Melbourne Digital Concert Hall is the timely creation of Adele Schonhardt and Chris Howlett. This busy and varied online space has already done so much to preserve some of the performance momentum and income stream of so many Australian musicians during this time of live venue closure.

Last Friday, July 10, six local string musicians from the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, namely Rachael Beesley and Anna McMichael (violin), Simon Oswell and Katie Yap (viola), Natasha Kraemer (cello) and Emma Sullivan (double bass) took the Athenaeum Theatre stage to be filmed and streamed for a wide audience. This programme was very nicely described in programme notes by Charles MacInnes, made available before and during the streaming.

Above: This streaming event was introduced by Chris Howlett, co-director with Adele Schonhardt of the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall.

We were once more inspired, educated and enlightened during this online event by ARCO’s typically dynamic programme juxtapositions. Innovative works from the teenage Mozart and Mendelssohn sat comfortably beside the oft overlooked Mannheim composer Franz Xaver Richter as well as Romantic period expression from late in Beethoven’s life and chamber music from opera great Rossini.

These comfortable contrasts were brought freshly to life through the musicians’ elevated, careful attention to detail and the satisfying power of their intimate conversation. It was this concert’s thread of lyricism spanning the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as indicated by its title, Cavatina, which was an endearing and exciting highlight of this programme’s architecture.

The inclusion of the ‘cavatina’ Adagio molto espressivo movement from Beethoven’s sprawling String Quartet No 13 Opus 130 formed a beautifully calm pivot at the centre of this event’s musical action, as it always does in the flow of Beethoven’s quartet work. Here, the expansion to six instruments delivered us very lush gestures indeed.

A welcome return of ARCO’s exemplary crisp balance made for an arresting opening to the concert. This sextet’s delivery of Mozart’s Divertimento in F major K138. This work’s outer movements sparkled with Italianate buoyancy and the central Andante was drenched in classical period cantabile poise.

Above : The music of Franz Xaver Richter was brought to us during this       event.

Following the Mozart came this programme’s customary gift to audiences from ARCO of a lesser heard but wonderful work. Franz Xavier Richter’s Sinfonia à Quattro in B flat major stepped us back in time from Mozart’s work but not in interest or successful performance. The uniqueness of approach by Richter and his clever level of writing, as introduced well by Rachael Beesley, led to an amazing musical discovery for us.

Following the central Cavatina, more joyful singing and development of character-filled chamber music ingredients ensued. This was through a spirited reading by the group of Rossini’s charming, chameleon-like and well-humoured String Sonata No 1 in G major.

Above: Violinist and Co-Director with Nicole Van Bruggen of Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, Rachael Beesley. 

This performance was stripped back to an erudite examination of its well-sculptured fragments for the original quartet scoring of violins, cello and double bass. This event’s feature on lyrical elements appeared with searching depth in the middle movement. The tossing of material between soloists in the final movement a delightful conversational moment.

This successful streaming concluded with more prodigious emotion and mature vistas in the thirteen-year-old Mendelssohn’s prodigious Sinfonia No 10 in B minor, reflecting the youthful promise of the opening Mozart work.

Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra’s musicians showed in this and all works their expertise at crossing two centuries with their HIP approach to string and ensemble playing. It was a nice reminder of their routinely commanding live concert presence. The string players sang with warmth and clean joy to us via a well-planned programme well-supported online concert, exquisitely executed, maintaining warmth at a distance.

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