Aurora Orchestra: Inside Beethoven at Printworks
Beethoven, you’ve done it again. Well, you did it in 1808; given your fifth symphony is played on Classic FM ten times a day, it takes a total performance overhaul such as this to recall quite how magnificent a piece of music it is. The reimagining: Aurora Orchestra, from memory, playing from 20 or so stage-islands dotted amidst a tightly packed sea of standing audience members at Printworks. The Beethoven was interspersed with movements of Nwando Ebizie’s Amor Fati, a new digital composition based on elements of the 19th century masterpiece.
This whole event was geared towards an entirely new way of experiencing and appreciating live classical music. Gone were the rows of stock-still listeners in ties, acutely disturbed by the slightest sound issuing from anywhere other than the stage, likewise, the cough-heavy yet applause-negligible gaps between movements (on this occasion, they were quite the reverse). Deft lighting design created an ominous atmosphere before the symphony began, with solo spotlighting during the performance bringing dramatic or comical attention to instruments with significant moments. Breaking up the symphony to the extent of the players leaving the arena between each movement was presumably intended to make way for listeners to appreciate Ebizie’s work, but this failed to materialise: interceding passages of live playing, Amor Fati ended up taking on the role of intermission music, largely ignored by those in attendance. The musicians’ regular departure from and return to their podiums between acts was disruptive, though there was something very humanising about seeing them pick their way awkwardly through the dense crowd with their most precious possessions.
Aurora Orchestra rose to the challenge they had been set – namely, delivering an intricate work from scattered platforms within a big, boomy space – with consummate expertise. The iconic first movement was off to a rocky start, but that had long since been forgiven and forgotten by the time the superb, all-conquering conclusion arrived.
This is promising stuff. If classical music is going to stay relevant (and it would be a great shame if it didn’t), more thought and resources need to be deployed to deliver innovative, approachable showcases of the genre, such as this one. This was an occasion for Aurora’s and Printworks’s respective regulars to collide, and they did so readily, eager to enjoy what they had come to see and creating a joyous atmosphere in the process. Beethoven’s fifth at the rave venue was a success; hopefully more ensembles and arts organisations will be inspired to take the same leap.
Photos: Jake Davis
For further information and future events visit Aurora Orchestra’s website here.