This event, a collaboration between the ACO and Jennifer Peeedom , will leave you overawed and breathless at the savage beauty of nature and music. It is in a similar vein to the ACO’s 2012 multimedia project The Reef it is full of stunning visuals (the film is directed by Peeedom with Renan Ozturk as principal photographer) and also features bravura playing by the ACO in dazzling form as led by Tognetti, who has some dramatic , shimmering and fiery solos.

The work is an epic exploration of the often fraught relationship between humans and mountains which really began with the Romantics. The film is narrated by Willem Dafoe, with text written by Robert Macfarlane – whose book Mountains of the Mind inspired Peedom’s approach to this project.

The film itself is a poetic rumination on humans’ relationship with mountains and explores the nature of our modern fascination with mountains – WHY are we so captivated by them? but there is little detail conveyed in the narration – Although some of the issues explored in Peedom’s 2014 film Sherpa are briefly mentioned – instead , Dafoe asserts broad ideas for which the film provides breathtaking images.

As well as the beauty of the landscapes, the film evokes both the spiritual associations related to mountains (especially in Tibet) as well as the compulsion humans feel to interact with and conquer, view or scale them from a touristy , religious, sport, or thrill-seeking angle – often at great personal danger. We also see fascinating historical film of Sherpas and observe the dangers and injuries that can occur on mountain climbs.

The ACO wonderfully performs Beethoven and Vivaldi as well as compositions from contemporary artists like Peter Sculthorpe, Arvo Pärt and Tognetti himself, and includes the infrequent use of song. (Satu Vanska is amazing, harsh and strong in Madness Bites). The music underscores the majesty, awe , danger and horror of mountains.

The concert and film are divided into sections such as ‘ Flying’ “Grief ‘ Majesty’ “Gods and Monsters’ and so on . The filmmakers jump across continents using drones, Go-Pros and helicopters to capture the scenes, from Tibet to Australia to Alaska, and the switch between formats on the big screen is seamless but apparent. There are dizzying shots at times , use of slo mo and time lapse photography – at times the viewer almost suffers from motion sickness.

The film ranges from details of ice to bubbling larva flows. Peedom has also included spectacular footage of extreme wingsuiting , mountain biking, base jumping and even tightrope walking (across two peaks in Castle Valley, Utah) that have you gasping.

The opening sequence, with shivering strings counterpointing footage of a “free solo” climber (that is, without rope or harness) on a sheer vertical rock face lead to where the cellos drive the music forward to panoramic shots of snow covered peaks contrasted with green mountains.

Dafoe sets the scene by reminiscing about the earlier days of recreational mountain climbing, Chopin’s Nocturne in D Flat Major delicately, hauntingly played by Cislowska – accompanies grainy vintage footage of mountain climbers from earlier days.

We see climbers fearlessly walking along thin, dangerous ridges suspended far above the earth, traverse plains of ice or hanging like bats from the underside of rocky ledges while the ACO provides appropriate music making the tiny desperate movements of climbers inching along become part of the aural landscape.

Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B minor and excerpts from the Four Seasons accompanies footage of skiers jumping off cliffs and collapsing in piles of snow. Aerial shots of mountainscapes are fashioned to become for instance a visual accompaniment to the Larghetto from Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major or the almost prayer like Adagio from Beethoven’s Emperor concerto, exquisitely played by pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska.

This was a riveting, totally enthralling event that ranges from the sublime to laughter and gasps of awe or disbelief.

Running time roughly 90 minutes no interval.

There is a performance at the
Sydney Opera House on the 20 August 2017

BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto: II – Larghetto
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.5: II – Adagio un poco mosso
CHOPIN Nocturne in D-flat major, Op.27, No.2
GRIEG Holberg Suite: I – Präludium
SCULTHORPE String Sonata No.1: IV – Chorale
RICHARD TOGNETTI Original Composition
VIVALDI Concerto in B Minor, RV580
VIVALDI Winter from The Four Seasons: I. Allegro non molto
VIVALDI Summer from The Four Seasons: III. Presto

Richard Tognetti Musical Director & Composer
Jennifer Peedom Director & Producer
Jo-anne McGowan Producer
Tamara-Anna Cislowska Piano
Renan Ozturk Principal Cinematographer
Robert Macfarlane Writer
Willem Dafoe Narrator
Nigel Jamieson Staging Director
Lighting Design Damien Cooper

Produced by Stranger Than Fiction Films, in association with Camp 4 Collective, Sherpas Cinema and the ACO.