‘There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacing of the spheres.’ Pythagoras (569 – 490BC)
Aurora takes Music of the Spheres to Canterbury, Birmingham and London (June 2019)
Orchestral Theatre production is inspired by the ancient Greek idea that the revolution of the planets generates celestial music
Violinist Pekka Kuusisto makes his debut with Aurora in Thomas Adès’ Violin Concerto ‘Concentric Paths’
Nicholas Collon conducts performances of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter Symphony’ from memory and a new work by Max Richter
Immersed workshops with eight Islington schools offer young people the chance to experience classical music close up in a new way
Aurora Orchestra presents its most visually striking production to date - Music of the Spheres, part of its Orchestral Theatre series. In this series, Aurora stages vibrant orchestral adventures that span diverse musical genres and art forms, rethinking the concert format and offering bold new ways to engage with orchestral music. The concept for this project is based on music of the spheres, an ancient Greek concept by Pythagoras that the movement of the planets produces a celestial harmony of profound beauty and significance. This poetic idea of music in the cosmos inaudible to the human ear became an enduring concept for thinkers and scientists in understanding the universe for about two thousand years, from antiquity to the Renaissance.
The production incorporates elements of lighting, visuals, animation, and pre-recorded audio narration by actor Samuel West, to richly explore the musical programme and the ancient concept of the music of the spheres. It is designed and directed by Aurora’s resident team of creatives in collaboration with Creative Director Jane Mitchell. At Canterbury and London, the orchestra performs within a light installation – designed by Kate Wicks (production designer) and William Reynolds (lighting designer) – that combines the curvatures of an orchestra with a beautiful 17th-century diagram of Pythagoras’ harmonic order of the cosmos.
At the heart of the concert is a performance of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony – the composer’s longest and last symphony – played by the orchestra entirely from memory. A new work written specially for this project – Max Richter’s Journey (CP1919) – will be performed in the dark and is inspired by the discovery of the first Pulsar star, CP1919, and uses rhythms governed by the same ratios used by the ancient astronomers to describe the orbits of the planets. The programme is completed with Thomas Adès’ soaring Violin Concerto ‘Concentric Paths’, with soloist Pekka Kuusisto and Beethoven’s Molto adagio from String Quartet No. 8 in E minor. Music of the Spheres will travel to the Colyer-Fergusson Hall, Canterbury (1 June), Town Hall, Birmingham (4 June – adapted version) and Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (5 June). It was premiered at the Victoria Concert Hall, Singapore (26 April).
Nicholas Collon, Principal Conductor, says: ‘It’s been an absolute joy to revisit Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’, a symphony that we memorised back in 2016 for the BBC Proms. The inner workings of this miracle are a particular delight to delve into – to peel back the many layers and internalise them. I’m also delighted to bring Pekka Kuusisto to work with Aurora for the first time. He is an ideal partner for Adès’ astonishing Violin Concerto, uncovering every gleaming facet of this mercurial masterpiece.’
Jane Mitchell, Creative Director, says: 'I have always been fascinated by how music was viewed by the ancient Greek philosophers and how music, astronomy, maths and magic were once entirely interlinked. It is incredible how much of those very early concepts of intervals, tones and scales are still embedded in what we do today. Placing those ancient concepts alongside music by composers such as Mozart or Thomas Adès brings out how strongly we are still linked to the ancient past. In Music of the Spheres, we hope audiences feel a sense of wonder, feel immersed in each piece, and reflect on the experience of music itself and how it affects us. We’d really like audiences to hear pieces they may know well, or have never heard before, in a context which makes new connections.’
Resident Orchestra at Kings Place and Associate Orchestra at Southbank Centre, Aurora is one of Europe’s leading chamber orchestras, critically acclaimed for its world-class performances, adventurous programming and creative concert formats. In recent years, it has pioneered performing entire symphonies from memory, offering audiences the opportunity to experience symphonic music in a completely new and thrillingly direct way.
Aurora is passionate about reaching new audiences of all backgrounds and bringing unique live classical music experiences to people wherever they are. The orchestra’s Immersed programme takes symphonic music out of the concert hall through interactive and immersive performances and workshops around the UK. Immersed harnesses the orchestra’s freedom from printed scores, music stands and chairs to welcome young people physically inside an orchestra performing from memory, offering participants the unique opportunity to experience live orchestral music close up – for example lying down in the center of the musicians or conducting the orchestra. Aurora will offer Immersed workshops of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ for around 230 students from Years 4-6 at eight Islington schools in June, in partnership with Islington Council’s recently launched programme, 11 by 11, a commitment to make available 11 outstanding cultural experiences by Year 11 for all children and young people attending Islington schools.
Later this summer Aurora presents an orchestral theatre staging of Berlioz’s otherworldly Symphonie fantastique at the BBC Proms 2019 (Thursday 12 September). Using imaginative design, lighting and choreography, and performing the work entirely from memory, the orchestra will offer the audience a new way to explore the colour and imagination of Berlioz’s world. The orchestra will also perform the work from memory at the Snape Proms (Thursday 29 August) and Saffron Walden (Tuesday 10 September).