In the Alps concert reviews

15th June 2017

‘…what’s normal about the Aurora Orchestra? They exist to blow fresh air into classical concerts and they certainly succeeded here.’  ★★★★ Geoff Brown, The Times

‘It was like a huge celebration. There were loads of music like a huge explosion of music and harmony.’  Sam Macaulay (aged 10), Bury Free Press

 

Concert madness over now, we take a moment to look back at our recent tour to Bury, Canterbury, London and Birmingham. Scaling the unclimbable mountain, we embarked on an alpine adventure, journeying from Richard Ayres’ zany No. 42 – In the Alps to Brahms’ First Symphony performed entirely from memory. If you missed it (or would like to relive it all), you can catch our performance on BBC Radio 3 iPlayer until 13 July 2017.

Magnetic British soprano, Mary Bevan, joined us for a playful and rare production of Richard Ayres’ ‘animated concert’ that featured theatrical staging and visuals, filled with lederhosen and imaginative animal costumes designed by Kat Heath of The Designers Formation. Through a virtuosic and colourful score, In the Alps tells the charming story of a young girl stranded on top of a mountain, who is taught to sing by alpine animals and falls in love with the distant trumpet-playing of a boy in the valley far below.


‘The soprano Mary Bevan delivered a brilliant catalogue of animal calls, and the orchestra embraced its onomatopoeic role with relish…’
★★★ John Allison, The Telegraph

‘[The production included] the silly delights in Jane Mitchell’s staging of Ayres’s creation, replete with alpine costumes, silent-film intertitles, slide projections, a squashed bit of Strauss, trumpet escapades from Christopher Deacon and two dancing Trappist monks.’ ★★★★ Geoff Brown, The Times

 


We then headed on a different alpine path to the soaring peaks of Brahms’ monumental First Symphony with the iconic ‘alphorn’ theme in the final movement, tackling our most ambitious memorised performance to date.

 

‘Glances and grins flitted constantly across the stage as Collon (visibly enjoying himself) drove ever onwards to the fourth movement’s exhilarating climax: a final tumult of irresistibly, irrepressibly energetic playing’  ★★★★ Flora Wilson, The Guardian

‘…a red-blooded, extrovert performance that thundered at the opening, blazed at the finish and delivered quite a few cherishable moments in between….The emotion seemed to arc straight from the stage into the audience; the final ovation was instantaneous.’  Richard Bratby, The Spectator

‘Standing up and playing from memory – the band’s USP – meant that everyone had the space to express. The sound was expansive, the dynamic range breathtaking, and the resulting applause unequivocal and insistent.’  Jon Jacob, Thoroughly Good

 

 

At the Bury St. Edmunds Music Festival, we had the extra special treat of 10-year-old music critics that wowed us with their insight and colourful comments.

 

‘I really liked how the music went up and down like someone jumping on a trampoline.’  Rhyanna Meekings

‘The conductor’s hands moved so gracefully it’s like a water drop landing on a leaf. Sometimes he would jump up and down on his tippie toes to go into the crazier notes, it was like an elephant trumping to get to water.’  Kayleigh Walker

‘When I got in the venue the vibe of the Aurora Orchestra pulled me in. The way the artists caught my attention. How they played in a tone and pitch made me feel amazing….One of the cello players really intrigued me, their facial expressions and jolty movements. It was strange the way the musicians got upset in parts of the music, it made me feel shocked how music can make you feel.’  Ned Coles

 

And, of course, no alpine adventure is complete without this tune.

‘The players engage with the audience. We engage with them. Everyone ends up leaving the concert venue having had a riotously good time. Aurora Orchestra conjure up something magical on stage.’  Jon Jacob, Thoroughly Good

‘After that, the Brahms and the encore, everyone tumbled out, happily talking, cherishing the fun. And this was a classical concert? You see, not normal at all.’  ★★★★ Geoff Brown, The Times

The magic continues in our Orchestral Theatre series at Southbank Centre on 24 September with Why Birds Sing. This birdsong-inspired concert features pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard and mesmerising works by Messiaen, Brett Dean, and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony performed entirely from memory.

 

Photo credit Jim Hinson