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Polish Plenty at BBC Proms


Witold Lutosławski
Witold Lutosławski, photo by Jan Morek/Forum

BBC Proms, one of the oldest and biggest festivals for contemporary music, continues to draw outstanding artists and orchestras.  This year’s programme, spreading over several weeks from mid-July until early September, comprises over 90 acts – most of them will take place at the Royal Albert Hall. The centenary of the renowned Polish composer Witold Lutosławski will also be celebrated during the festival.

The initial idea behind this festival, founded in 1895, was to popularize classical music among wide audience. The festival has been treasuring this goal to this day.

Celebrations of the Lutosławski Year are one of the main attractions of this year’s edition of the festival, including the inaugural concert, which will feature his Variations on a Theme by Paganini, played by Stephen Hough and BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo (12 July). Later on, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, together with Paul Watkins will play Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto, led by Thomas Adés (17 July). The same concert will also provide an opportunity to experience the premiere of Totentanz by Adés, composed in honour of the Polish composer and based on a 15th century anonymous text found on a frieze of St. Mary’s Church in Lubeck, which was destroyed in a Second World War bombing.

On 7th August Edward Gardner and BBC Symphony Orchestra will accompany Louis Lortie in his performance of Lutosławski’s Piano Concerto; the concert will also feature the Symphonic Variations. Other plans for August include Lutosławski's Koncert na orkiestrę and two pieces by Andrzej Panufnik (Uwertura tragiczna and Kołysanka), played by the Warsaw Philharmonic directed by Antoni Wit – this will be the first appearance of this Polish orchestra at the festival.

The festival will also present some of the low-key works by Lutosławski, such as Partita, performed over two concerts by Vilde Frang and Michail Lifits, at the Cadogan Hall (15 July), and Paroles tissées, played by Ben Johnson and the English Chamber Orchestra with the conductor Paul Watkins. The latter will form part of an act that juxtaposes the music of Lutosławski and Britten – whose 100th anniversary is also celebrated this year.

Polish theme at this year’s BBC Proms can also be traced in the performances of music by Penderecki, Górecki, Szymanowski, and Panufnik. The British violinist Nigel Kennedy, together with the Orchestra of Life and the Palestine Strings, will play Four Seasons by Vivaldi as part of the Late Night Proms concert series (8 August).

The audience at BBC Proms will have the opportunity to not only listen to the contemporary Polish music, but also to compositions deriving from the Renaissance. Huelgas Ensemble, conducted by Paul Van Nevel, who for the last 60 years has been involved with ancient music and has contributed to the discovery of the previously unknown Flemish composers: Johannes Ciconia and Nicolas Gombert. The upcoming concert at the Proms will introduce, among others, motets by Mikołaj Zieliński and Krzysztof Klabon.

Other events at the 2013 BBC Proms that deserve to be mentioned comprise the seven full performances of operas by Wagner (including the entire trilogy of The Ring of the Nibelung, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, which will make it the first full performance of the trilogy in the history of the festival), a series of six symphonies by Tchaikovsky, the celebrations of Verdi’s 200th birth anniversary, as well as appearances by many of the world-famous conductors: Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Mark Elder, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Valery Gergiev, Daniel Harding, Lorin Maazel, Sir Antonio Pappano, Yannick Nézét-Seguin, Jonathan Nott, Vasily Petrenko, Robin Ticciati, Xian Zhang, and Mariss Jansons, who celebrates his 70th birthdat this year. We will also be able to listen to a number of very exciting soloists, such as Joseph Calleja, Joyce Di Donato, Janine Jansen, Nigel Kennedy, Nina Stemme, and Mitsuko Uchida.

 Polish music at the BBC Proms

Lutosławski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini
Stephen Hough (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
12 July

Lutosławski: Partita
Vilde Frang (violin), Michail Lifits (piano)
PCM 15 July

Lutosławski: Cello Concerto
Paul Watkins (cello), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Adès
17 July

Szymanowski: Symphony No.3 ‘The Song of the Night’
Michael Weinius (tenor), BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales/Thomas Søndergård
18 July

Music at the Polish Courts of the Renaissance
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul Van Nevel
PCM 22 July

Lutosławski: Symphonic Variations/Piano Concerto
Louis Lortie (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner
7 August

Penderecki: Concerto grosso
Leonard Elschenbroich, Daniel Müller-Schott, Arto Noras (cellos), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
15 August

Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Antoni Wit
23 August

Panufnik: Tragic Overture/Lullaby
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Antoni Wit
23 August

Lutosławski: Paroles tissées
Ben Johnson (tenor), English Chamber Orchestra/Paul Watkins
PSM 24 August

Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1
Baiba Skride (violin), Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
2 September

Górecki: Symphony No.3, ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’
Ruby Hughes (soprano), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
4 September

Full programme of the festival is available at
Sources:, own materials, ed. fl, translated with edits by AM

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