BBC unveils 2024 Proms lineup: Daniel Barenboim, Daleks and disco

<span>Barenboim has not conducted in the UK since 2019.</span><span>Photograph: Action Press/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Barenboim has not conducted in the UK since 2019.Photograph: Action Press/Rex/Shutterstock

The BBC today announces details of this summer’s Proms festival of 90 concerts over eight weeks. Daniel Barenboim will be making a rare visit, conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra that he and the Palestinian-American academic Edward Said founded 25 years ago. The 81-year-old conductor has almost completely stepped back from performing because of a neurological condition and has not conducted in the UK since 2019.

Sir Simon Rattle, who at last year’s Proms gave his final UK performance as the London Symphony Orchestra’s music director, will be returning to the Albert Hall with his new orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony. Rattle’s orchestral home before the LSO, the Berlin Philharmonic, will give two concerts with its principal conductor Kirill Petrenko, the group’s only appearance in the UK this year. Also set to be a hot ticket is the 28-year-old Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä, who comes with the Orchestra de Paris to perform Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

Audiences will have the opportunity to get to know the incoming music director of the Royal Opera House, Jakub Hrůša, who brings two all-Czech programmes to the festival with the Czech Philharmonic, and starry soloists who will be in South Kensington include cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson and mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton. The 20-year-old South Korean piano sensation Yunchan Lim makes his Proms debut playing Beethoven’s Emperor piano concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Proms favourites the Aurora Orchestra will again be performing a work by heart: Beethoven’s Choral Symphony, in its 200th anniversary year. The first half of their concert will explore the piece dramatically and musically, focusing on how Beethoven wrote it in the midst of a personal crisis and hearing loss. One in three concerts will include a soloist or conductor from an ethnic minority, and music written by a female composer will feature in almost one-third of this year’s programmes. Ten female conductors will be on the podium across the season, including the 37-year-old Hong Kong-born Elim Chan, who will conduct the opening night.

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Chan made her Proms debut last year. “When I first heard her five, six years ago conducting in Heidelberg it was clear she had an enormous amount of potential,” said Proms director David Pickard. “She did a wonderful concert with the BBC Symphony Orchestra last year, and we felt now was the moment to give her this opportunity to do the first night, and I’m delighted.”

Beyond the core classical content, Doctor Who’s Tardis returns to the hall with special guests and monsters promised, and disco makes its Proms debut. “We had a huge success with the Northern Soul Prom last year … the Disco Prom I hope will do exactly the same, focusing on this amazing music of the late 1970s from Studio 54, which is in fact all very orchestral in the way that it’s put together,” said Pickard, who pointed to the fact that on the first night you can hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and on the second night, Walter Murphy’s A Fifth of Beethoven from Saturday Night Fever – surely a Proms first.

More firsts come in the shape of pop stars Florence Welch and Sam Smith, who both give specially curated concerts that arrange their breakthrough albums (2009’s Lungs, and 2014’s In the Lonely Hour) with orchestral settings. The August Prom will be Smith’s only UK appearance this year. The singer, whose fetish-inspired performances have prompted controversy will, promises Proms and Radio 3 controller Sam Jackson, be presenting a show that is “entirely appropriate for the festival. We’ve worked very hard with Smith and their management to look at how we can create something that is authentically Proms and that works for the audience.”

Jackson and Pickard were quick to head off accusations of dumbing down. “Popular music has always been part of the Proms,” said Pickard. “Henry Wood used to put in, frankly, pretty dreary Victorian parlour songs. Thank God we’ve got Florence + the Machine!”

It is a perennial accusation, said Jackson. “I’m not apologetic about the fact that we want to use the Proms to introduce people to the joys of orchestral music and to create compelling programmes of a kind that you cannot experience anywhere else.”

Related: In our orchestra, Israelis and Palestinians found common ground. Our hearts are broken by this conflict | Daniel Barenboim

The controversial Last Night remains unchanged, however. Jackson acknowledged the comments made by last year’s Last Night soloist, star cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who told Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs that Rule, Britannia! makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and he decried the “abhorrent” social media attacks that resulted.

“We want the Proms to be somewhere where everybody feels welcome,” said Jackson. “The challenge we have is that because we serve everybody and we believe in that universality we will have very different opinions expressed about our programme, and that is embodied by the response to Rule, Britannia! We know that for a very large number of people, particularly the TV audience – 3.5 million people at its peak watched the Last Night on BBC One last year – the traditions are very important.”

The festival’s expansion beyond its London base continues with concerts in Newport, Belfast and Aberdeen, two in Nottingham, a residency in the newly opened Bristol Beacon plus a return to Gateshead’s Glasshouse for five concerts over the last weekend in July. In London on Choral Day, three concerts will celebrate amateur and professional choirs, performing music ranging from Handel to Woody Guthrie.

This season is Pickard’s final in charge; Hannah Donat, currently Proms’ artistic producer, is to become director of artistic planning. Promming tickets, 1,000 of which are available on the day, remain £8, while the top price – for the Last Night, has risen to £150. Booking opens on 18 May; the season begins on 19 July and closes on 14 September.