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American Rhapsody at Saffron Hall

Mon 1 May 2023
Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden

Join Aurora Orchestra and regular collaborator, pianist Tom Poster, on a journey across America, as the orchestra showcases its dazzling musicianship.

In the first half, Copland’s Appalachian Spring evokes the vast rolling landscapes of the American interior, whilst Caroline Shaw’s miniature for string quartet Valencia finds delight and wonder in a single piece of fruit – the common Valencia orange. Rich with his signature jazz stylings and opening with one of the most instantly-recognisable instrumental solo ever written, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue made an instant star of its 25-year-old composer, and remains a cherished highlight of 20th-century American music.

Charles Ives’ Three Places in New England was written by the composer over a period of nearly 30 years leading up to its premiere in 1930, and even today continues to astonish with its haunting combination of American folk tunes, multiple tonalities and sharp textural contrasts. It is presented here in combination with a specially-created film by the Australian photographer/filmmaker Jon Frank, commissioned by Aurora and shot on location in the modern-day versions of the three New England locations that originally inspired the piece. Frank’s film captures the uncanny, evocative quality of Ives’ music whilst introducing a distinctively 21st-century vision of modern middle America. We finish back in the Big Apple with the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story, performed here in Iain Farrington’s arrangement for Aurora, which recaptures the virtuosity and sparkle of the original Broadway pit-band instrumentation.