelius and he cannot be considered a great musician (he was mainly a philosopher) but he was right about Schoenberg: In a 1934 letter he sounded a related criticism of Schoenberg:
        “Twelve-tone technique alone is nothing but the principle of motivic elaboration and variation, as developed in the sonata, but elevated now to a comprehensive principle of construction, namely transformed into an a priori form and, by that token, detached from the surface of the composition.”

        He also was the author of many important works in philosophy etc. He was a noteworthy person. He also was important enough to feel the Nazi’s wrath against him.

    • Ramon Figueroa says:

      Adorno is one of the foremost philosophers of the twentieth century. Literary criticism generally gives me the hives, but Adorno’s thoughts on popular culture are very relevant even today. I wouldn’t could him a failure in everything he ever attempted.

      • John Sorel says:

        [[ Adorno’s thoughts on popular culture are very relevant even today ]]

        They weren’t even relevant in his own time – far less today.

    • Giles says:

      Yes, there’s no justification whatsoever for any festival programming music that you personally dislike.

    • Steve Kirby says:

      And a very strange Marxist philosopher. He was v trendy in the 1960s but I never met anyone who actually read anything he wrote.

    • fflambeau says:

      He wrote more books than you have and people still read them. He was primarily a philosopher, not a musician. He was an important thinker who influenced many.

      But like you, the Nazis vilified him.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Er…just because the Nazi’s vilified him doesn’t make him right (or interesting).

        Having said that, he certainly is moderately important as a twentieth century thinker about music and the arts. He is certainly one of the most talked about thinkers on these kind of message boards when discussing Modernism.

  • Silversled says:

    I’m afraid I’m not upset by the omission of any works by Siegfried Wagner. There was only one great composer in that family and it certainly wasn’t Siegfried.

    • BrianB says:

      True, not one of the immortals, but the Der Bärenhäuter Overture, at least, is worth trotting out from time to time. Or even the tone poem Sehnsucht.
      Is Poppa’s Siegfried Idyll being programmed?

    • Anon says:

      I agree. Let’s only hear music by JS Bach and not anyone else called Bach.

  • Ed says:

    Moniuszko has been having a BIG 200th annvy celebration in Poland . . . but no where else, despite some very worthy operas and choral works.

  • F. B. says:

    – The 100th anniversary of the birth of Jewish Composer Gideon Klein (1919 – 1945) / Gideon Klein Centenary – #KLEIN100
    – The 100th anniversary of the birth of American Jazz Cellist Fred Katz (1919 – 2013) / Fred Katz Centenary – #KATZ100

    • PeterSD says:

      Most of Klein’s works are chamber pieces, to my knowledge. Does any orchestral music from him survive?

  • mathias broucek says:

    I think the bigger problem is the unadventurous programming in general. Bless Mirga for doing Weinberg and kudos to Petrenko last year for the Schmidt. But where are the great but underrated works of Enescu, Tubin, Magnard etc.?

  • Will Duffay says:

    Seriously? Wagner junior, Mozart senior, von Suppe, Adorno and Ustvolskaya are ‘major’ omissions? Have a dig at the Proms if you must – they’re a big easy target – but this is absurd.

    • John Sorel says:

      Can’t agree you on Ustvolskaya there, Will. She’s a major tslent. Unlike Siegfried Wagner or Theodor Adorno, who are soothly the Remainder Bin of claasical music. At least one of Adorno’s string quartets can be found on Youtube – but you’d regret the waste of valuable bandwidth. Even a rainy night in a parish hall in Lytham St Anne’s wouldn’t lure me to any more Adorno 😉

  • Esther Cavett says:

    God help us when we get to the LvB 250th anniversary next year

  • Escamillo says:

    Sounds about right. Probably overdoing it for Offenbach.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    The only real significant omission is Offenbach. Frankly, who cares about the rest?

    • John Sorel says:

      Ustvolskaya fans care, Mike 😉 But agreed, Offenbach is a shocking omission – sadly he’s still written-off in Britain as an ‘oom-pah’ composer 🙁 His cello works are substantial music!

    • Ninian Fergus says:

      Well spoken Mike. I was lucky enough to be in Cologne, city of Offenbach’s birth, in the week of the bi-centenary where it was celebrated in some style. My own highlight was the street theatre performed by ‘Jacques’, his wife, and very gifted musicians he picked up on a hour and three quarter wander through the city’s streets. And only n
      ine minutes of Offenbach in the Proms: Brexit is on the way!

