TV preview: BBC Proms 2014

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Given its status as one of the world’s greatest music venues, many who have never been to the Albert Hall might see it as a cultural no-go area, reserved for classical music fans only.

However, when Simon Pegg, composer Michael Giacchino and director JJ Abrams took to the stage on May 29 this year, it was more like a rock gig than a classical show. That was the world premiere of a Star Trek concert, which saw fans from around the world flock to London to see Abrams’ 2009 movie, accompanied by the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

The latest Proms, the largest classical music festival in the world, opens this week with Edward Elgar’s biblical oratorio The Kingdom, a 90-minute performance which should wow the masses.

It kicks off eight weeks of diverse and glorious music including Prom 50 on August 26, the perfect showcase for cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s work.

There’s a good bet Julian Lloyd Webber will be paying close attention to Alisa as she performs one of his favourite pieces.

“The Dvorak Concerto is always regarded as the king of cello pieces really,” he explains while promoting new film Dvorak in Love. “It’s the greatest concerto.”

What does one of the world’s greatest cellists think of the state of classical music in 2014?

“The term ‘classical music’ is becoming less and less relevant, because you’re talking about 500 years of music in all different styles and types,” he explains.

“Since I was in the music profession, it’s changed and I think not necessarily for the worse. There are incredible opportunities for young musicians out there now that actually were not there when I was starting. People can do a lot free now. People can get their recordings up online for people to hear; they can put films up. You couldn’t do that when I started.”

Obviously the dawn of MP3s, downloads and video sharing has spread classical music a lot faster, but given the ever enduring appeal of the Proms, and live gigs, there’s little danger of it being relegated to music history like cassette tapes.

“People sometimes feel scared of change and say, ‘Oh, the record business is finished’, but it’s not,” explains Julian. “People are always going to want to hear music, and particularly are always going to want to go to live concerts. That’s something that’s never going to die.”

Back to the Proms, and other highlights this year include a War Horse Prom, commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War; Gabby Logan presents the first ever BBC Sport Prom, and Proms in the Park promises to be a September 13 show-stopper, fronted by Terry Wogan.

That same day, there’s the all-important Proms 76, when music fans revel in this land of hope and glory and raise the roof during the last night.

Like that aforementioned sci-fi franchise, the Proms are another beloved institution that should live long and prosper.

BBC PROMS 2014, BBC2, Friday, 8.05pm

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