Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Burrell Portrait & Aurora Orchestra
Royal Academy of Music 7 & 9 March 2007

London's Royal Academy of Music is a hive of musical industry and activity, with numerous events open to the public (free or inexpensive).

This makes it one of the most rewarding and invigorating places for music lovers to spend an evening (or to join daytime seminars and master classes).

There is usually a buzz of excitement around, and a guarantee of enthusiastic support for students and their teachers; a striking contrast with the audience profile of many classical music concerts in the regular venues.

Musical Pointers reviewed Royal Academy Opera's double bill of Tchaikovsky and Rossini earlier this week, endorsing opinion that the Colleges are essential venues for opera buffs, with standards often equalling those of the professional companies.

So much goes on day by day (see Events online) that overlaps occur inevitably. So to catch the beginning of Iolanta in the RAM theatre we had to miss Diana Burrell's Piece No 80.

If in her Portrait Concert Schubert had been jettisoned, we could also have heard all three of Burrell's own works, the last reputedly the most interesting and forward looking - "you have to move on", she told me!

Gulls and Angels
explored fascination with harmony and chords; Double Image with rhythm. Both were given assured accounts under the direction of Christopher Austin, who promotes contemporary music in Bristol with his Brunel Ensemble.

Aurora Orchestra
is one of the burdgeoning London based small orchestras; on this showing definitely one to watch.

Its nineteen members, many of them RAM graduates, displayed confidence and consummate skills in conductor Nicholas Collon's well designed programme.

Takemitsu's rain piece featured flute and some exotic percussion; Webern's famous Bach orchestration was sumptuous - hard to recall how freakish its fragmented Klangfarbenmelodie lines used to seem in early decades of the last century...

Adams' clarinet concerto was given an assured, indeed commanding, performance by Timothy Orpen, who had been featured by Musical Pointers not long ago. Far more impressive and enjoyable live than on recording, the orchestration featured banjo, mandolin and guitar, and samplers spiced the sound spectrum as accordion and mooing cow!

Finally a most welcome revival of the once oft-performed Secret Theatre (1984) of Birtwistle, here given with sensitive extension of the cantus/continuum into an abstract drama with movement and lighting.

Aurora Orchestra' next appearance at RAM's Duke's Hall under Nicholas Collon will be in June: see their website

Peter Grahame Woolf