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Monday 12 August sees the long awaited first appearance at the BBC Proms of music by one of the UK’s most successful composers. In the year that he celebrates his 80th birthday, Sir Karl Jenkins, who is best known for his hugely popular Adiemus and The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, will hear his saxophone concerto performed by Jess Gillam and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the Royal Albert Hall.

Titled Stravaganza, the playful and exuberant music of this four-movement concerto draws on Jenkins’s jazz and classical upbringing and skilfully exploits the virtuosic abilities of the the solo instrument. It was written for Jess Gillam and explores the themes of carnival and fantasy which were prompted by her very first encounter with the instrument.

Karl Jenkins remarked, 'The inspiration for Stravaganza is that Jess first played a saxophone and found her musical home in a carnival centre, having first tried the stilts and then the drums... In many ways it is programmatic, but the listener may create her or his eccentric fantasies.'

The work opens with Perambulation - a procession featuring a call and response between soloist and orchestra. This is followed by the rhapsodic fantasy of Dreams and Drones with the saxophone floating above a drone which suggests the background hum of an electric generator at a funfair. The third movement, Wonky Wheels is a quirky five-in-a-bar waltz and the concerto comes to a raucous finale with the upbeat samba Flight of Fancy.

Stravaganza was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and the Deutschen Symphonie Orchester (DSO) and received its first performance in Berlin in June 2023 with the DSO and Gillam as soloist. Earlier this year Gillam, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under conductor Nil Venditti, gave the Welsh premiere at a St David’s Day celebration in Swansea's Brangwyn Hall and these performers will team up again for the upcoming Proms concert.


In many ways it is programmatic, but the listener may create her or his eccentric fantasies

Sir Karl Jenkins

Listen live on BBC Radio 3 

19:30, Mon 12 Aug 2024 or on BBC Sounds.

▶ BBC Proms




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