The BBC Proms Come to Kuala Lumpur

The renowned BBC Proms turns 107 this year and yet, this venerable musical tradition shows no signs of slowing down. Introduced in 1895 by Robert Newman, manager of the Queen’s Hall in London, Newman’s aim was to bring classical music to the masses, making it something to be enjoyed by all.

Having evolved over the years, the festival now includes over 70 main Prom concerts every year, playing a selection of classical pieces that range from rarely performed pieces like Elgar’s Symphony No. 3 to popular compositions such as Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. The BBC Proms includes performances by world-class orchestras from different countries as well as the BBC’s very own Symphony Orchestra and Choir. All the Proms are broadcast live via BBC Radio 3, On Air and Online, and in 2001 more Proms were broadcast on BBC Television than ever before, plus a number of Proms were video-webcast via the Proms website, including the internationally-renowned Last Night.

From 11 to 18 May 2002, Malaysian audiences will be treated to a local version of this celebration of classical music. The Kuala Lumpur BBC Proms will make history as the first ever Proms to be held outside of the United Kingdom. The brainchild of Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) General Manager, C. Stephen Smith, the week-long music festival will include performances by the distinguished BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBCSO}, the MPO, Petronas Performing Arts Group as well as the talented musicians of the Rhythm in Bronze gamelan group. Acclaimed conductor Sir Andrew Davis takes the baton along with the MPO’s Kees Bakels and Kevin Field. There will also be appearances by guest pianists Michel Dalberto and Louis Lortie as well as soprano Janice Watson.

Besides an exciting series of concerts, the KL BBC Proms also includes a week-long all-day exhibition held at the foyer of the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas. The eye-catching display of information on the BBC Proms and classical music will be complemented with live performances by the MPO chamber ensemble and several selected school bands. There will also be two Proms Talks conducted by Dr. Marc Rochester and Kevin Field, a special on-stage interview with Sir Andrew Davis and Paul Hughes, General Manager of the BBCSO, as well as a pre-concert talk on the last day of the festival given by C. Stephen Smith himself.

Kicking off the festivities is a chamber concert by the MPO musicians featuring Debussy’s colourful Four Preludes alongside pieces by Reicha, Zimmermann and Gade. The repertoire for all five evening concerts and three chamber concerts scheduled for this festival represents a cross section of the best that classical music has to offer. Classic works by Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and Strauss will be performed alongside more contemporary pieces by Walton, Britten and Turnage. Malaysia’s rich traditional music also takes a place of pride amongst these compositions with Sunetra Fernando’s Wayang and local favourites like Chan Mali Chan, Jong Jong lnai and Rasa Sayang being performed as well.

Noteworthy performances on the KL BBC Proms schedule are the collaborative concert featuring the BBCSO, MPO, Petronas Performing Arts Group and Rhythm in Bronze with Kevin Field at the helm as well as the “Last Night of the Proms” concert. The former marks the first time all four groups have come together to perform a cross-cultural repertoire that includes a special treat – Walton’s Façade with narration by Sir Andrew Davis and Janice Watson. The latter concert aims to end the festival on a high note. The performance will be broadcast to a large screen located in KLCC Park as well as over BBC Radio to enable as many people as possible to share in the magic of the Proms.

Tickets for this exciting smorgasbord of classical music are on sale now. Prices range from RM20 to RM140 for the evening concerts, RM10 for chamber concerts and on-stage interview, while admission to the talks and exhibition is free. The on-stage interview tickets are RM10 each, however those buying two or more concert tickets will receive an invitation to attend this interview. Invitations are given on a first-come, first-served basis, so make sure you get your tickets early!

For those planning to attend more than one concert, the DFP is offering a special “Proms Package” whereby those buying tickets for three evening concerts will receive 30% off ticket prices, while those buying tickets for four evening concerts will receive a 40% discount instead. This offer is not valid for the 18 May 2002 concert. Those who purchase tickets to all three chamber concerts will receive a 20% discount.


First Published: 13.05.2002 on Kakiseni

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