Celebrations of Richard Strauss’ 150th anniversary at the BBC Proms reach a frenzied peak this weekend with concert performances of two of his most performed operas. While it is a pity that the opportunity wasn't taken to perform a rare opera, such as Feuersnot, Salome and Elektra will play to capacity audiences, especially with star leading ladies Nina Stemme (Salome) and Christine Goerke (Elektra) heading the casts.

Mary Garden as Salome
Mary Garden as Salome

Donald Runnicles conducts the forces of Deutsche Oper Berlin in Salome. Alongside Stemme in the title role, the cast boasts the excellent Doris Soffel as Herodias and bass-baritone Samuel Youn as Jochanaan (John the Baptist). There’s even a tenor called Kaufmann in the line-up! Regular opera audiences can be forgiven a sense of déjà-vu regarding Elektra:  Christine Goerke starred in the Royal Opera production just last autumn, but here she is joined by the fabulous Dame Felicity Palmer as her mother, Klytämnestra, and Johan Reuter as her brother, Orestes. Master Straussian Semyon Bychkov conducts the BBCSO in this searing score. The queue for promming tickets will doubtless start early on both days!

Daniel Harding © Julian Hargreaves
Daniel Harding
© Julian Hargreaves

The Strauss weekend follows the high drama of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony on Friday evening. Daniel Harding conducts the forces of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (bolstered by the Philharmonia Chorus) in this epic work, which is always a Proms favourite. The symphony had a protracted genesis, the opening movement – originally called Todtenfeier (Funeral Ceremony) – dating from 1888. It wasn’t until five years later that Mahler returned to these sketches. He had in mind a choral ending, comparable to the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth, but struggled to find a suitable text. It wasn’t until the funeral of conductor Hans von Bülow in 1894 that inspiration struck; the choir sang Klopstock’s Resurrection choral: “It was like a flash of lightning, and everything became plain and clear in my mind!” The trumpets of the Apocalypse followed by the distant sound of the heavenly hosts singing “Rise again, yes, rise again thou wilt” make for a memorable finale. Daniel Harding has done much fine work with his Swedish orchestra since 2007 and this will be a concert Mahlerians won't want to miss. 

Among the visiting orchestras making their Proms debuts this season, the arrival of the Singapore Symphony under its conductor Lan Shui is particularly anticipated, not least because of its excellent reputation on disc in Rachmaninov, whose Symphony no. 2 in E minor concludes the programme. It proved a great success in Rachmaninov’s lifetime, banishing self doubts about his ability as a symphonist following the disastrous première of his First. It has remained his most popular Symphony, its Russian melancholy and romantic lyricism striking a chord with audiences since. Also on the programme is the European première of Chinese composer Zhou Long’s piano concerto entitled Postures, a fusion of music from East and West.

Lan Shui © Lan Shui
Lan Shui
© Lan Shui

The Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra is reunited with its former principal conductor Sir Roger Norrington in a programme including Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony and Dvorak’s Ninth. During Norrington’s leadership of the orchestra, he promoted the ‘Stuttgart sound’, largely eschewing vibrato and adopting many of the performance practices of period instrument orchestras. The results are often fascinating, if controversial; he conducted an Elgar First Symphony with the Stuttgarters at the Proms in 2008 which still arouses fierce debate today!

Whatever your musical tastes, there’s bound to be something to appeal in this week’s line-up. Remember, there's a complete listing of the remaining concerts here. Happy listening!