Proms 2014: Pet Shop Boys to premiere new work on computer pioneer Alan Turing

Arts Correspondent

The Pet Shop Boys are set for a star turn at this year’s Proms with the world premiere of a work about the life of Second World War code-breaker and father of computer science Alan Turing.

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe will join the BBC Concert Orchestra on stage at the Royal Albert Hall this July for their Proms debut with A Man from the Future.

The news was revealed as part of the 2014 programme for the BBC Proms, which opens at the Royal Albert Hall on 18 July, and comprises 92 concerts. 

Highlights include visits from international orchestras for the first time, a war hymn by the founder of the Proms possibly performed for the first time and a concert for toddlers.

One coup is convincing the Pet Shop Boys to premiere their new work during the season. Turing was a mathematician and computer pioneer who played a crucial role in cracking the Enigma codes, which is seen as shortening the war by years.

Roger Wright, director of the Proms and controller of BBC Radio 3, called it a “remarkable piece” that will help “build new audiences”. He said: “It will be telling the Turing story but not strictly in a narrative way.”

In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency after admitting sexual relations with a man and underwent chemical castration. He committed suicide two years later. Following a campaign to clear Turing’s name, he received a royal pardon in December.

The piece was written for orchestra, choir, and electronics and will have a narrator using material based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

The Pet Shop Boys said in a statement it was an “honour” to present new music at the Proms “and celebrate Alan Turing 60 years after his death”.

The Proms, which is the largest and longest running music festival after it was founded in 1895, will run for eight weeks over the summer. Conductors involved include Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim and Marin Alsop as well as Sir Neville Marriner who is 90 years old.

The season of classical music will involve 10 international ensembles from around the globe appearing for the first time. Orchestras making their Proms debut come from countries including China, Qatar and Lapland.

To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, the season will include the New War Hymn, written by Sir Henry Wood, the founder of the Proms, which the organisers believe could be its first performance at the event.

As well as the vast array of classical works to be performed including Der Rosenkavalier, Salome and Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passions, artists including Paloma Faith and Rufus Wainwright will be making their debut.

Other events include the first BBC Sport Prom, featuring classical music used in sporting events as well as the Match of the Day theme tune, as well as two CBeebies concerts staged for the first time.

Mr Wright said: “It’s always about looking for new audiences and never resting on laurels about assuming people will know about classical music. At the same time we want to take audiences further.”

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