In August 2014, Aurora became the first professional orchestra in the modern era to perform a symphony entirely from memory. That groundbreaking first performance of Mozart’s 40th Symphony at the BBC Proms has been followed by other memorised performances of Mozart’s 41st; Beethoven’s Third, Fifth and Sixth symphonies; Brahms’ First Symphony; Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony; and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.
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. On the contrary, for many members of Aurora, it has provided some of the most intense and rewarding musical experiences of their careers.
“Memorising deepens and enriches our relationship with the music in every way, and takes communication to a new level,” says Principal Conductor Nicholas Collon. “Whilst it feels naked on stage without a 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 so much that it should feel surprising or dangerous to watch, but more that we are all – players and audience alike – unshackled from the physical and metaphorical confines of the printed notes.”
“I cannot exaggerate the joy I feel at sharing these experiences with my colleagues.” (Jamie Campbell, Principal Second Violin)
“I cannot exaggerate the joy I feel at sharing these experiences with my colleagues,” says Jamie Campbell, Principal Second Violin. “To be able to look up, make eye contact and know that every person on that stage knows every single note of the piece inside out makes for an incredibly intense experience of the music. I’ve known Mozart’s 40th symphony all my life, but I felt like I was discovering more of the genius of the work, and getting to know Mozart himself every moment that I spent learning it.”
Reaching new people and places with memorised music
An orchestra playing from memory is uniquely versatile – the musicians can move, change formation, and get physically closer to audiences. We make use of this incredible freedom to reach new audiences and to give people the unique experience of being inside an orchestra.
By Heart: wherever you are
One of the huge virtues of memorised performances is the fact that the orchestra is unconstrained by music stands, chairs or sheet music. The result is that we can venture beyond the concert hall with ease: with a unique ability to simply get out our instruments and play, we are able to reach new audiences in shopping centres, parks, town squares, streets and outdoor festivals.
By Heart: Immersed
We also work with schools to allow young people to experience what it is like to be inside the orchestra. Participants experience lying down in the centre of a giant circle of players, walking amongst the orchestra as they perform, sitting amongst different sections of the orchestra and then quickly swapping to be able to hear the same music in a different part of the orchestra… the possibilities have proved endless!
For details of forthcoming memorised performances please visit the What’s on page and use the series filter to search for ‘By Heart’.