Fanfare launches 100th Proms: Premieres and memories promised. Mark Pappenheim reports

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The Independent Online
PRESS conferences rarely come so grand. Entering to a brass fanfare originally scored by Arnold Schoenberg for Leopold Stokowski and the Hollywood Bowl, John Drummond, director of The Proms, strode up to the conductor's podium at the Royal Albert Hall, London, yesterday morning to reveal his 1994 concert season. Not the centenary season, mind, but the 100th. 'We all know that The Proms started in 1895,' Drummond began. 'So it's perfectly obvious that the centenary falls in 1995. But it's equally obvious that this is the 100th season. So, I thought, let's have both.'

And while next year's centenary will, he pledged, 'look forward to the next century', with around 20 planned premieres, this year's Promenade Concerts are primarily retrospective. 'A history of The Proms told through The Proms themselves,' in Drummond's words.

Opening on Friday 15 July with Schoenberg's sumptuous Gurrelieder and ending with traditional last-night fare on Saturday 10 September, the 68 concerts boast 68 pieces that were first heard here at The Proms.

There are also exact historical recreations of Proms past - with a typical Henry Wood programme from 1900 (18 items long), and a conjectural Glock evening from the radical Sixties - as well as eight concerts dedicated to key players in Proms history - from 'Old Timber' himself to such successor conductors as Boult, Barbirolli and Boulez.

The general tenor is a return to tradition. In addition to period-flavour Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Viennese Nights, there is also, for the first time in years, a complete cycle of all nine Beethoven symphonies culminating in a performance of the Ninth (by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Lorin Maazel) in its time- honoured place on the penultimate night.

But new music is part of The Proms' tradition. There may be fewer premieres this year than usual, but two at least are major ones: a Fifth Symphony from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (60 this year) and a setting of The Apocalypse by John Tavener, composed specifically for the Albert Hall with, the composer threatens, 'most of the instruments up in the gallery and a lot of the disasters coming raining down on the audience below'.

Proms Guide 1994, on sale from Tuesday; pounds 3.50