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American Rhapsody

Wed 3 May 2023
7:30 pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre

Hear a virtuosic American programme roaming from the mountains of Appalachia to the mean New York streets of West Side Story.

Aurora Orchestra welcomes regular collaborator pianist Tom Poster for an all-American programme showcasing the dazzling musicianship of Southbank Centre’s newest Resident Orchestra. In the first half, Copland’s Appalachian Springevokes the vast rolling landscapes of the American interior, whilst Caroline Shaw’s miniature for string quartet Valenciafinds 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 chamber orchestra arrangement for Aurora, which recaptures the virtuosity and sparkle of the original Broadway pit-band instrumentation.