BBC PROMS 97 STRIKES THE RIGHT NOTE

Soon the familiar queues will be building up outside the Royal Albert Hall for the 103rd Proms season, presented by the BBC. And for a mere pounds 3 a ticket, Promming is still the best classical bargain in town. For the seasoned Prommer, there are no fewer than 73 concerts to attend this summer. A few hardy annuals will no doubt notch up a record by being at all of them, yet for the slightly more selective listener, it's often difficult to find a route through the teeming programme.

One major theme of exploration this season is the influence of folk tradition on classical music in general, from a late night Ensemble Bash through traditional percussion sounds (22 Jul) to the BBC Symphony Orchestra giving Britten's Suite on English Folk Songs and Copland's American-based Billy the Kid (26 Aug). In between, there's material as diverse as Percy Grainger's massive ballet score The Warriors (26 Jul) and Sibelius's Kullervo Symphony (20 Aug).

Last season's Te Deum theme continues again with a sequence of large- scale settings of the Mass and Requiem. The opening night, on 18 July, is devoted to Beethoven's transcendental Missa Solemnis, with Bernard Haitink conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Further epic liturgical settings comprise: Schubert's Mass in A flat (1 Aug), Bach's Mass in B minor (6 Aug), Britten's War Requiem (17 Aug), Brahms's German Requiem (10 Sep) and the Verdi Requiem (12 Sep ).

Two 20th-century masters are spotlighted. Most of Bartok's orchestral works get an airing, including his Wooden Prince (28 Jul) and Kossuth (8 Aug) in Proms premieres. And Britten is given an intensive weekend-long retrospective (16 & 17 Aug) which takes in his Prodigal Son and a rich selection of choral works.

There are concert, semi-staged and even staged performances of a variety of opera and music theatre pieces too, ranging from a Schubert rarity, Die Vershworenen (19 Jul), Rossini's Count Ory (25 Aug), G & S's Gondoliers (2 Aug ), Korngold's Violanta (24 Jul), Honegger's Joan of Arc at the Stake (27 Jul) and Weill's Seven Deadly Sins (3 Aug), to the British premiere of Henze's acclaimed Venus and Adonis (5 Sep).

And, of course, a host of further exciting premieres dotted amongst the more mainstream repertory can make an evening at the Albert Hall into a vivid experience. Amongst a handful to listen out for are: Xenakis's SEACHANGE (23 Jul), Harvey's Percussion Concerto for Evelyn Glennie (26 Jul), Montague's Piano Concerto (12 Aug), Gubaidulina's Viola Concerto for Yuri Bashmet (29 Jul) and the eagerly awaited final panel of Elliott Carter's triptych, his Allegro scorrevole (26 Aug).

18 Jul-13 Sept, Royal Albert Hall, London (0171-589 8212)

Duncan Hadfield

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