Aurora at the 2021 BBC Proms

17 August 2021

‘It felt as if the Proms had truly returned.’ ★★★★★ The Times

It was joyous to welcome an audience back to the Royal Albert Hall last week for our BBC Proms appearance, featuring Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the sensational Pavel Kolesnikov, and an exploration of Stravinsky’s 1945 Firebird suite, performed from memory. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us – if you weren’t able to be there in person, you can still catch the full performance on BBC iPlayer. Here’s a round-up of the glowing reviews and audience comments. (Photos: Chris Christodoulou)


Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Pavel Kolesnikov

‘[Kolesnikov’s] playing was exquisitely subtle in Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Buoyant, velvety, ravishing: this Russian pianist’s sound is a thing of magic.’  The Times

‘I must have heard the work hundreds if not thousands of times, but I can’t remember ever having been so entranced as by this unsentimental yet exceptionally sentient reading.’ ★★★★★ The Evening Standard

‘It was a clever partnership: Kolesnikov witty and urbane, casual through the skittering brilliance of Variation II, playing it cool while the orchestra tried on the composer’s many musical costumes for size’ ★★★★ The Artsdesk


Nicholas Collon & Tom Service explore Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite

‘with the interplay of two presenters and perambulating musicians flawlessly executed with split-second precision, it was in itself a feat of impressive virtuosity – yet also both witty and genuinely illuminating.’  The Evening Standard

‘Energetic and engaging as ever, the presenter Tom Service fired up the crowd from the stage. He joined the conductor Nicholas Collon and the Aurora players to take apart Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird, illuminating and dissecting the music with ease.’  The Times

‘To teach an audience something without patronising or it feeling like school is the hardest trick to pull off, but thanks to bags of enthusiasm (and the odd viola joke) they reliably leave us all better informed and – better still – fired up to listen more and more carefully […] It’s not music that needs explanation, but the benefits were immediate, obvious in the focus, the new intensity of concentration across the audience.’  The Artsdesk


Performing Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite from memory

‘the players have completely internalised every bar of the score, one senses, with the result that they can deliver the subtlest nuances demanded by Nicholas Collon, who also conducts from memory’  The Evening Standard

‘the orchestra and Collon threw the music around the stage like it was a ball, now giving us the fancy footwork of the Infernal Dance, now the collective breath of the Round Dance.’  The Artsdesk

‘this was playing that thrilled with danger, passion and fiery warmth. The Aurora Orchestra performed from memory, even more of a feat than usual given the complexity of Stravinsky’s score (played in the 1945 version). Yet while the music-making was rooted in the remembered past, it lived entirely, thrillingly, in the present.’  The Times

‘I have rarely heard the story telling so clear or so well articulated. The moment in this performance when the horn breaks in with that final haunting hymn-like tune will stay with me for a long time’ Lark Reviews

‘The music was nothing short of spellbinding’  The Times


From the audience:

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