  • Michael Turner says:

    Bearing in mind how the Proms has spread its wings to areas well away from, so-called, classical music, I’d like to note that it is 25 years since the death of Donald Swann who was a fine composer of songs and more besides. He’s not on the list.

  • Rob says:

    In 1919 Louis Glass composed his 5th Symphony – “Svastika”.
    (It has never been played at the Proms however Edward Downes did programme it with the BBC Phil).

    The title Glass gave his masterpiece refers to the Indian wheel of life, and is not related to the Nazi’s misappropriation some years later.

    • mathias broucek says:

      I accidentally bought a CD of this when in Denmark – it was a mixed bag of obscure Danish music. I had no idea of the sub-title until I got it home and did some Googling!

  • Michel says:

    I have always loved Ustvolskaya sonatas ! It’s a pity she is not that appreciated in the “west”.

  • Anon. says:

    I am disappointed there’s only one work by the great Sir James MacMillan in his 60th birthday year. At least the EIF is celebrating him!

    • Cyril says:

      We were supposed to hear his “Stomp” last night at the Grant Park Music Festival, but that one piece was removed from the program due to (as the announcer said) Chicago’s excessive heat advisory. I had been looking forward to hearing it. Stephen Hough’s Beethoven Third and Vaughan Williams’ Second went on as planned. I’m not sure why the excising of a five minute piece was necessary, as we all sat through the rest of it anyway.

      Poor Stephen, there was so much noise from helicopters overhead and ambulance sirens it was impossible to hear anything mezzoforte or below.

  • Jack says:

    Oh yes! Oh YES! Let’s have a Siegfried Wagner marathon! (NOT!)

  • msc says:

    Ustvolskaya is certainly worth a nod. And this would have been a good opportunity for a concert performance of one of Suppe’s major works, since they are done so rarely. But I guess that’s why there’s streaming….

  • Evan Tucker says:

    Adorno is not 100 this year. He was born in 1903. What you’re thinking of is that it’s the 50th anniversary of his death.

  • Rgiarola says:

    It would be funny if they forget Beethoven, next year. Lol

  • Esther Cavett says:

    == I am disappointed there’s only one work by the great Sir James MacMillan in his 60th birthday year.

    YES – good point ‘Anon’ (whoever you are). This is a shameful omission

  • Steve Kirby says:

    Life without any music by Offenbach would be very dull wouldn’t it?

    • Ninian Fergus says:

      Quite right Steve. Unfortunately, many people know his unforgettable melodies, but not who composed them!

  • fflambeau says:

    Sorry, I disagree.

    One’s last name (Wagner) does not make one a composer. Siegfried Wagner was a minor asterisk in music. The other talents missed are also quite minor.

    Looking at the Proms schedule, I see lots of good and adventurous programming:

    Angélique Kidjo and African music; a major London band playing “The Race for Space” (to celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing); a Duke Ellington night; a tarantella; Olivier Messiaen’s “Des canyons aux étoiles” (again emphasizing space); the 400th anniversary of pioneering Venetian composer Barbara Strozzi etc.

    Plus more usual programming of classical composers (Bach; Beethoven; Brahms; Britten; Haydn; Holst;Mahler; Mozart;Mussorgsky; Berlioz; Bruckner; Schubert; Schumann; Shostakovich; Sibelius; Strauss;Stravinsky; Tchaikovsky; Vaughan Williams; Wagner;

    AND some classical composers/pieces often missed:

    Janáček’s monumental Glagolitic Mass; Rachmaninov’s “Isle of the Dead:; James MacMillan; Korngold, Loewe and Steine; Berlioz’s ‘Shepherds’ Farewell’;
    Mieczysław Weinberg; Handel’s “Jeptha”; a tribute to Sir Henry Wood; Janáček’s “The Fiddler’s Child”; Berlioz’s “Benvenuto Cellini”; Canzioniere Grecanico Salentino playing music of Southern Italy; John Luther Adams “In the Name of the Earth”

    In addition to lots of excellent musical groups and performers:

