Get inside Beethoven at Printworks London

28 October 2021

If you’ve ever attended one of Aurora’s memorised performances, you may have experienced our ‘immersive encore’: at the end of the concert, the orchestra fans out into the auditorium to reprise an excerpt from the symphony we’ve just performed from amongst the audience. Attendees often tell us that these moments are highlights for them – they love the sense of getting up close to players and being enfolded by the sound of the orchestra. Since our first experiments in memorised performance back in 2014 we’ve taken this approach further in a range of intimate settings, offering immersive experiences of symphonies to small groups including as part of dozens of schools workshops. A number of other groups both in the UK and internationally have in recent years undertaken their own adventures in immersive performance, including Ivan Fischer’s Mittendrin concerts at the Berlin Konzerthaus, the Dutch ensemble Pynarello, and Southbank Sinfonia’s ConcertLab series.

But bringing listeners inside an orchestra creates technical and musical challenges. As we’ve looked to expand an orchestra’s footprint, so we’ve found it also becomes harder to find a space which can accommodate the performance; to maintain precise ensemble across a large area; and to ensure that audience members throughout the space experience sound that is both balanced and thrilling. Until now these challenges have necessarily limited the scale of such experiments to relatively small numbers of listeners. We’ve often wondered if we could give this same sense of immediacy and connection to a larger audience for an entire performance of a symphony.

On 11 November we’re going to be taking this concept of orchestral immersion to a new level with Aurora’s debut appearance at Printworks London. Inside Beethoven for the first time combines the thrill of one of Aurora’s signature memorised performances with cutting-edge technology that allows an audience of 1,000 to get physically inside the orchestra, experiencing Beethoven’s seventh symphony from amongst the players as they perform in one of London’s most spectacular industrial spaces. Scroll down to read more about this pioneering performance and the technology we’re using to make it possible.

The Printworks Presshalls

A cavernous 16-acre building in Canada Water that was once home to western Europe’s largest printing factory, Printworks London is today one of the UK’s leading electronic music destinations. The original industrial aesthetics, giant machines and printing presses have been preserved to create a music venue unlike any other, and one of the most atmospheric performance spaces anywhere in the world. For this special event, we’ll be combining the vast scale of Printworks’ iconic Presshalls with trailblazing audio technology and the unique potential of an orchestra performing from memory to offer a completely new experience of a classical symphony.

Cutting-edge sound

Recent developments in digital sound reinforcement mean that for the first time challenges around ensemble and quality of sound when performing in a radically expanded configuration can be solved through technology. For these events we will be using Soundscape, the flagship audio reinforcement system created by German audio specialists d&b audiotechnik. d&b’s most advanced technology, Soundscape creates a ‘virtual acoustic shell’ that allows the orchestra to perform across a much larger space than would ordinarily be possible. At the same time it accurately retains a naturally immersive sound, making for a harmonious, enveloping and emotionally engaging listening experience. We’ll be working with Southby Productions and sound engineer Tim Hand, who will be building one of the largest Soundscape installations ever created for this performance, with more than 70 speakers used to create the acoustic shell.

Getting inside Beethoven’s 7th

Aurora performing from memory at the BBC Proms

We often hear from listeners that they love the special sense of communication generated by performances from memory. Removing music stands and sheet music can heighten the feeling of connectedness and communion, not just between players but with our audience. Staging a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 at Printworks allow us to take this connection even further: instead of performing from a stage to listeners out in the auditorium, we can invite an audience of 1,000 people to experience the symphony from amongst the players.

Inside Beethoven will see the orchestra perform exploded across the floor of the Printworks Presshalls, interspersed with audience members: listeners will get up close to the players in a way that would be impossible in a concert hall. Movements of the symphony will be framed by specially-created electronic music by Sam Swallow, and lighting design by David Ross harnessing the spectacular potential of the Printworks lighting rig. Audience members will be free to uncover the secrets of the building and choose their own path through this great work. For experienced concertgoers and classical newcomers alike, this event will offer a completely fresh and revelatory take on Beethoven’s music.