London's Aurora Orchestra Performs The Rite of Spring from Memory
Led by Nicholas Collon, the ensemble has been performing full symphonies from memory since 2014
The London-based Aurora Orchestra has spent the last decade pioneering the practice of performing large-scale orchestral works from memory. Beginning with a performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 at the BBC Proms in 2014, the orchestra has steadily made the approach a central part of its identity.
Most recently, the group took on the formidable task of committing Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps to memory — and then they performed the work in another Proms appearance, led by their founding Principal Conductor Nicholas Collon.
The group sees memorization as slotting perfectly into a wider ethos of what they call "Orchestral Theater" — an approach that aims to rethink the concert format and open up new ways for audiences to engage with this repertoire.
When the orchestra first started performing from memory, Collon says that people used to joke "What next from memory? The Rite of Spring?"
Now, the ensemble has done just that — and has opened a pathway for other orchestras to follow suit.
"Memorizing deepens and enriches our relationship with the music in every way, and takes communication to a new level," Collon said. "Whilst it feels naked on stage without a stand and music to hide behind, it intensifies the levels of trust between players."
"My hope and belief is that it also communicates in a new way with the audience: not so much that it should feel surprising or dangerous to watch, but more that we are all – players and audience alike – unshackled from the physical and metaphorical confines of the printed notes."
"I cannot exaggerate the joy I feel at sharing these experiences with my colleagues," said Jamie Campbell, Principal Second Violin. "To be able to look up, make eye contact and know that every person on that stage knows every single note of the piece inside out makes for an incredibly intense experience of the music."
You can view an extract of the orchestra performing the work from memory below.