Australian Chamber Orchestra : Ilya Gringolts Plays Paganini


The ACO under guest director and soloist Ilya Gringolts was in fine , inspired form giving a rich and varied performance . There was intense joyous rapport between Gringolts and the Orchestra , and the Orchestra obviously enjoyed performing . Gringolts made his name 20 years ago as the youngest ever winner of the Premio Paganini Prize and has dazzled and delighted orchestras and audiences ever since with his astonishing virtuoso playing. For this program he was not only featured soloist but guest director as well.

For the first half of the concert bearded and darkly handsome Gringolts wore a white shirt with what looked to be a colourful Aboriginal design in panels down the front. For the second half he was in traditional concert black.
First we heard CPE Bach’s String Symphony in C major , full of precise elegance, drama and contrasting complicated dynamics.The first movement had a very busy, swirling opening and was full or repeated circular rhythms .
The second movement was a soft piercingly exquisite lament, Gringolts on violin leading like a lyrical tenor , the Orchestra accompanying. The elegant third movement was full of interwoven convoluted scurrying and rich fluidly floating segments, tumbling towards the conclusion.

The main bulk of the extraordinary first half was the astonishing bravura performance by Gringolts in the fiendishly difficult showpiece by Paganini (arr. Bernard Rofe) his Violin Concerto No.1 in E-flat major here heard in its original key of E flat and transcribed for the orchestra’s all-string format by Bernard Rofe . It featured infectious Gypsy like melodies , a lilting waltz like section , a surging Romantic like part and some almost opera like melodies.But the highlight was Gringolt’s more than dazzling stellar performance .He dealt with the technical demands precisely and with complete assurance, almost nonchalantly yet unobtrusively .His performance was full of bravura combined with lyrical , trembling passion that had the audience in raptures.

There was thunderous applause and a cheering standing ovation To satisfy audience enthusiasm Gringolts performed a captivating passionate and lyrical encore – the first movement from Suite Impressions d’enfance pour violin et piano by Enescu

After interval, Gringolts became an ensemble member for the Vivaldi Concerto for Violin and 2 Cellos in C major along with ACO stalwarts Timo-Veikko Valve and Julian Thompson .We heard an elegant , passionate and vibrant dynamic discussion throughout. The first movement was strongly led by Gringolts , with soft rumbles from the cellos . In the second movement Gringolts was passionate and lyrical, his violin’s voice rather princely like a danseur noble, The final movement was again an animated discussion .

BartoksDivertimento concluded the program .The work was part of the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s inaugural concert in 1975 and has been a favourite of theirs since . One certainly noticed the definitely more 20th century sound of the work which evokes the structure, spirit and musical format of the Baroque concerto grosso . the sonata and rondo structures of the later 18th century are blended with the neo-Baroque alternation of solo and tutti and overall the performance was full of vibrant rhythms . The Orchestra performed it lovingly and sensitively. The first movement(allegro non troppo) was strident and insistent with spiky , rather ominous circling strings, the cello rumbling at times , the violins answering and there was use of delicate pizzicato.The second movement ( molto adagio) throbbed and pulsated with anguished emotion , beginning very softly and building in intensity and volume. Compelling and powerful , the poetic aching lament was emphasised by trembling violins.
The third movement ( Allegro asai ) saw a great change in mood to brisk and rather businesslike . Gringolts on violin was emphatic, the Orchestra argued vehemently and it all led to a scurrying conclusion .
A most captivating and enthralling concert .

Running time allow 2 hours including interval

The ACO in Gringolts Plays Paganini is in Sydney 30 September – 8 October 2018

CPE BACH String Symphony in C major
PAGANINI (arr. Bernard Rofe) Violin Concerto No.1 in E-flat major
VIVALDI Concerto for Violin and 2 Cellos in C major
BARTÓK Divertimento

Ilya Gringolts Guest Director & Violin
Timo-Veikko Valve Cello
Julian Thompson Cello