After a summer of success at the Proms the Aurora Orchestra were back in Bristol to do business. The ensemble opened with Mahler’s incomplete Piano Quartet. From its slow, mournful beginning the music flitted between the delightful and the macabre: the quartet paying close attention to the exquisite details of the performance. They managed some of the mood changes less well – here the ferocity of the music was lost to slips of technique. The performance owed the most to violinist Maia Cabeza, who breathed life into the chromatic harmonies.
In comparison, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 11 was something of a letdown. The ensemble had style, charm and confidence; the momentary pauses between phrases lifting the music from the mediocre. The same could not be said for the soloist, who, although technically brilliant, produced a robotic performance. Reid lacked the sense of lighthearted fun: his dynamics were flat; his spacing less than captivating. It was a shame that the orchestra didn’t have more to do, as their accompaniment was rich, warm and full of life.
The night’s main event was Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Andrew Staples’ powerful voice effortlessly rode the waves of music in his tumultuous opening song. The tenor’s height, however, came in Der Trunkene im Frühling; Staples was brimming with energy, letting the orchestra wander through the drunkenness of the music while he produced a captivating performance that filled the audience with laughter.
Connolly’s performance of Der Einsame im Herbst was enrapturing. The music, written in one of Mahler’s darkest periods of life, wrapped the audience in a blanket of muffling sorrow. In contrast, the lighthearted Von der Schönheit captured the playfulness of youth, Connolly’s animated performance driving the manic pace of the music.
The entire song cycle was a build up to the final piece: Der Abschied – the Farewell. Mahler’s music was masterful – enrapturing and hypnotizing at every turn: but it was Connolly who breathed fire into the desperate loneliness of the text. Flautist Jane Mitchell was breathtaking in her entwining melodic lines, complementing the mezzo-soprano’s rich voice: Connolly’s outstanding technique was a sideline to the gloriousness of the performance.
It was an evening where the technicalities of music-making were left behind and something extraordinary emerged. The concert was a testament to the emotional power of music to bring you to your feet in joy – Aurora have far to go.