This very exciting concert blended world premieres and nineteenth century Romanticism in a program of six relatively short works.
The program featured performances by three soloists – violinists Satu Vanska and Glenn Christensen and cellist Timo-Veikko Valve.
Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Andante (for her 1931 String Quartet) opened the concert. It began slowly almost eerily with sharp, spiky, dissonant, shimmering strings. The piece was intense and atmospheric and filled with moments of calm and jarring disharmony. The ACO’s renowned precision for detail was on show in terms of phrasing, articulation and the ability to keep body movement to a minimum.
Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor for two violins and cello with a glittering, crisp and precise performance displayed the ACO’s ability to be vigorous and exact, particularly in the opening movement. After a soft, rather tentative and slow start, the piece turned into something quite tempestuous, though one section sounded like delicate raindrops.
James Ledger’s piece The Natural Order of Things – a world premiere- was intense and anguished at times. The piece was commissioned by David and Sandy Libling for the ACO in memory of their father Simon, who was born in Poland and survived the horrors of the Second World War, including spending time in Plaszow Concentration Camp.
The five-sectioned work describes the character and mood of the various stages of Simon’s life, a life of ordeal and trial. Through rhythms tempi and dynamics James conjures a broad range of various emotions going from calmness to upheaval and bleak iciness.
Pitch pipes are used to contrast against the sound of strings with poised, reflective opening and closing sections . It had a bit of a 20th Century European atmosphere, inspired by the Second Viennese School.
Locatelli’s Violin Concerto in D major was given a blindingly, spectacular performance. Satu Vanska’s playing of this fiendishly difficult, almost impossible work was incredible.
The piece is nicknamed The Harmonic Labyrinth and is in three movements. The first was brisk and lively with circular rhythms. Vanska had a blistering passionate bravura solo that was jaw dropping. The second movement was rather melancholic, the violin singing achingly, the cello and orchestra accompanying.
In the third movement there was a change of tone- it was more boisterous and emphatic with again circular rhythms and a virtuoso display of spiky cascading violin pyrotechnics by Vanska.
Debussy’s Cello Sonata, eloquently arranged for cello and orchestra by Jack Symonds, was given a soulful, moving performance by Timo-Veikko Valve on his recently acquired Amati cello.
The Sonata had a lush, exotic opening with the cello singing and leading the discussion. At times, the work had an almost jazz sound to it with astringent spiky and emphatic strings. This was then contrasted with a floating, shimmering sound in other segments.
Valve hugged his cello, caressing it and appeared totally immersed in the music, playing with great warmth clarity and resonance while bringing out the subtle and concise energy of Debussy’s work.
Last came an arrangement of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13, played in four movements.
The pulsating first movement was tumultuous and passionate with circular ebbs and flows .The second was elegant and stately, somewhat reflective, with overlapping layers of the voices of the various sections of the orchestra.
In another of the movements you could hear similarities to Mendelssohn’s’ fairy music from his A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the piece scurrying and darting,
The final movement was tempestuous and emphatic, at times whirling and furious but with returns to a more considered atmosphere which then led to a breathless finale.
Running time was just over 2 hours including one interval.
The ACO Soloists concert played at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place on various dates between the 5th and the 19th May as part of a national tour.