wed 01/02/2023

Cooper, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place review - a heartwarming delight | reviews, news & interviews

Cooper, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place review - a heartwarming delight

Cooper, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place review - a heartwarming delight

Chamber version of Mozart concerto reveals unexpected pleasures

Imogen Cooper with Aurora Orchestra at Kings PlaceAll images by Nick Rutter

Rarely have I seen so many smiles on stage as at Kings Place on Saturday. The combination of the delight of the performers being back in their natural environment with the genial and generous-spirited music they were playing brought out the best in everyone.

From Mozart to Schubert via the up-and-coming Perivolaris this programme offered a bit of everything and I walked away with a smile on my face too.

Aurora Orchestra’s five year long project to programme all the Mozart piano concertos was to have reached its final stages with the final three concertos, big boned and magisterial. These have had to be re-programmed in chamber arrangements which make up in wit and charm for what they lose in grandeur. Aurora is only a chamber orchestra anyway, and the stage of Kings Place Hall One not large enough to accommodate many players at the best of times, so the stripping back to piano plus five strings for Mozarts's 25th didn’t feel like a concession. It also allowed Imogen Cooper to play with restraint and the collegiality of chamber music rather than the combative competition of a concerto soloist. She was like a benign headmistress, leading the way authoritatively but allowing her charges freedom to roam. She was by turns weighty and intimate, graceful and assertive, droll and sincere. Kings Place for Aurora concertThe arrangement by the 19th century German composer Ignaz Lachner is terrific and one I want to hear again. The most striking element, as throughout the evening, was the impact adding a double bass has to the familiar sound of the string quartet. I loved the sound of bassist Ben Griffiths, sometimes in unison with the cello but often not, adding a quirky and characterful bottom end, beautifully weighted for the hall. The finale was taken at quite a lick, but the virtuosity apparent in the unison octaves, and in the passages of complex counterpoint, was lightly worn.

Between the two giants of the classical tradition was a new piece by the young Scottish composer Electra Perivolaris. Commissioned for this concert and written during lockdown, it reflected on “the separation between humans… due to the pandemic”. Monody for the World of the Two Skylarks was not really a monody but a complex and substantial work of 12 minutes in which the instruments paired up to recreate the motion of birds in flight. It was very assured both in its imagining of string textures – lots of tremolo and a delightful pitchless “breathing” effect on the bass – and its rhythmic flexibility and spontaneity. Imogen CooperThe finale was back to the tried and tested: Schubert’s "Trout" Quintet. This is the most good-natured of pieces and its 45 minutes raced by. The performance captured Schubert’s whimsical changes of direction, the conversational quality, violist Ruth Gibson bringing out the endlessly inventive inner parts. The fourth movement – the variations on Schubert's own song “Die Forelle” that gives the piece its name – was utterly wonderful. It is a primer in theme and variations composition, with everyone having their moment in the spotlight. The piano alternated between leader and accompanist, Cooper (pictured above) happy in both roles, and cellist Sébastien van Kuijk revelled in his songlike variation. But above all Ben Griffiths’ moment on the tune was a delight that encapsulated this heartwarming concert.

Imogen Cooper was like a benign headmistress, leading the way authoritatively but allowing her charges freedom to roam


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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Thanks, but you didn't say which Mozart concerto.

Many apologies! It was no.25 - I have now amended the text. Thanks for flagging!

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