After an epic opening with Elgar’s The Kingdom, the BBC Proms are well and truly under way. The second week of the festival features some great highlights in terms of repertoire and performers.

When people asked which Proms I would be bagging for myself, top of my list wasn’t one of the great European orchestras or a starry soloist or one of the Strauss operas in concert, but a young Turkish orchestra going under the grand title the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra. Its suitably oriental programme contains such treats as the suite from Respighi’s exotic ballet Belkis, Regina di Saba; if the orchestra’s no-holds-barred recording is anything to go by, it should be spectacular. Holst’s Beni Mora has a remarkable third movement “In the street of Ouled Naïls” which features a recurring flute motif the composer heard in a street in Algeria. Balakirev’s spectacular Islamey and another Queen of Sheba – Handel’s – nestle in a programme full of eastern promise.

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba © Giovanni Demin
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
© Giovanni Demin

The Proms focus on Richard Strauss in his 150th anniversary year continues with a rare outing for his choral Deutsche Motette along with the more familiar Four Last Songs, performed by Inger Dam-Jensen. Vasily Petrenko then conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in Elgar’s Symphony no. 2, often regarded as the lesser cousin of Elgar’s First, but containing some haunting ‘nobilmente’ music.

Another anniversary composer – C.P.E. Bach – is celebrated in Monday’s lunchtime Prom when Rachel Podger, Kristian Bezuidenhout and friends perform a programme of violin and trio sonatas at Cadogan Hall. Papa Bach has a prom all to himself on Saturday evening, when Sir Roger Norrington and his Zurich forces perform the St John Passion, the soloists led by James Gilchrist’s Evangelist.

Among the contemporary works in this week’s Proms, Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th birthday is marked with a performance of Night’s Black Bird from 2004, “an atmospheric plunge into mossy, melancholic darkness” pierced with incisive woodwind bird calls. It is programmed alongside Ravel and Mahler. Take a listen – then head straight to the online ticket office!

Bachtrack interviewed composer Jonathan Dove a few months ago, on the subject of opera for all ages. The world première of his Gaia Theory, inspired by environmental issues and the writing of James Lovelock, takes place next week. Dove describes how “I was struck by Lovelock’s observation that, since life on earth began, the sun has got perhaps 30% hotter, and yet the earth has not.” It is performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Josep Pons on Monday evening, in a concert which closes with one of the greatest of orchestral sunrises – Ravel’s ecstatic Daphnis et Chloé.

Happy listening!