Conductor Nicholas Collon to bring his Aurora Orchestra back to Cambridge
Founder and principal conductor of the Aurora Orchestra – which will be playing as part of the Cambridge Independent-supported Cambridge Summer Music Festival later this month – Nicholas Collon is also chief conductor and artistic adviser at the Residentie Orkest in The Hague – a post he will take up in 2018 – and principal guest conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.
London-born Nicholas is a regular guest with orchestras such as the Philharmonia, the BBC Philharmonic, the Danish Radio Symphony and Capitole de Toulouse, and in 2016-17 he debuted with DSO (Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester) Berlin and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The gifted musician, a former Clare College student, has collaborated with artists such as Ian Bostridge, Angelika Kirchschlager, Vilde Frang, Pekka Kuusisto, Francesco Piemontesi, Steven Isserlis and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, and his Aurora Orchestra has an enviable reputation in the UK and increasingly abroad, recognised for its creative programming and unique concert presentation.
The orchestra has appeared at the BBC Proms every year since 2010, including performances of Mozart’s 40th symphony and Beethoven’s 6th, in which the entire orchestra played from memory.
Aurora has received many positive comments from the press, including Richard Morrison of The Times, who stated: “Aurora is the most bracing breath of fresh air to invigorate the British classical music scene in the past 10 years.”
Attempting to explain this level of praise, Nicholas said modestly: “Well, we started in 2005, and I think what we’ve tried to do is open up the world of chamber orchestral music to quite a diverse audience – we’ve tried to make it as accessible and wonderful as possible.
“We’re very enthusiastic about the power of music – and orchestral music in particular – and what it can achieve for people. We’ve done that, I suppose, through the concert experience and collaborating with different art forms to give people another way into music.”
The programme for Aurora’s performance at the West Road Concert Hall on Friday, July 21 will open with Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen, before what is believed to be the first memorised performance of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony – without music stands or chairs and with the musicians moving around.
“It’s quite an unusual thing,” noted Nicholas. “No one will have ever seen that done before because people don’t memorise symphonies. So that’s something we love doing.
“We’re the only orchestra that does it, as far as I know. There may be a couple that are now looking at it, but basically it’s never done.”
Nicholas is a trained violist, pianist and organist, and studied as an organ scholar at Clare College 12 years ago. Does he enjoy coming back to Cambridge?
“It’s amazing,” he replied. “I had three wonderful years there, and I already knew Cambridge very well because my grandmother used to live in Linton.
“Clare was amazing, so it’s always lovely coming back. Lots of the orchestra were at Cambridge because it was founded by four people from the city.”
Nicholas added: “The orchestra itself is my first baby, as it were. It’s something I’ve built up over these past 12 years, so the people in the orchestra I would treat as friends and colleagues in a very intimate way – more so perhaps than when I go and conduct other orchestras.
“We have a wonderful relationship and a very inspiring time together.”
The Aurora Orchestra will perform on Friday, July 21 at 7.30pm at West Road Concert Hall as part of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival 2017. Tickets: £17-£35.50; students £12, unwaged £7. Box office: 01223 357851 or cambridgesummermusic.co.uk