The BBC Proms has confirmed that the 2020 season of classical concerts will no longer be staged as originally planned due to Covid-19.
According to a statement, the Proms has been “reconceived in a different format”, 125 years on from its creation.
Organisers stressed that “our aim remains the same – to create the world’s greatest classical music festival by reflecting world class music-making from leading artists around the globe, highlighting emerging talent, and featuring work by some of today’s most exciting and innovative composers”.
Ahead of today’s announcement, the BBC Proms had said it was dealing with “unprecedented challenges and uncertainty”. The usual on-sale date for tickets and the event guide were pushed back from the original May 16.
Organisers are holding out the prospect of performances later in the season, although it is not yet clear if this would involve social distancing or an empty Royal Albert Hall with concerts then broadcast via Radio 3, BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.
From August 28, there is a plan to have musicians performing live at the Royal Albert Hall across the final two weeks of the season, culminating in Last Night of the Proms. The range of work in the final fortnight will vary from solo performances to ensemble work and feature celebrated musicians alongside emerging talent.
The BBC Proms will reveal the full schedule of events nearer the time based on the latest advice available.
With live performances severely curtailed, this year’s broadcasts will draw on the Proms concert archive across BBC radio, TV and online. From July 17, BBC Radio 3 will present past Proms concerts every evening, as well as a weekly Late Night Prom, and a Monday lunchtime offering.
BBC Four will broadcast stand-out Proms each Sunday throughout the festival. Further highlights of TV Proms over the years will also be available on BBC iPlayer for audiences to enjoy this summer.
This year it is not going to be the Proms as we know them, but the Proms as we need them
The digital Proms season will include a unique First Night commission performed by all the BBC Orchestras and BBC Singers. Featuring over 350 musicians, the Grand Virtual Orchestra will see all the groups performing together. To mark the 250th anniversary year of Beethoven's birth, a mash-up of Beethoven's nine symphonies has been specially created by Iain Farrington.
David Pickard, director BBC Proms, said: “These are challenging times for our nation and the rest of the world, but they show that we need music and the creative industries more than ever. This year it is not going to be the Proms as we know them, but the Proms as we need them. We will provide a stimulating and enriching musical summer for both loyal Proms audiences and people discovering the riches we have to offer for the first time.”
Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 and classical music controller, said: “The BBC Proms every year heralds a summer of classical music and this year we will deliver the same joy, inspiration and transformation to peoples' lives that such music brings, albeit in a different way. We’ll be celebrating 125 years of the biggest classical music festival in the world by connecting audiences through a multimedia offering of incredible recorded gems in our Proms archive, together with audience suggestions of their all-time favourite Prom for our airwaves and a return to the unique magic that real, live music brings in the last two weeks of the festival. The Proms will continue to mean summer for music lovers everywhere.”
Jan Younghusband, head of BBC Music TV commissioning, said: “As the nation unites in these unprecedented circumstances, BBC TV, Radio and Online all team up to support the Proms’ mission of bringing classical music to as many people as possible. BBC Four and BBC Two will once more hold a unique place in this once-in-a-lifetime cross-platform celebration, providing audiences with the opportunity of enjoying weekly stand-out Proms performances from our precious filmed archives, leading up to the joyous return of live broadcast concert and a new-style but still glittering Last Night of the Proms on BBC Two and BBC One.”
The BBC Proms on television will be produced by Livewire Pictures.