Australian Chamber Orchestra: Mostly Mendelssohn @ Sydney City Recital Hall

American wunderkind violinist Stefan Jackiw. Pic Carly Earl
Genius American violinist Stefan Jackiw. Pic Carly Earl

This incredible concert had the ecstatic audience cheering at the end. Led by Satu Vanska and with amazing guest artist Stefan Jackiw the ACO was in glorious, inspired form .

First was the enchanting Mendelssohn String Symphony No. 9 in C Minor , ‘La Suisse’ . The first movement opened sharply then became brighter and faster with flourishes of the repeated dance like melody. The second movement was divine, heartbreaking and lyrical. It had a semi Baroque feel as well as similarities to Mendelssohn’s ‘ Midsummer Night’s Dream’ music and included glorious cello sections. It was ravishing, full of exquisite beauty.

The third movement had a very busy opening with hints of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’’. Again the melody was stated and repeated , with circling flourishes and scurries. This movement had a dramatic,operatic feel at times. It developed to become a dialogue between the two sections of the orchestra that were slower and more lyrical but the work was brought to a conclusion with brisk flourishes.

The second work, the Bottesini ( arr. Rofe) Grand Duo Concertante for double bass and violin featured the extraordinary talents of the ACO’s own Maxime Bibeau on his late 16th century Gasparo da Salo double bass and the astonishing special guest Stefan Jackiw on violin.

Jackiw had his eyes closed, succumbing to the music while Bibeau stared intently in concentration at his fellow soloist. There was tight, synchronised playing by both.  At times it was dynamic and fiery, I thought of Bizet’s‘ ‘Carmen’, at other times waltz like.

Mostly the two soloists tossed the melody back and forth in dialogue as equals with the body of the orchestra acting as accompanying chorus. Jackiw’s bravura playing was superb , the violin soared passionately and there was some blisteringly fast fingering at times as well as the playing being achingly emotional.

After interval we heard the playful Wolf ‘Italian Serenade’ which sounded far more contemporary than the other previous works. It was swirling and pulsating with slinky violin passages.

The main bulk of the second half of the programme was the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64(arr. Tognetti) again featuring Jackiw. Tognetti’s arrangement strips the music to its bare essentials. Jackiw stood relaxed , as in a martial arts or fencing pose, lunging to one side with bent knees.

The first movement was darting soaring and lyrical, with dazzling mesmerizing playing by Jackiw. The violin sobbed and yearned during the breathless finale of the movement. The second movement was mostly slower and was more an ‘aria’ for the soloist contrasted with some short sharp sections .It was magnificent and once more we heard some dazzling playing in the sparkling third movement as we were whirled towards the finale.

Jackiw‘s playing confirmed the impression he had made in the Bottesini : it showed he has a well projected and warm tone, technique that is assured and with a delicate yet powerful aura of mastery.

At only 30 and already a major talent, Jackiw is a name to keep a look out for.

Running time – just under two hours including interval.

THE AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA: MOSTLY MENDELSSOHN played the Sydney City Recital Hall on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th May.


MENDELSSOHN String Symphony No.9
BOTTESINI Gran Duo Concertante for Double Bass and Violin
WOLF Italian Serenade
MENDELSSOHN (arr. Tognetti) Violin Concerto in E minor

Stefan Jackiw Violin
Satu Vänskä Lead Violin
Maxime Bibeau Double Bass

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