Aurora’s inaugural tour to Australia to undertake the headline residency at the Melbourne Festival in October was a great success, with enthusiastic responses from audiences and press alike.
As part of the week-long residency, the orchestra presented its Road Trip and Insomnia programmes featuring collaborations with British tenor Allan Clayton, and Australian folk-singer Katie Noonan. Aurora was also joined by students from the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) for a side-by-side performance of works including Brett Dean’s Testament, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, and Charles Ives’ Three Place in New England, which featured the Australian premiere of an accompanying film by Jon Frank.
The tour also included performances of Aurora’s Far, Far Away show for family audiences, and a chamber performance as part of Melbourne Festival’s Quartets at Sunset mini-series.
But it wasn’t all hard work – the orchestra also had time to sample the sights and delights that Melbourne has to offer, making for a thoroughly enjoyable tour. As Aurora’s recently appointed Principal Bassoon, Amy Harman, commented about the tour, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been on such a happy tour!’
We’ve selected a few of our favourite reviews from the tour, and you can click on the publication titles to read the full articles.
Brilliant young chamber orchestras are a growing phenomenon and Aurora Orchestra, from the UK, is a prime example. Insomnia was Aurora’s first program of its Melbourne Festival residency. The works segued together, their unifying theme of fitful sleep reinforced by darkness and light, musicians creeping on and off stage, and relentless ticking sounds… [Benjamin Britten’s] Nocturne demands virtuosic solo playing from the whole ensemble and the playing sparkled with precision and detailed phrasing. Flautist Jane Mitchell and clarinetist Peter Sparks particularly impressed: their parts were exposed, intricate and perfectly synchronised.
Star rating: *****
Opening their week-long residency for Melbourne Festival, the London-based Aurora Orchestra presented Insomnia, a program inspired by the hours from dusk until dawn. Conductor Nicholas Collon has a reputation for extending the boundaries of traditional programming and concert presentation. What at first seemed like disparate musical elements were revealed as a carefully curated program further united by elements of birdsong and a metronomic pulse.
Star rating: ****
The major exercise presented by Melbourne Festival guests the Aurora Orchestra, Saturday evening’s concert found the British visitors in collaboration with musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music. Conductor Nicholas Collon led his combined forces in a milestone Beethoven symphony, the Three Places in New England orchestral set by Ives, which quotes another Beethoven symphony, and Brett Dean’s Testament, meditating on the German master’s moving Heiligenstadt document/will and citing the first Razumovsky quartet.
Not yet 10 years old, the Aurora ensemble on this tour is of chamber proportions, but in amalgamation with the ANAM players, the performance standard reached an impressive level in the Beethoven Eroica E flat Symphony. A steadily maintained vigour from the entire string body led by enthusiastic concertmaster Thomas Gould, clean woodwind delivery with the unexpected addition of a third oboe, powerful contributions from the horn quartet and a pair of enthusiasts sharing timpani duty all contributed to a rousing, voluble realisation of this revolutionary score, packed with deft detail and infectious passion… Collon and his forces generated a rich, impossibly thick mesh for The Housatonic at Stockbridge segment, this night’s highlight.
Star rating: ****
The orchestra’s Insomnia concert was possibly the best concert I have ever been to. It brought together exquisitely complementary works written across almost 300 years. Orchestra members came and went as needed; when they were on stage they were present to the music.