- I've Been High
Britain's young Aurora Orchestra seems to be following a past of thematic programs that innovatively blend classical and popular pieces in challenging ways. The idea is a good one, and it worked especially well on their Road Trip album, evoking American landscapes and ideas with works by Copland, Ives, Adams, and Paul Simon, among others. The orchestra and conductor Nicholas Collon try to replicate that program structure on Insomnia, which sure enough delivers pieces closely or more distantly related to the concept of sleep (if not insomnia). Although there's no denying the tightness of the ensemble, it doesn't work as well this time around. Benjamin Britten's chamber song cycle "Nocturne, Op. 60," must have seemed a logical choice, but it tends to overwhelm the rest of the program, and the other larger work, the "Pastoral Symphony" by Australian composer Brett Dean, whose subject matter is birds and their disappearance, does not play off against it effectively. Tenor soloist Allan Clayton is fine in the Britten, in which the larger ensemble breaks down into smaller accompanying groups in settings of poems by Shakespeare and a group of Romantic English poets. And there are some nice surprises on the popular side, including the whistled interlude on The Beatles' "Blackbird." But you might try Road Trip if you're looking to sample just one release by this group.