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BBC Proms 2009 – Top Concert Picks

BY Boon Koh
Published 17 July 2009

BBC Proms 2009 It is that time of year where classical enthusiasts take over Royal Albert Hall and call it their home from the 17th July till the 12th September. This year is no different, and the Proms’ bosses are advertising it as bigger and better than ever before.

Contrary to popular opinion, promming need not be expensive; unlike most other top class entertainment in London, about 1,400 tickets for each day’s performances are reserved for sale on the day itself at the Royal Albert Hall box office. The tickets are normally sold from around 5pm, and during the Proms season a queue often starts to form through the streets of South Ken in the early afternoon. Tickets are as cheap as £5 for standing tickets, either for the Arena or the Gallery. The Arena is the area just in front of the stage, ensuring that you get to see the performers close up, but it tends to get very hot and crowded down there. The Gallery is way up at the top, but in my opinion is a much better choice as there is often enough space to sit on the floor, and the acoustics are much better up there than in the arena.

For those who are outside the UK or unable to attend the concerts in person, BBC Radio 3 will be streaming all the concerts live from the Proms, either by FM radio or online on their website.

Below I have highlighted my top choices and must-see, cannot-miss picks for this season’s Proms:

10th September 2009 (Prom 73)

If you are a stickler for the best quality, this is the concert to go for. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performs their first night out of two (the other being 11th September), under the world renown conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt. While the works they have chosen are quite standard fare (Schubert’s Great Symphony No. 9 and Haydn’s Symphony No.97), this is probably the best orchestra in the world coupled with an excellent conductor, in what should be one of the highlights of the Prom in the traditional sense.

20th July 2009 (Prom 5)

For something closer to home, the London Symphony Orchestera is performing Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. The Proms has a long history with Mahler, and indeed was one of his greatest promoters of his works and helped to introduce him to mainstream classical music listeners. Mahler is a master at composing, and his music is almost hypnotic. His Ninth Symphony is full of great intensity and drama, and one will probably leave the Royal Albert Hall overwhelmed from his mastery of music. In addition, one of the greatest living conductors alive, Bernand Haitink, will be conducting.

18th August 2009 (Prom 45)

Part of the Proms is discovering modern music and new forms of interpretation, and this concert is an example of that. The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain will be performing a whole range of music, from Ride of the Valkyries, to songs from the Sex Pistols.

9th August 2009 Prom 32 & 33)

This is “Multiple Piano Day”, with two concerts taking place (one early evening, one late evening), and as one can guess, involving lots of pianos! This is one to bring the kids and also one for the occassional classical music fan, as it promises to be entertaining, and who doesn’t like some piano music! They will be going through Sant Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, Stravinsky’s four paino masterpiece Les Noces, as well as music from Bartok and Mozart.

2nd September 2009 (Prom 63)

This is a must see for anyone interested in architecture as well as classical music, while for the rest of us it will be something to talk about down at the pub afterwards. Xenakis’ Nomos Gamma is being performed, which is a very challenging piece to play for the Orchestra. Xenakis is an excellent composer, but little known, and it is a shame as not only does he pay great attention to the music, he placed emphasis on the arrangement of the orchestra. As an arcchitect, he provided instructions with his music to arrange the musicians in an expanding circle, spread out like the petals of a flower. Some say that this adds a unique quality to the sound of the music, and it is worth going to witness this wonderful piece and the eccentric arrangement of the orchestra.

The best way to get tickets is either through the official Royal Albert Hall ticketing website, or queue up on the day itself in the afternoon. Otherwise, if the concert is popular and sold out, you can try getting second hand tickets at ticket reseller sites like Seatwave or Viagogo.

In addition, don’t forget to pick up the Official BBC Proms 2009 Guide before going! It will cost you £6 on the door, but only £4.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

  • Sumit

    thanks for the tips! as a first time, Ive found this v useful. thanks