Review: Aurora Orchestra / Collon, Mozart & Beethoven, Snape Proms, August 18

Aurora Orchestra who performed at the Snape Proms.
Photo Mark Allan/BBC

Aurora Orchestra who performed at the Snape Proms. Photo Mark Allan/BBC - Credit: Archant

The Aurora Orchestra under their founder and principal conductor, Nicholas Collon, is particularly noted for its performances from memory. The prospect of hearing Beethoven’s fifth symphony without music doubtless contributed to a full and expectant Maltings.

Before this, however, were two fine performances of Mozart, firstly the Chaconne and Passepied from the Ballet Music of his opera Idomeneo. It is somewhat stately and measured music and was given a strong and imposing performance with possibly a little too much drum.

Mozart’s C major Piano Concerto in C, K 503, is also rather stately; its orchestral introduction very much on a symphonic scale. Collon and the players gave it a suitably weighty but crisp reading before soloist Imogen Cooper entered with the chirpy, almost bird-like figure. Orchestra and soloist interweaved smoothly under the conductor’s careful direction, everything at the service of the music. Imogen Cooper gave a particularly attractive account of the finale with some elegant and graceful flourishes.

And so to an almost empty stage, not a printed note in sight and Beethoven’s fifth on the menu. Nicholas Collon, already a noted communicator, took the microphone and gave an accessible yet lucid account of some of the more notable features of this remarkable work. And the performance itself was remarkable for its intensity and sustained drive. Whether the absence of scores does, of itself, create some tension, putting the players that bit more on their toes, might be a nice debating point but the overall result was thrilling. Collon had previously discussed the slow movement in some detail with played examples and one did indeed hear new things in the variations to the opening cello theme. As trombones, piccolo and double bass took their places before the scherzo and – for the first time ever in a symphony - joined in at the start of the finale, it seemed as if history was being rewritten. As a final coup de theatre, the orchestra scattered themselves around the hall and replayed the final coda to simulate orchestral sounds ‘from the inside’. Brilliant idea, thank you Nicholas and all players.

Gareth Jones