Written by Oliver 8H1

On Wednesday 8 May, the Music department travelled to London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre for a unique and remarkable performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 – the Eroica – performed from memory by the Aurora Orchestra.  

In the first half, we were treated to an illuminating and amusing breakdown of Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony by BBC Radio 3’s Tom Service and Principal Conductor Nicholas Collon. They explained the compositional motifs and devices with excerpts from cleverly choreographed and constantly shifting groups of musicians or individual players. The audience likewise became part of the musical act and were divided in two sections and encouraged to sing the simple melody underpinning the opening Allegro of the Eroica and clap its alternating rhythms. ‘Think hot cross buns with a snappy ending!’.  

Then came an enlightening analysis of the Symphony’s sombre second movement Marche funebre, matched with Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen (1945): a composition written almost at the end of his life as he returned to the bombed ruins of Munich and forced to confront the destruction of his city, homeland and 2000 years of German culture. The performance was enormously moving, particularly as the musicians were performing “by heart” and really brought their emotions to this heartfelt performance.  

After a short interval, the orchestra performed Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 Eroica entirely from memory (although we spotted a few clarinet players looking at mini scores midway through the symphony and the timpani player tuning his instrument!). Nonetheless, it was extremely impressive, inspiring and enjoyable! The audience were also treated to an encore, with the players coming into the crowd and playing the dramatic coda again, which was such an incredible experience – though we imagine less so for the people close to the loud trumpet players!  

The bold new ways to engage with orchestral music, enriching our love and interest in the music of the classical world made it a thoroughly successful and enjoyable evening for everyone there.