With their appetite for musical diversity and youthful enthusiasm, the six-year-old Aurora Orchestra and their principal conductor, Nicholas Collon, have grand ambitions. With ‘When Doves Cry’ they did not disappoint, showing both their exceptional aptitude for showcasing contemporary music and a promising ability to inject freshness into seminal classical works. Matching Vaughan William’s’ Flos Camp and The Cloud-Capp’d Towers with Brett Dean’s Pastoral Symphony and Beethoven’s Sixth 'Pastoral' Symphony was a classic test of whether the orchestra’s eyes for unique programming are bigger than their audience’s stomach. Fortunately at this time of economic, and ergo programming, conservatism, they achieved engaging eclecticism without sacrificing quality.

Vaughan Williams’ sumptious choral motet The Cloud-Capp’d Towers made for a nervous start to the concert. Underpinning The Choir of London, Aurora meandered serenely through Vaughan Williams’s otherworldy tonal shifts, but the choir’s exposed entries were unconfident and the piece felt superfluous. When Collon segued straight from this piece into the Flos Campi, tentativity swelled instantly into confidence. The audience were enveloped by the luxuriant romantic motifs which Vaughan Williams so carefully weaves between orchestra and singers, the oscillating layers of melody perfectly understood by Collon and his band. Perhaps the delicate construction of Flos Campi was thrown off balance by the segue, especially as the dreaminess of the preceding piece made it feel rushed; moments of Flos Campi’s inner beauty were not allowed to settle before moving on. Nevertheless, the emotional kaleidoscope evoked in the six verses from the Old Testament Song of Songs was a triumph. Aurora added apt excitement and danger to the fourth in particular, Moderato Alla Marcia: Et lectulum Salomnis, which evokes amorous and martial prowess. The composer’s preference for sensuality over piety suited Aurora’s raw but somehow brilliant sound; the experience of watching every performer wrapped up in the extreme emotions of this unique and oft-neglected piece was riveting.

Brett Dean did not prove a memorable viola soloist, partly due to the mis-match of his sharp timbred instrument with the sensuous Flos Campi. Both Dean’s lack of commanding stage presence (perhaps due to his use of a music stand) and his harsh-sounding instrument dulled his performance considerably. The Choir of London compensated for this when their sound came fully to life in the final two movements, with well-balanced canonic entries in the upper voice-parts and huge dynamic fluctuations. The sixth movement, a simmering Moderato tranquillo, explores the tonic - dominant relationship before ending, tantalisingly, on the latter. It is a shame that Flos Campi was not programmed at the end of the evening; its peace was lost as soon as Dean’s Pastoral Symphony began.

Australian Dean’s Pastoral Symphony (2000) reflected the City of London Festival’s themes of the Antipodes and Birdsong. Dean’s busy score for orchestra and percussion aims to convey both humans’ adoration for the environment and the destructiveness of modernity. Birdsong played over speakers – an acquired taste, and not mine – whilst an array of unusual percussion decked stage left. Challenging preconceptions of what pastoral means, this percussion featured heavily, depicting artifice threatening the strings’ evocation of nature. Even the trombonists were called in to brandish hand-held percussion instruments as the cacophonic climax approached. Although lacking the structural perfection of Beethoven, Dean’s Pastoral showed his flair for writing programme music, and the piece deserves a second listen to fully appreciate its compex content.

After the interval, Beethoven’s wonderfully programmatic Sixth symphony brought us back from nature’s battle with artifice to Classical Pastoral Europe. Its majestic lyrical style, comparable with the Fifth ‘Eroica’ Symphony, was expressed with a heart-on-sleeve rusticism; the rawness and open melodies of this paean to nature were perfectly suited to Aurora’s mixture of deft lightness and force. As the unique structural coherency of the piece progressed, the orchestra coaxed enormous breadth and minute delicacy at the appropriate moment. This time Collon had the tempo just right, setting a lively but playful Allegro ma non troppo for the first movemen. As the famous clarinet ‘cuckoo’ was heard in the second movement, we were transported into pastoral idyll, but as with Flos Campi, the greatest impact was achieved at moments of emotional turmoil. An energetic approach to the great storm of the fourth movement brought wonderful rustic magnificence and, as this subsided into fifth and final, a rondo treatment of tuneful string motifs, the programme was brought to a satisfying close.

An arrangement of Londonderry Air for choir and orchestra was an unfortunately saccharine finale to such a succession of exuberant and sometimes painfully acute emotions. By this stage however, Aurora had already seduced us with their charming joie de vivre. Whether crashing towards deforestation or delighting in depictions of the countryside, they proved thoroughly engaging orchestra to watch or listen.