M at The Proms: Kevin Volans

To mark the 117th Proms, M will be talking to some of the composers whose work will be premiered at the Royal Albert Hall this year.

We will be asking upcoming and established composers, including Simon Holt, Judith Bingham, Vartan Melkonian and Graham Fitkin, about their careers and finding out about the burning issues that face classical composers in Britain today.

The Proms is the world’s premier classical music festival. The first ever event took place on 10 August 1895 at Queen’s Hall in London, before relocating to Royal Albert Hall in 1941. Each year the festival has widened its remit to offer an increasingly diverse programme, and now features more than 70 main Prom concerts every year.

This year’s event runs from 15 July to the 10 September, and will feature a host of upcoming and established composers from around the world, including winners from the annual Young Composers Competition on 6 August.

For our first interview, M caught up with South African-born Kevin Volans, one of this year’s BBC-commissioned composers.

Volans’ Piano Concerto No. 3 will have it’s world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall on 22 August. Piano Concerto No. 3 was written by the mercurial Volans in homage to Liszt.

After studying in Johannesburg and Cologne, Volans made numerous recording trips to Africa in the late 70s, using them to inspire a series of pieces based on African compositional techniques.

The composer’s work with the Kronos Quartet – White Man Sleeps for string quartet (1986), Hunting: Gathering (1987) and The Songlines (1988) – brought Volans’ work to a large audience. White Man Sleeps and Pieces of Africa broke all records for string quartet disc sales – the latter was number one on the US Classical and world music charts for 26 weeks, outselling all but Pavarotti.

During the 90s, Volans relocated to Ireland and also began writing for dance, his collaborators including Siobhan Davies, Jonathan Burrows and Shobana Jeyasingh. For his most recent works, he has collaborated with visual artists.