BBC shuffles out more empty Proms

BBC shuffles out more empty Proms


norman lebrecht

August 06, 2020

You have to read down to the sixth paragramph of the press release to discover that the new fillers in the short September Proms will be held in an empty Royal Albert Hall. Illusion triumphs over substance.

The headliner is a folk singer.

You want to know what happened to the Proms?

This happened:



The BBC Proms are delighted to announce award-winning British singer-songwriter Laura Marling will be part of the live Proms this summer. Marling will be performing songs from her recently acclaimed, Mercury-nominated album Song for Our Daughter, as well as selected songs from her previous albums, in brand-new string arrangements by American multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer Rob Moose. Laura will perform live at the Royal Albert Hall with pioneering string group 12 Ensemble, who have collaborated with everyone from The National to Max Richter on Sunday 6 September, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four, and recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 6 Music.

Further artists announced today include British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor appearing with the Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (Wednesday 9 September), organist Jonathan Scott who brings the colossal sound of the Royal Albert Hall’s organ back to the Hall in a recital of popular classical works (Saturday 29 August) and a programme of contemporary classical works performed by the London Sinfonietta to be announced (Tuesday 1 September).

The full line-up includes previously announced stars such as Nicola Benedetti, Stephen Hough, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Sir Simon Rattle, Anoushka Shankar and Mitsuko Uchida.

The BBC Singers will also make a special appearance at the First Night of the live Proms, joining the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo on Friday 28 August. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales with Chief Conductor Ryan Bancroft, BBC Philharmonic with Chief Conductor Omer Meir Wellber and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with Chief Conductor Thomas Dausgaard join the Proms from their homes in Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow, representing the cities in which they are based, in this summer’s Proms. The Proms outside London will all be streamed to BBC iPlayer.

The two weeks of live Proms include seven new commissions highlighting the Proms’ commitment to contemporary music. The opening night sees a new work by Hannah Kendall whilst Aziza Sadikova, Jay Capperauld and Gavin Higgins all have world premieres, in addition to the three commissions already announced by Thomas Adès, Andrea Tarrodi and Richard Ayres.

Whilst there will not be an audience at the Royal Albert Hall, every live Prom will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and for the first time ever, all live Proms performances will be visualised and available to watch via BBC Four (Thursday, Friday, Sunday) or live streamed on BBC iPlayer (Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday).


  • alan says:

    yet again: another day, another swipe that the BBC. Let NL lead music at the BBC and lets see how well he does with the existing staffing, budget, structures and restrictions. Would it be any better?

  • Scottish Musician says:

    This is hardly the Proms’ fault, Norman. At least they’re doing something – including using musicians who are self-employed and supporting a handful of composers – creative, which is more than can be said for most. It might not be what we all want, but well done to the Proms team for putting this together quickly and in almost impossible circumstances.

    • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

      Kind of biting the hand that feeds you, given the amount of (…actually quite good…) work which NL does at the BBC

  • microview says:

    Ensemble 12 has made a very impressive recording of their own transcription of ‘Death and the MAIDEN’ [Sancho Panza Records]

  • Tim says:

    Given the circumstances that’s as much as the Proms can legally put on.

    Lack of substance… Uchida, Ades, Salonen, Hough…

    NL just spouting the usual nonsense to get a bit of a attention and get his advertising loot.

  • R. Brite says:

    “performances will be visualised”

  • Stephen says:

    August 5th: Slipped Disc reports that in Finland a concert season is to be televised and streamed and adds a gratuitous dig at the BBC for not doing the same thing.

    August 6th: Slipped Disc reports that the Proms season is to be televised and streamed, doesn’t congratulate the BBC for doing it, and adds a gratuitous dig a the BBC for the fact that their publicity department has chosen one of the vanishingly few non-classical concerts as the headline. And another gratuitous dig at the BBC for the fact that the government hasn’t yet decided whether an audience can be admitted.

    How about a celebration? This, and the second forthcoming Wigmore/BBC series are unalloyed good news in a year in which it’s very rare. Without the BBC none of it would have happened.

  • Simon Behrman says:

    I agree with the comments above that the Proms should be celebrated for putting together what is has, given the circumstances.

    I also dislike the snide swipe, ‘the headliner is a folk singer’. Is there a problem with that? I am not familiar with her work specifically, but the classical tradition has drawn much of its inspiration, harmonies and forms from folk music

  • Sally says:

    Bravo BBC! Hopefully The lack of an audience will draw attention to and inspire debate amongst the media and policy makers that orchestras are crumbling around us…….

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    ‘paragramph’ … sounds like Dr Sunderland in William Mayne’s excellent cathedral series of children’s books (A Swarm in May, Choristers’ Cake, etc.). Mph.

    But … ‘performances will be visualized’? Does that mean televised? (If so, why not say so?) Or simply an order for us to imagine the scene as we listen to the music? Tsk.