    National Youth Orchestra of Britain, Joshua Bell, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; the BBC Symphony; Olivier Latry; The English Concert; Philharmonia Orchestra; The National Youth Orchestra of the USA; Semyon Bychkov; Aris String Quartet; West–Eastern Divan Orchestra (Daniel Barenboim); Martha Argerich; Solomon’s Knot; the London Philharmonic; Belfast’s Ulster Orchestra; Louise Alder; Sir Simon Rattle; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; Andris Nelsons; Cristian Măcelaru; Orchestra de Paris; Eric Lu; Silesian String Quartet; Sir John Eliot Gardiner; Vienna Philharmonic; Murray Perahia; Bernard Haitink; Yuja Wang; Staatskapelle Dresden; Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen; Czech Philharmonic; The Dunedin Consort; NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover.

    I’d say that there has been lots of emphasis in this programming on the earth and space; and, on the music of Berlioz and Beethoven (anniversaries). I’m sure I missed a lot so here is a link to the entire program: https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/r3j38g/by/date/2019

    To me, it’s an exciting series of programming of artists with outstanding talent.

    Kudos to the Proms (again).

  • fflambeau says:

    The Proms this year has given precedence to Hector Berlioz and Duke Ellington anniversaries and the anniversary of man’s landing on the moon.

    Those are much more important than the minor figures listed above.

  • PeterSD says:

    Just to augment the list (without claiming completeness!):

    Birth anniversaries:
    Tobias Hume (1569-1645)
    Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)
    Alessandro Marcello (1619-1647)
    Louis Marchand (1669-1732)
    Leopold Mozart (1719-1787)
    Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-1872)
    Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)
    Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
    Franz von Suppe (1819-1895)
    Armas Jarnefelt (1869-1958)
    Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949)
    Albert Roussel (1869-1937)
    Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919-2000)
    Leon Kirchner (1919-2009)
    Gideon Klein (1919-1945)
    Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
    Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996)

    Death anniversaries:
    Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
    Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813-1869)
    Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869)
    Carl Loewe (1796-1869)
    Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857-1919)
    Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)
    Rudolf Wagner-Regeny (1903-1969)

  • SVM says:

    Based on the Ustvolskaya works I have heard or had a go at playing, I have no hesitation in describing her as a great composer with a masterful originality in her utilisation of pulse and timbre. Whilst I would not want her works to be so overplayed as to reduce the impact of such originality, they should definitely be performed more often. If it were not for the fact that the BBC is a corrupt state propaganda outlet that has long ago betrayed its ostensible “public service” remit, I would say it is scandalous that they have made almost no effort to bring Ustvolskaya to wider attention.

    I suspect the reason why Ustvolskaya is overlooked is her wont for wacky instrumentations, which tend not to be amenable to neither the “one of each mainstream instrument” lineup typical of contemporary-music ensembles nor the “traditional” instrumentations common in chamber music (incidentally, Ustvolskaya herself insisted that the term “chamber music” was inappropriate for her compositions); see:


    It must be pretty expensive to assemble some of these instrumentations, but they are certainly effective. I remember hearing a recording of the octet for 2 oboes, 4 violins, timpani, and pianoforte back in 2012, and finding it a most arresting listening experience. More recently, when the Ensemble Modern came to London in March 2019 and performed the ‘Dies irae’ for 8 double basses, percussion (comprising a massive wood block and hammer to rival Mahler 6), and pianoforte, I was struck by Ustvolskaya’s textural inventiveness, which really brought out the best of those double basses… in a couple of places, they were so lyrical as to be almost mistakable for a ‘cello!

  • fflambeau says:

    Fans of Offenbach can listen to his “Orpheus in the Underworld”overture at the Proms. As for Leopold Mozart, his fans can listen to his beloved son’s music in many different proms. Leopold would have loved it.

    For the other omissions? Lots of Richard Wagner but none of the lesser talents mentioned (no programmer has ever satisfied everyone).

    • John Sorel says:

      Offenbach fans not so easily placated with the Overture to Orpheus In The Underworld must have recourse to YouTube to hear his other repertoire:


      But the Proms has dumbed-down to such an extent that only rum-ti-tum works are now allowed. Unless they are about Daleks or Tardises, of course.

  • Ninian Fergus says:

    Suppe and Offenbach: the very epitome of melody, tunefulness (and brevity). But hang on, it’s Bruckner’s 195th anniversary: let’s wheel out his interminable “cathedrals of sound” to mark the occasion.