As commemorations take place to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, one of the highlights of the Proms season occurs on Sunday, the eve of the 100th anniversary of the day Britain entered the war. The War Horse Prom is inspired by the National Theatre’s play, based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel. A suite of music from Adrian Sutton’s score for the production is programmed alongside music from the period, with Elgar, Holst and Ravel among the composers featured.

<i>War Horse</i> at the BBC Proms © Robert Viglasky | BBC
War Horse at the BBC Proms
© Robert Viglasky | BBC

The Handspring Puppet Company will bring the life-sized War Horse puppets to take part in the performance. Gareth Malone, familiar to many tv audiences through his programme The Choir, conducts the Proms Military Wives Choir in the New War Hymn by Sir Henry Wood, founder of the Proms. The work was written in response to the war and was recently rediscovered in the archive of the Royal Academy of Music. David Charles Abell conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra in a programme which includes Frank Bridge’s gorgeous pastoral tone poem Summer, completed in 1915. Each movement of Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin is dedicated to the memory of one of the composer’s friends who died during the course of the war. It should be a poignant afternoon.

John Wilson Orchestra performances are always a special event and Kiss Me, Kate should be no different. Cole Porter’s musical is about a cast rehearsing a production of Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew. It is full of humour and hit tunes, including “Another Op'nin', Another Show” and the gangsters’ “Brush up your Shakespeare” – with witty lyrics featuring many titles of Shakespeare plays!

Following the semi-staged performance of My Fair Lady in 2012, this should be another treat.

Last week, the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic became the first Turkish orchestra to play at the Proms. This week, period instrument band Armonia Atenea becomes the first Greek orchestra to appear, in a matinée Prom at Cadogan Hall. Appropriately enough, under conductor George Petrou, it brings a programme in which Greek myths spin a thread. Gluck’s Orphée, Handel’s Arianna in Creta and Lully’s Phaëton are on the musical menu.

Donald Runnicles at the 2013 Proms © Chris Christodoulou
Donald Runnicles at the 2013 Proms
© Chris Christodoulou

Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, written at the bleakest point in the composer’s life, is the highlight of any orchestral season in which it features. It’s a difficult symphony to programme; what work to pair it with without creating an imbalance of style or length? Should you include an interval or not? Intriguingly, Donald Runnicles prefaces the Ninth with a performance of of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Composed shortly after Mahler’s symphony, it creates a very special atmosphere, with players split into three groups: a string orchestra, another string ensemble placed (ideally) some distance behind and a string quartet. There will be no interval.

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is already a Proms favourite. Piano section winner of the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition in 2004, and a former Radio 3 New Generation Artist, his artistry is already familiar to a large audience. At this year’s festival, in Prom 29, he performs Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in E minor – a real warhorse, performed 21 times at the Proms so far. It was first performed at concerts as the composer’s ‘farewell’ to Poland. Grosvenor has recently turned 22 – just two years older than Chopin when he composed it – and his performance should provide one of the week's highlights. 

Happy listening!