The Aurora Orchestra’s symphony-from-memory has become an annual Proms fixture. The first time Nicholas Collon and his players set music-stands aside, in 2014, it was a curiosity, the second time still very much an oddity. Only now, third time round, can we stop marvelling at the feat of memory and start listening properly to the music.
Bursting out of the confines of symphonic form, Mozart’s "Jupiter" Symphony lends itself to the unbuttoned directness of a performance by heart. Fresh from their flashmob performance at the Stratford Westfield on Saturday, the Aurora musicians found a conversational intimacy and rhetoric in their delivery that made a salon out of the cavernous Royal Albert Hall. Textures were transparent, allowing us to glimpse enticing flashes of inner parts – a viola flourish, a grumble of bassoon – under the swirling orchestral skirts. Elegant and joyous in equal measure, this was much more than a gimmick.
Framing the Mozart, an uneven pair of musical bookends, were Wolfgang Rihm’s Gejagte Form – an uncompromising opener for a Prom aimed at families – and Richard Strauss’s ecstatic Oboe Concerto. Soloist Francoix Leleux, so articulate in his onstage interview, made his case even more persuasively with his instrument. From the opening entry, an aria by any other name, to the saucy little dance that sets the final movement swaying, Leleux seemed scarcely to draw breath, pouring out sounds by turns witty, forthright and fragile, but always beautiful. A performance of utmost generosity – a homage from one master musician to another.
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