Ayres No.42 (In the Alps – an animated concert) / Brahms Symphony No.1 / Aurora Orchestra

The Aurora Orchestra are rocket fuel for the UK classical music scene.

The most exciting orchestra around – the Aurora Orchestra – is brimming with youthful vigour and drive. A reflection of their tousled conductor Nicholas Collon no doubt, whose enthusiasm, charm, and poise is underpinned by a powerful vision and enviable self-belief.

Richard Ayres comic melodrama No. 42 (In the Alps) combined silent movie visuals with chamber orchestra and voice, in an engaging piece of entertainment. Ayres’ efficient story-telling supported a pacey plot, suggesting a context for the inspiration Brahms found for the fourth movement horn solo of his first symphony. A pleasing flight-of-fancy that made for a compelling programme. Ayres deploys an inventive, rich, and resourceful compositional technique and creates a sophisticated piece of entertainment – a gateway for the wider repertory.

Aurora’s performance of Brahms 1 had a sense of urgency about it. It was brisk, taut and precise too. There might even have been grit too (though my plus one for the even thinks there are negative connotations with the word grit). Standing up and playing from memory – the band’s USP – meant that everyone had the space to express. The sound was expansive, the dynamic range breathtaking, and the resulting applause unequivocal and insistent.

It’s a treat to see so many musicians so engaged on the platform, not only with their conductor, but with one another. The players engage with the audience. We engage with them. Everyone ends up leaving the concert venue having had a riotously good time. The Aurora Orchestra conjure up something magical on stage.

Special words should be committed for some cracking programme notes: unorthodox design, playful, and utterly refreshing. Lovely work people. Lovely work.

The Aurora Orchestra are appearing at the Grange Festival from 25 June in a production of Britten’s Albert Herring conducted by Steuart Bedford.