Pet Shop Boys premiere Alan Turing work at BBC Proms

By Tim Masters
Entertainment and arts correspondent, BBC News

Pet Shop Boys duo Neil Tennant (l) and Chris LoweImage source, John Wright
Image caption,
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe first charted as Pet Shop Boys in 1985

An orchestral work by the Pet Shop Boys about the life of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing is to have its world premiere at this year's BBC Proms.

The two-month music festival, which begins on 18 July, will also feature appearances by Paloma Faith and Rufus Wainwright.

This year's programme includes the first CBeebies and BBC Sport Proms.

Several Proms will also mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

There will be 92 concerts in total, most of which take place at London's Royal Albert Hall.

The Pet Shop Boys Prom, on 23 July, will feature new orchestral arrangements of Pet Shop Boys songs along with the Turing-inspired work A Man from the Future.

Computer pioneer Turing received a posthumous royal pardon in December 2013, following a conviction for homosexual activity.

He worked at Bletchley Park during World War Two, and his work helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine.

Image caption,
(L-R) Janine Jansen, Sakari Oramo, Paloma Faith, Katie Derham and (behind) Joey from War Horse

"It is an honour for us to be invited to present some new music at the Proms and to celebrate Alan Turing 60 years after his death," Pet Shop Boys duo Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe said in a statement.

The orchestrations are by Sven Helbig who previously collaborated with Tennant and Lowe on their ballet, The Most Incredible Thing.

Proms director and BBC Radio 3 controller Roger Wright said the 40-minute work would have a key part for a narrator/actor and would tell the Turing story "but not in a strictly narrative way".

The 2014 Proms are the last to be directed by Wright, who leaves the BBC as the Proms begin in July.

Unveiling the line-up on Thursday, he said the aim "to bring the best classical music to the widest possible audience" was the same now as when the first Proms were held in 1895.

War Horse

Marking the centenary of WW1, a War Horse Prom will include the life-size puppets from the National Theatre's stage production along with music performed by the Proms Military Wives Choir directed by Gareth Malone.

The festival will feature works by composers who lost their lives in the trenches as well as those who were inspired years after the conflict, including Benjamin Britten and Sally Beamish.

New War Hymn, written by Proms founder Sir Henry Wood in 1914, will also receive its modern-day premiere.

"This is going to be the first modern performance, indeed there is a possibility that it might be the first performance itself," said Wright. "There is a bit of sketchiness about whether it was performed at the time it was written."

The Proms season will include two of the final works by the late Sir John Tavener, who died in November last year.

It will also see the return of Sir Neville Marriner, founder of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields orchestra, who at the age of 90 is thought to be the oldest conductor to perform at the Proms. Sir Neville last conducted a Prom in 1997.

The first BBC Sport Prom, hosted by Gabby Logan, takes place against the backdrop of the World Cup and Commonwealth Games. Featuring classical music associated with sport it will broadcast simultaneously on both BBC Radio 3 and, for the first time, on Radio 5 live.

Two CBeebies Proms, for pre-schoolers, will see popular children's characters introducing pieces of classical music. Admitting that the Radio 3 live broadcast might include "a certain amount of gurgling", Wright said: "The crucial thing is not making anything too long for that audience."

This year's Proms also feature the most international orchestras in Proms history, including ensembles from China, Greece, Iceland, Lapland and Qatar.

The climax of the annual festival, the Last Night Of The Proms on 13 September, will be conducted by Sakari Oramo, chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Star soloists include violinist Janine Jansen and baritone Roderick Williams.

The last night will open with the world premiere of Gavin Higgins' BBC commission, Velocity. It will also feature a Mary Poppins sing-along medley to mark the 50th anniversary of the Disney film.

"It's going from the sublime to the 'cor blimey'," joked Wright.

Wright, who became Radio 3 controller in 1998 and took over the Proms in 2007, begins a new job as chief executive of Aldeburgh Music in September.

He said he had no plans to attend the Proms this year. "Being the longest serving controller of any service in BBC history it's probably time to have a summer off," he said. "The great thing is I can hear them all every night. I can do what I used to do before I ran them which is cook and sit down and listen to Radio 3."

The BBC Proms runs from 18 July to 13 September. The full list of events can be found at the BBC Proms website.

Around the BBC