The Aurora Orchestra: Insomnia CD review – a bit of a ragbag

Clayton/Aurora O/Collon
(Warner Classics)

Allan Clayton
Into the night … tenor Allan Clayton joins the Aurora Orchestra for Britten’s Nocturne
Into the night … tenor Allan Clayton joins the Aurora Orchestra for Britten’s Nocturne
Andrew Clements

Last modified on Mon 3 Dec 2018 10.34 EST

The Aurora Orchestra and conductor Nicholas Collon made their debut on Warner Classics at the beginning of the year with Road Trips, a musical tour around the mythical landscapes of the US, centred on John Adams’ Chamber Symphony and Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Night and sleep – or perhaps, as the title suggests, the lack of it – are the subject of the follow-up, which doesn’t hang together anything like as convincingly. This time the twin focuses are Britten’s Nocturne, with Allan Clayton as the tenor soloist, and the Pastoral Symphony by Brett Dean, which is both a celebration of the birds of his native Australia and a lament for the destruction of the landscapes they inhabit. Around them are three song arrangements – of Ivor Gurney’s Sleep; Lennon and McCartney’s Blackbird; and REM’s I’ve Been High – as well as Thomas Adès’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses, which turns Couperin into something close to Percy Grainger’s Handel in the Strand. There’s Ligeti’s 100-metronome piece Poème Symphonique, too, and it’s all a bit of a ragbag. Despite the sheer beauty of his sound, Clayton is not totally convincing in either the Britten or the crossover numbers.

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