Braving the Stave

Aurora Orchestra Podcast with Jonathan James

April 22, 2020 Jonathan James Season 1 Episode 2
Braving the Stave
Aurora Orchestra Podcast with Jonathan James
Chapters
Braving the Stave
Aurora Orchestra Podcast with Jonathan James
Apr 22, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
Jonathan James

Jonathan James talks about Beethoven's mighty 'Eroica' symphony, and in particular the challenges the Aurora Orchestra must have faced when they memorised the work's finale, where every instrument has an important voice. This is related to the concert that would have taken place at St David's Hall, Cardiff on the 18th May 2020 with the Aurora Orchestra.

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Show Notes Transcript

Jonathan James talks about Beethoven's mighty 'Eroica' symphony, and in particular the challenges the Aurora Orchestra must have faced when they memorised the work's finale, where every instrument has an important voice. This is related to the concert that would have taken place at St David's Hall, Cardiff on the 18th May 2020 with the Aurora Orchestra.

Support the show (https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/11010#!/DonationDetails#%2FDonationDetails)

Jonathan James:   0:00
The cannon shot chords there that open Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. And what better way to launch this the first in a series of podcasts to keep you connected to the world of ST David's Hall? My name is Jonathan James, and I'm a regular pre concert speaker for the hall, and I thought would share some insights on the Eroica Symphony that would have been performed by the Aurora Orchestra under their conductor, Nicholas Collon.. I was particularly looking forward to this concert, I have to say, not just because off the Aurora Orchestra and how they do things differently and in such an exciting new way, but also because Nikky Benedetti was going to be there as well, playing Mendelsohn's Violin Concerto. But you'll be pleased that their voices aren't entirely absence from the Arts Active website. I was able to have a chat with the conductor Nick Collon and that interview is posted here on the website and Nicky Benedetti sent in a lovely little video of her, explaining her thoughts on Mendelssohn's concerto. So please do check those out on the Arts Active site. In the interview with Nicola, we talked in particular about how the orchestra for the past five or six years have been memorising works in their entirety and about how we, as the audience, are part of this tightrope act - Willing the orchestra on to the final bars, hoping that they will arrives safely home without having dropped a single note. Why though, of all the symphony's choose the Eroica symphony as your next project. I mean, it's a massive, massive work, and it's so dense and contrapuntal, with all these independent lines being woven together. Nick was quite relaxed about it. In the interview, he said, You know, other artists like actors, opera singers have to learn the lines. So why shouldn't classical musicians do the same? But this is the equivalent of an actor having to memorise an entire Shakespearean monologue that goes on for almost an hour and just give you a bit of an insight into what the musicians were undertaking with this particular Memorisation feet. I thought we could look at the finale to the work. This is where Beethoven apparently began his whole concept for the symphony, and it starts with this crash as if somebody's burst through the doors and is carrying urgent news from the front line, and then a complete, comical contrast, a piece of bathos as plucked in the strings, you have the barest of lines. It's the equivalent of somebody tiptoeing around the stage. This, combined with brute rhythms that power first loud and  then soft just gives you a sense that this is just a tracing of what is to come. A series of suggestions that will be fulfilled as the work unfolds. Beethoven here is embodying the heroism of the symphony's title. He is the hero creator. He is taking just a pencil sketch of a house, and unfolding, massive architectural plans for a grand mansion. I mean, just imagine what it must be like to memorise something like this. It's like a massive crowd scene where everybody has their own very detailed choreography and every angle and every word has to be absolutely correct and spot on. It's not as if he just gives us one burst fugue either the whole movement is filled with such passages as if that wasn't hard enough later on he plays tricks on us by having ideas that are  flipped upside down or entries that come in against the beat so that the lines almost lurch into each other at times overlapping each other, Complete each other sentences or argue. Here we are hearing everybody having a voice, right? And it just makes me think that this symphony has been Inspired by the French Revolution of 1789 is this then the musical representation of democracy. When you listen to this, you're certainly aware of hearing detail in every instrument of the orchestra. And you get the sense that without that detail, without everybody having a say, it wouldn't be quite the same. And so if you're memorising the work as the Aurora orchestra were you really can't afford to either drop or fluff a line. It all matters. Just as The French Revolution was about an epic struggle and finding a new world order. So this symphony has been about the same not least in this final movement and the new order that Beethoven is striving for is filled with hope and triumph. I'm gonna let the horns lead us into the final ecstatic shouts of Joy now and you can imagine can't you that had you memorised the entire work,  What an amazing relief and ecstasy you must be feeling right now as you approach the finishing bars. So I hope this has you rushing off to listen to the whole work if not for the first time, then again to re explore it, in all iths depths. There is so much here to be found. Do join me for my next podcast where I'll be looking at the programme that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra would have played, and until then, happy listening!