Aurora at the BBC Proms 2015

23rd April 2015

Aurora Orchestra will return to the BBC Proms on Sunday 2 August for its sixth consecutive appearance. 

Aurora playing Beethoven 6 from Memory - credit Chris Christodoulou

Aurora Orchestra performing Mozart Symphony No. 40 from memory at the BBC Proms 2014

Sunday 2 August 2015, 3.30pm; Royal Albert Hall


Brett Dean Pastoral Symphony
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 26 K537
Anna Meredith Smatter Hauler (BBC Proms commission)
Beethoven Symphony No. 6 ‘Pastoral’ (performed from memory)


Francesco Piemontesi (piano)
Aurora Orchestra
Nicholas Collon (conductor)

The BBC Proms have today announced the line-up for the 2015 season, which will see Aurora return for its sixth consecutive appearance on Sunday 2 August with a programme featuring works by Brett Dean and Mozart, the world premiere of a BBC Proms commission by Anna Meredith, and a unique performance of Beethoven’s sixth symphony – entirely from memory.

Performing Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 from memory at last year’s BBC Proms ranked as one of the most exhilarating musical experiences in the orchestra’s 10-year history. Nicholas Collon and the Aurora players will continue their journey of discovery at this year’s Prom as they present Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, without music stands and printed notes.

Aurora’s Principal Conductor & Artistic Director, Nicholas Collon, explains why he and the orchestra – having performed Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 from memory at last year’s BBC Proms – decided to play another symphony from memory at this year’s Proms:

‘For many members of the Aurora Orchestra, performing Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 from memory at last year’s BBC Proms ranked as one of our most intense and rewarding musical experiences. In every way it deepened and enriched our relationship with this extraordinary piece of music, forcing us to internalise nuances that can be easily glossed over when reading from the page. Gone, in rehearsal, were the traditional footholds – bar numbers, bowings, articulations. Suddenly we were let loose in a world of endless possibilities, where the tiniest variation in a semiquaver run could seem so rich with significance!

Performing from memory takes communication to a new level. While it feels naked to be on stage without stand and music to hide behind, it intensifies the levels of trust between players.

My hope and belief is that it also communicates in a new way with the audience: not that it should feel surprising or dangerous to watch, but more that we are all – conductor, players and audience – unshackled from the printed notes. We expect it of concerto soloists and opera singers, we’ve seen it with string quartets and choirs: an orchestra performing from memory is not an impossibility, nor a gimmick, even if limitations on rehearsal time mean it’s not often practical. I am thrilled to undertake this journey again with Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, a piece that is so close to me, and look forward to walking out with the Aurora players onto a Royal Albert Hall stage devoid of music stands.’ (original article written for the BBC Proms Guide 2015)

The concert will also feature Brett Dean’s extraordinary ‘Pastoral Symphony’ – a celebration of the sounds of birdsong and the threat it faces as a result of increasing urban development. As Brett Dean writes: ‘This piece is about glorious birdsong, the threat that it faces, the loss, and the soulless noise that we’re left with when they’re all gone.’ Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26, featuring internationally-acclaimed pianist Francesco Piemontesi, as well as a new commission from Anna Meredith performed by Aurora alongside young musicians from across London, completes the programme.

For more information about Aurora’s BBC Proms performance, click here, and you can read a fascinating article about musical memory by cognitive neuroscientist Jessica Grahn (Assistant Professor at the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University, London, Ontario) on the BBC News Magazine website.

And to get a flavour of what to expect on 2 August, you can watch a short excerpt of Aurora’s memorised performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 at last year’s BBC Proms below: