Objects at an Exhibition

Objects at an Exhibition

NMC Recordings
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Re-imagining Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition for the twenty-first century, these six new works, commissioned by NMC Recordings, are inspired by an object or space in London's world-renowned Science Museum.

Each composer had free rein to pick an exhibit. Thea Musgrave was attracted to the impressive Energy Hall with its C18th-C19th steam engines; the result is a playful work for woodwind, brass and strings that conveys the inner workings of the vast machines. Christopher Mayo's piece for cello, double bass and four samplers is inspired by a slate statue of R.J. Mitchell (the designer of the Spitfire) in the Flight Gallery. Samples of aeroplane engines grow from distant drone to cachophonous noise. The enormous but 'melancholic' quality of 2LO (the first BBC transmitter) was what first caught Claudia Molitor's eye, and after doing some research she discovered that initially the transmission of music was prohibited and only speech was deemed acceptable. She uses BBC Sound Archive recordings from 2LO broadcasts in her piece. David Sawer's work, with percussion-like strings, woodwind and flugel horn, conjures up vivid images of the 1830 York Mail Coach (displayed in the 'Making the Modern World' gallery) speeding through the streets. Gerald Barry chose an artificial arm with fingers stretched to play only octaves as inspiration – the prosthetic limb belonged to an unidentified female pianist and Barry's haunting, hypnotic composition continually repeats a two-note phrase which gradually evolves into octaves. The graphic score hand-drawn and partially coloured by Barry Guy is a work of art in itself. Charles Babbage's Difference Engine and his drawings influenced Guy's piece which unsurprisingly, for a composer/bassist who has worked in free improv groups with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, calls for spontaneity and improvisation from the 13 musicians of the Aurora Orchestra.  

Aurora Orchestra
Nicholas Collon conductor



'The Aurora Orchestra respond with keen virtuosity to Nicholas Collon's alert direction. Vividly recorded, with booklet-notes providing ample context, it is more than just a memento of the live presentation at the Science Museum this October, which promises to be a watershed in the evolution of site-specific performance' Gramophone

'The most headline-grabbing of a series of recent announcements by NMC [that] aims to increase the audience for contemporary music ... this is an imaginative step on that worthwhile mission' Gramophone

"Fascinating ideas ... Intriguing contrast between the composers ... Exhilarating performances from Aurora Orchestra" BBC Radio 3 (CD Review)

‘Largely ignoring the brief, Thea Musgrave responded to an entire room, the museum’s Energy Hall, rather than an object in her Power Play, a quasi-chamber concerto for orchestra, with breezy contrapuntal lines and warm timbres’ – Neil Fisher, The Times

‘David Sawer also found some rhythmic energy in Coachman Chronos, inspired by the York-London Mail Coach, with lively parts for French horn and cornet.’ – Neil Fisher, The Times

'At times it felt a bit like attending a concert organised by the Clangers, but the packing never intruded on the music, and the performances were typically excellent’ – Andrew Clement, The Guardian

'the enthusiasm each composer had for the project actually jumps off the page when described by them...the pieces are marvelous and varied.' American Record Guide


Thank you very much to the individuals who donated to Objects at an Exhibition through the 2014 Big Give Christmas Challenge. With our pledge from The Boltini Trust, Big Give matching and Gift Aid we raised over £13,000 towards the project:

Aldeburgh Music                                             
Sue Anderson  
Martin Bainbridge                                           
Chris Banks                                        
Matthew Barley                                              
Michael Berkeley                                            
Mark Bowden                                  
Andrew Burn                                    
Diana Burrell                                     
John Casken                                      
Robin Chapman                                               
Robert Clark & Susan Costello
John & Ann Compton                                    
Andrew Davis                                    
Dennis  Davis                                    
Nicholas Deakin                                               
Sir Mark Elder                                   
Graham Elliott                                  
Ben Foskett                                       
Rosemary Gent                                               
Anthony Gilbert                                              
Elaine Gould                                      
Jane Grime                                        
Matthew Harris                                               
Alan Hedges                                      
George Hooper                                               
Emily Howard                                   
Helen Hughes                                   
Kjeld Jensen                                     
Stephen Johns                                 
Allan Jones                                        
Matthew Kaner                                               
Ghislaine Kenyon                                            
Roxanna Macklow-Smith
Stephen Maddock                                          
Jane Manning & Anthony Payne
Sally Marks                                        
Colin Matthews                                               
Belinda Matthews                                          
Ed McKeon                                        
Anna Meredith                                
Gordon Mowat                                
Dominic Nudd                                  
Brian O'Sullivan                                
Noel Periton                                     
Julian Rushton                                  
Anne Rushton                                  
Alan Sainer                                        
Keith Salway                                     
Martin Sawer                                    
Richard Shoylekov                                          
Howard Skempton                                         
David Smith                                       
Edward Smith                                   
Martin Staniforth                                            
John Summerscales                                       
Heather Thomas                                             
Christoph & Marion Trestler                                       
Hannah Vlcek                                   
Anthony Whitworth-Jones                                         
Roderick Williams                                            
Eleanor Wilson                                 
James Wood 


All works were recorded at All Saints Church, Tooting, London on 10-14 May 2015

Recording Engineer & Producer: DAVID LEFEBER
Executive Producer for NMC: COLIN MATTHEW     

The six works on this album were premiered at the Science Museum, London, 3 October 2015.

(P) 2015 NMC Recordings Ltd
© 2015 NMC Recordings Ltd

Catalogue number: NMC D215
Release Date: 18 September 2015