BBC Proms 2019: By the Numbers

BBC Proms 2019: By the Numbers

Much has already been noted about the coming performances in the 2019 Proms Season – and the lack of women composers being represented.  Editorials appeared in The Guardian shortly after the 2019 Program was announced noting specifically that while the number of women being heard this year is impressive, it is still a far cry from equal representation.  Though the BBC Proms promised an equal number of commissions by the year 2022 they have not overtly discussed equal representation in programming overall.

The first editorial noted that the total running time of performances by women this year will be about 6 hours of music – which is again an increase over last year’s 4 hours.  But also notes that quite a lot of the works by women being heard are being performed outside of Royal Albert Hall.  The editorial rightly ends with a statement that is easy to agree with:

Women still aren’t taking up enough time, or space, in the Proms. That may be a regular complaint, but it is one whose failure to address history will look on unkindly.

The letters that followed include a letter of support from James Poke who also pointed out that there is a lack of representation of historic women as well as composers of color, and a ridiculous letter from someone who suggested that women receiving 6% representation at the Proms was more than adequate based on invented evidence.

As so many have already run the numbers – including the great UK Women in Music Blog – we decided to focus on the individual composers and works being heard this year.  As Women in Music has demonstrated in their calculations, this is the best year yet for women at the Proms.  This also shows just how far we still have to go.


On the First Night of the Proms, Friday July 19, Zosha Di Castri’s Long Is the Journey – Short Is the Memory (15 minutes), a BBC Commission, will receive its world premiere.

On Monday July 22 Proms at….Cadogan Hall 1: VOCES8 will include the performance of Hildegard von Bingen’s Spiritus sanctus vivificans (3 minutes) and Alexia Sloane’s Earthwind (4 minutes), a BBC Commission which will receive its World Premiere.  Note: this event takes place at 1pm.

Prom 6: The Rite of Spring will also include Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos (14 minutes), a UK Premiere.

On Saturday July 27 Prom 12: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain will perform the London Premiere of Lera Auerbach’s Icarus (12 minutes)

Monday July 29 Proms at…Cadogan Hall 2 will host A Celebration of Barbara Strozzi.  The program will include Strozzi’s L’amante segreto (8 minutes), Che si puo fare (10 minutes), Sino alla morte (12 minutes), and Lagrime mie (9 minutes).  The concert will also include Antonia Bembo’s Ercole amanita – ‘Volgete altrove il guard‘ (4 minutes), and Ercole amanita – ‘Mingannasti in verita‘ (3 minutes).  This concert will also take place at 1pm.

Sunday August 4 Prom 22 will include Outi Tarkiainen’s Midnight Sun Variations (10 minutes) which was a BBC co-commission and will receive its world premiere.

On Monday August 12 Proms at…Cadogan Hall will include Maddalena Laura Sirmen’s String Quartet No. 5 in F minor (11 minutes).

On Tuesday August 13 Proms 35 will include a new set of variations based on Elgar’s famous Enigma Variations.  Included in the 14 composers to be included in the new commission are Sally Beamish, Iris ter Schiphorst, and Judith Weir.

Prom 39 on Thursday August 15 will include Errollyn Wallen’s This Frame Is Part of the Painting (10 minutes), the world premiere of a BBC Commission.

On Saturday August 17 Proms at…Holy Sepulcher London will include Thea Musgrave’s Rorate coli (11 minutes), Elizabeth Maconchy’s Three Donne Songs – No. 1: A Hymn to God the Father (4 minutes), Judith Weir’s Missa del Cid (20 minutes), and Joanna Lee’s At this man’s hand (3 minutes) – a BBC commission and World Premiere.  Note, this concert take place at 3pm.

Prom 42 on August 18 titled Youthful Beginnings will include Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto (21 minutes) and Sofia Gubaidulina’s Fairytale Poem (10 minutes).

On Monday August 19 Proms at…Cadogan Hall 5 will include Fanny Hensel’s songs Bergeslust (2 minutes), Warum sind denn die Rosen so blaß (2 minutes) and Nach Suden (2 minutes).

Thursday August 22 will see Proms 46 and the performance of Dorothy Howell’s Lamia (12 minutes), listed as a Henry Wood Novelties: World Premiere, 1919.

Monday 26 will see a lunchtime performance at Proms at…Cadogan Hall 6 with performances of Clara Schumann’s Three Romances, Op. 22 (9 minutes) and Piano Trio in G minor, op. 17 (28 minutes).

Saturday August 31 will have Prom 56: Henry Wood Tribute concert that includes a new work by Dobrinka Tabakova (10 minutes), a BBC Commission and World premiere.

Sunday September 1 will see Prom 58 and a new work from Linda Catlin Smith (15 minutes), a BBC Commission and world premiere.

Monday September 2 will have another lunch time concert with Proms at…Cadogan Hall 8 with Grazyna Bacewicz’s Piano Quintet No. 1 (24 minutes).

Sunday September 8 will have Prom 67 and Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir’s Forest (13 minutes).

Monday September 9 will have Proms at…Cadogan Hall 8, another 1pm concert, that will include Freya Waley-Cohen’s new work (5 minutes), a BBC commission and world premiere.

Proms 75, the Last Night of the Proms, will include Laura Mvula’s Sing to the Moon (4 minutes), and Elizabeth Maconchy’s Proud Thames (6 minutes).


It is notable that more than half of the works by women that are being heard in this coming year are not being performed under the auspices of a numbered Proms.  While the Proms at … Cadogan Hall events are still “officially” the Proms, performances at 1pm on a Monday are hardly held comparable to a program held at a more typical concert day and time.

And, as it has been noted in the editorials that have already been shared, the overall time time of performances of works by women is rather pathetic when compared to the works by men.

If you would like to listen in to some of the works by women that are going to be heard this year tune in to our play list below.

 

You can compare the 2019 Proms numbers to our report from last year.