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.
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:
Robert Clark & Susan Costello
John & Ann Compton
Sir Mark Elder
Jane Manning & Anthony Payne
Christoph & Marion Trestler
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