Music of the Spheres available digitally on Friday 12 June

Including a commissioned composition by Max Richter, available from today, Friday 29 May              

Includes two works recorded from memory: Mozart’sSymphony and Max Richter’s Journey (CP1919)

Nicholas Collon also conducts violinist Pekka Kuusisto in his debut recording with Aurora in Thomas Adès’s “Concentric Paths” Violin Concerto

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings.

There is music in the spacing of the spheres.”

Pythagoras (c569–c490 bce)

Deutsche Grammophon is delighted to announce the release of Music of the Spheres, Aurora Orchestra’s debut album for the Yellow Label. The album is based on the ancient Greek concept 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 over two thousand years, from Antiquity to the Renaissance.

The album marks the first time Aurora has applied its trailblazing memorised-performance approach to a studio recording. At the heart of the album is a memorised performance of Mozart’s 41st and final symphony – the “Jupiter” – while Max Richter’s Journey (CP1919) was commissioned especially for this project and is inspired by the discovery of the first pulsar star, CP1919. The work uses rhythms governed by the same ratios used by ancient astronomers to describe the orbits of the planets and – inspired by Aurora’s “by heart” projects – Richter created the work to be performed by players from memory. When performing live Aurora presents the work in complete darkness before the orchestra is illuminated within a light installation that combines the curvatures of an orchestra with a beautiful 17th-century diagram of Pythagoras’s harmonic order of the cosmos. Journey (CP1919) is available for streaming and download from today May 29, before the full album is released digitally on Friday 12 June.  

Also on the album are Thomas Adès’s soaring “Concentric Paths” Violin Concerto, with soloist Pekka Kuusisto, and the first studio recording of Nico Muhly’s arrangement of the John Dowland song Time Stands Still. Featuring Iestyn Davies as soloist, the latter work was given its world premiere performance by Aurora at Kings Place in November 2018. 

The programme is completed by David Bowie’s Life on Mars, arranged by John Barber, which featured as the encore on Aurora’s Music of the Spheres UK tour in June 2019. The programme toured to Canterbury, Birmingham and London and was presented as part of The Orchestral Theatre, a series of vibrant adventures that span diverse musical genres and art forms, rethinking the concert format and offering bold new ways to engage with orchestral music.

Nicholas Collon, Principal Conductor, says: In 2014, Aurora embarked on a new journey, playing for the first time a complete symphony completely from memory; the experience for me and the players was unforgettable, enabling us to digest the music and structure on an even deeper level, and to find new levels of communication with each other and our audiences. Well over a hundred ‘memorised’ performances later, we are thrilled to have made our first such studio recording, this time of Mozart’s final symphony, the ‘Jupiter,’ – to my knowledge the first recording in which an orchestra plays from memory. I have never experienced recording sessions of such intensity and such joy, pushing ourselves to dig ever deeper into an understanding of the notes Mozart wrote on the page, yet freed from the printed music. The concept of the ‘Music of the Spheres’ has brought together four other highly contrasting works, firstly a new commission by Max Richter, who wrote another piece for us to perform from memory, ‘CP1919’ the name of the first pulsar ever discovered. I’m also delighted to feature Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto – the ideal partner for Adès’ astonishing Violin Concerto, uncovering every gleaming facet of this mercurial masterpiece. Counter-tenor Iestyn Davies performs Nico Muhly’s contemporary twist on John Dowland’s beautiful lute-song and we end than with David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’, brought to life by the brilliant Sam Swallow!’

Pekka Kuusisto says: ‘In A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking jokes about a poor astronaut getting sucked into a black hole and being stretched as well as torn to bits by gravity. Certain moments in Tom’s concerto Concentric Paths sound like what I imagine that poor astronaut would feel. Concentric Paths is an undeniable masterpiece, which I’ve had the good fortune to perform a number of times – secretly harboring a wish to record it in agile and volatile company. That wish has now come true. Thanks for the adventure, Aurora & Nick.’

Aurora have recently launched Aurora Play, a new digital series showcasing the best of Aurora’s orchestral adventures online. Broadcast online on YouTube each Sunday at 4pm, the series features highlights from Aurora’s performance archive alongside newly-created interactive content designed to engage audiences in fun and creative ways with orchestral music. The orchestra’s performance of Mozart’s Jupiter from the 2016 BBC Proms will be broadcast on Sunday 14th June, following the album release. For more information visit the Aurora website.

  • Music of the Spheres – tracklisting
  • 1. Mozart Symphony No.41 in C, K551 “Jupiter” – 1. Allegro vivace
  • 2. Mozart Symphony No.41 in C, K551 “Jupiter” – 2. Andante cantabile
  • 3. Mozart Symphony No.41 in C, K551 “Jupiter” – 3. Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio
  • 4. Mozart Symphony No.41 in C, K551 “Jupiter” – 4. Molto allegro
  • 5. Max Richter Journey (CP1919) 
  • 6. Dowland (arr. Nico Muhly) Time Stands Still
  • 7. Thomas Adès Violin Concerto, Op.24 “Concentric Paths” – 1. Rings
  • 8. Thomas Adès Violin Concerto, Op.24 “Concentric Paths” – 2. Paths
  • 9. Thomas Adès Violin Concerto, Op.24 “Concentric Paths” – 3. Rounds
  • 10. Bowie (arr. John Barber) Life on Mars
  • Pekka Kuusisto violin
  • Iestyn Davies countertenor
  • Sam Swallow piano/vocals
  • Nicholas Collon conductor
  • Aurora Orchestra 

With its signature creative ethos, Aurora Orchestra combines world-class performance with adventurous programming and presentation. Founded in 2005 under Principal Conductor Nicholas Collon, it has quickly established a reputation as one of Europe’s leading chamber orchestras, garnering several major awards including two Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards, a German ECHO Klassik Award and a Classical:NEXT Innovation Award.

Collaborating widely across art forms and musical genres, Aurora has worked with an exceptional breadth of artists, ranging from Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Dame Sarah Connolly and Pekka Kuusisto to Wayne McGregor, Edmund de Waal and Björk. A champion of new music, it has premiered works by composers including Julian Anderson, Benedict Mason, Anna Meredith, Nico Muhly and Judith Weir. In recent years, it has pioneered memorised performance (without the use of printed sheet music), and is thought to be the first orchestra worldwide to perform whole symphonies in this way.

Based in London, Aurora is Resident Orchestra at Kings Place and Associate Orchestra at Southbank Centre. Its busy UK calendar includes ongoing regional residencies at St George’s Bristol, The Apex (Bury St Edmunds) and Colyer-Fergusson Hall (Canterbury). Recent and forthcoming international highlights include appearances at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Kölner Philharmonie, Shanghai Concert Hall, Singapore’s Victoria Concert Hall and the Melbourne Festival.

By challenging expectations of what an orchestra can and should do on the concert platform, Aurora inspires audiences of all ages and backgrounds to develop a passion for orchestral music. Through an award-winning Creative Learning programme, Aurora regularly offers creative workshops and storytelling concerts for families, schools and young people (including children with special educational needs and disabilities).

Aurora Orchestra gratefully acknowledges support from Arts Council England, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Sir John Fisher Foundation as well as the Aurora Patrons and Friends. 

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