Aurora Orchestra presents Beethoven plugged and unplugged at Printworks and Southbank Centre


Printworks London © Jake Davis 

  • Immersive performances of Beethoven’s fifth symphony from memory at pioneering music venue Printworks, co-curated by multi-disciplinary artist Nwando Ebizie on Thursday 23 March
  • Contrasting presentation at Southbank Centre on Saturday 25 March, pairing the Beethoven symphony with a new work from Héloïse Werner dedicated to the memory of her friend Mira Calix

This March, Aurora Orchestra will illuminate one of classical music’s most recognisable works – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 – presenting it in two radically contrasting ways, conceived for two of London’s best known venues – Printworks London and the Southbank Centre. Each event features a new music commission from one of the UK’s most exciting young composers. Following its sold-out Printworks debut in 2021, Aurora will return to the venue on Thursday 23 March 2023 for two immersive site-specific performances from memory (6pm & 9pm). In partnership with iconic electronic music venue Printworks and Southbank Centre, the shows are co-curated by multi-disciplinary artist Nwando Ebizie, who has created new music to frame the movements of the symphony. Watch a trailer for Inside Beethoven: Printworks London here.

In 2014 Aurora became the first orchestra in history to present an entire symphony from memory. Since then, it has continued to embrace this intensely communicative style of musical performance. Inside Beethoven at Printworks continues the development of the orchestra’s memorised performance strand, once again harnessing the vast scale of the Printworks Press Hall and cutting-edge technology from d&b audiotechnik to offer a uniquely immersive experience of Beethoven’s mighty work for audiences of up to 1600 at each performance. With the orchestra ‘exploded’ across the space, listeners will be able to experience the music from inside, getting up close to instrumentalists as they perform in ways that would be impossible in a concert hall. Also exploded in time, movements of the symphony will be interspersed with sound and light installations, enabling audience members to uncover the secrets of the building and choose their own path through this great work. For experienced concertgoers and classical newcomers alike, this event will offer a completely fresh and revelatory take on Beethoven’s music. The events feature the d&b Soundscape, a ‘virtual acoustic shell’ provided by Southby Productions.      In d&b’s most cutting-edge technology, the system allows the orchestra to perform across a much larger space than would ordinarily be possible, whilst accurately retaining the naturally immersive sound, making for a harmonious, enveloping and emotionally engaging listening experience. Later the same week, Aurora will present Beethoven 5 again, this time at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. The programme also includes Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 in G major with stellar Polish-Canadian soloist Jan Lisiecki, and a new piece from one of the most exciting voices in 21st-century music ­- Héloïse Werner – which harnesses the potential of an orchestra performing from memory to use instrumentalists in unexpected ways. Dedicated to Héloïse’s friend and musical colleague, composer Mira Calix, who died last year, the piece is the first work Aurora has commissioned especially for its players to perform from memory. Mira Calix was much-admired in contemporary music circles for her electronic-based music, which incorporated classical instruments. Aurora’s work with Mira included a new joint commission with Anna Meredith for Aldeburgh Music for string quartet, electronics and MRI machine. Héloïse’s new work for mira will be her first for large instrumental forces, and will involve players using not just their instruments but also their voices, both speaking and singing. As a French native living in the UK, Héloïse’s premiere also explores the relationship between language, memory and performance, presented in a typically theatrical way by Aurora.

Nicholas Collon, Principal Conductor of Aurora Orchestra, says: ‘The legend goes that at the 1808 premiere in Vienna of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, Napoleonic army veterans rose to their feet on hearing the triumphant march at the beginning of the Finale, and shouted ‘Vive L’Empereur.’ We also relish playing this piece on our feet, without the barrier of music stands between the players; allowing us to revel in the physicality of this most dynamic of symphonies.In that same concert in 1808, Beethoven gave the premiere of hist 4th piano concerto, and we echo that pairing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with the pianist Jan Lisiecki. The symphony will be preceded by a new work to be memorised by the orchestra ‘For Mira’ by the brilliant composer Héloïse Werner. We shall also present Beethoven’s 5th symphony in a different setting at the Printworks. I have never experienced an atmosphere in an orchestral concert like our first immersive performance at the Printworks back in 2021. One of the major reasons I fell in love with orchestral music was the hair-raising experience of sitting physically inside one as a young teenager, and so it is particularly thrilling to be able to give thousands of people that same opportunity. Thanks to the pioneering soundscape technology, the audience can stand right inside the orchestra, close-up to the players, seeing how the extraordinary musical ecosystem of the symphony orchestra functions.

Nwando Ebizie says: ‘I have such a strong connection with Beethoven 5. I danced it in my bedroom as a child, feeling turned over and over by it. I imagined vistas and scenes, epic skies and a hero’s journey. My piece Amor Fati – inspired by my lens via Nietzche via Jung through which I saw the symphony – will be grounded in my practice of Afro-Fabulation, multisensory ritual practice, and access as innovative creativity. I’m excited about framing Beethoven’s music in a completely new way. By creating a multisensory, ritual experience, I hope to invite in disabled, d/Deaf and neurodivergent audiences who can access the work through different senses.

Héloïse Werner says: ‘My piece ‘for mira’ is written in memory of my friend, the artist Mira Calix, who passed away in March 2022. I wanted to write something meditative, open but full of life which would allow space for beautiful memories of people that we have lost, both in the performers’ and audiences’ minds. As well as playing their instruments, players are invited to speak text and, by the end of the piece, they will all be singing too. It was a privilege to write a new work for these incredibly talented musicians and I am so looking forward to hearing it come to life in March.

Inside Beethoven: Printworks London takes place on Thursday 23 March at 6pm & 9pm with tickets costing £29.50. For more information and to book tickets visit Inside Beethoven at Printworks – Aurora OrchestraAurora with Jan Lisiecki takes place on Saturday 25 March, 4pm with tickets costing £15-£65.For more information and to book tickets visit Aurora with Jan Lisiecki.