Inside Shostakovich at the BBC Proms

19th April 2018

At the 2014 BBC Proms, we became the first orchestra in history to perform a symphony entirely from memory, without the aid of printed scores. Since that special first performance of Mozart’s 40th, our memorised performances have become something of a signature musical event at the Proms, with performances by heart of Beethoven’s third and sixth symphonies and Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’.

This year, we stage our boldest memorised performance to date, performing Shostakovich’s ninth symphony from memory – perhaps the first time any orchestra has performed a twentieth-century work by heart.

In this late-night Prom, principal conductor Nicholas Collon again teams up with BBC Radio 3 presenter Tom Service to offer audiences a uniquely vivid musical introduction with live excerpts. They unpack the musical architecture of Shostakovich’s ninth symphony with its fleet-footed melodies and dance-filled rhythms, before Aurora musicians put it back together again in a full performance of the work. Completing the programme, pianist Denis Kozhukhin makes his debut with us in Shostakovich’s much-loved second piano concerto.

‘Memorising deepens and enriches our relationship with the music in every way, and takes communication to a new level’, says Collon. ‘Whilst it feels naked on stage without a stand and music to hide behind, it intensifies the levels of trust between players. My hope and belief is that it also communicates in a new way with the audience: not so much that it should feel surprising or dangerous to watch, but more that we are all – players and audience alike – unshackled from the physical and metaphorical confines of the printed notes.’

‘I cannot exaggerate the joy I feel at sharing these experiences with my colleagues,’ says Jamie Campbell, Principal Second Violin. ‘To be able to look up, make eye contact, and know that every person on that stage knows every single note of the piece inside out makes for an incredibly intense experience of the music.’

To learn more, head to our BBC Proms page.

Monday 6 August
Royal Albert Hall, 10.15–11.30pm

Denis Kozhukhin   piano
Aurora Orchestra
Nicholas Collon     conductor/presenter
Tom Service            presenter

Concept, direction and script by Jane Mitchell, Nicholas Collon and Tom Service

Shostakovich      Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major
Shostakovich      Symphony No. 9 in Eb major