ACO INTIMATE BACH
CITY RECITAL HALL
A magnificent , many layered concert that had this reviewer in raptures at times .It was also full of contrasting but associated sounds .At times aspiring to be futuristic it is also a glorious celebration of Bach ( and Dean’s ) music. Richard Tognetti, Erin Helyard, Brett Dean and ACO Principal Cello, Timo-Veikko Valve are all featured .
The stage as the audience enters is set with a delicate candle, harpsichord and organ.
The concert opens with Tognetti’s spellbinding performance of BACH’s Sonata No.2 in A minor for solo violin, BWV1003: III. Andante that was haunting and compelling , powerful and hypnotic.
Bachs Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord No.2 in A major, BWV1015 15 I. Dolce II. Allegro III. Andante un poco IV. Presto followed .The work is a trio sonata , the first movement soaring and flowing with delicate celestial music played by Helyard on the organ , Tognetti on violin which changed to a discussion between the two. The second movement was brisk , crisp and precise with Helyard on harpsichord and Timo-Veikko Valve on cello .The third movement , circular and floating, – with Helyard with one hand on the chamber organ , the other on the harpsichord , all three performers exchanging thoughts .Tognetti led the discussion though , like a showy tenor . The final movement ( Helyard back on harpsichord) had an explosive opening and was bustling and thrumming to the dynamic conclusion.
The trio were joined by violist Atte Kilpeläinen for segments from Bach’s Three-Part Inventions, or Sinfonias, for keyboard interspersed with Gyorgy Kurtag Signs, Games and Messages: Hommage à J.S.B. 2 .The atmosphere of the single candle light ( with the glowing screens of the performer’s tablets) was drastically changed with the use of a vertical flaring fluorescent light, that identified the Kurtag sections .There was also a piece by Marin Marais’ – Sonnerie de Sainte-Geneviève, given a most vivacious , robust performance with rather boisterous cello . The music ranged from swooping and swirling , bubbling and circling , to infectious dance rhythms, fiery, sharp percussive segments all leading to the cascading , rippling yearning achingly eloquent conclusion , Bach’s Chorale Prelude “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”, BWV639 3.
Very atmospheric , Brett Dean’s Approach (Prelude to a Canon) was first after interval , its Australian premiere , a commission by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra , with Atte Kilpeläinen leading , Hellyard on harpsichord and cellists Valve, Julian Thompson and Melissa Barnard, and Maxime Bibeau on bass .At times it was sharp and spiky , trembling and oscillating , other times scampering , building to a crescendo then a softer , quieter end , lead by Dean and Kilpeläinen , the others quivering underneath.
The final work was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.6 in B-flat major, BWV1051 14 I. [Allegro] II. Adagio ma non tanto III. Allegro notable for the major viola parts and absence of violins.
The first movement was crisp, cold and very precise almost like intergalactic sounds beamed from a satellite disc.The second movement was tender , lyrical and eager with Helyard moving between organ and harpsichord , Kilpeläinen and Dean interlacing their melodies.The final movement was sprightly almost dancelike in its melody, with fast and furious violas , the cellos and double basses far more restrained.
While perhaps there were few performers on stage , this was an intrepid , gargantuan performance.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s INTIMATE BACH tours nationally 19-30 October 2019
Running time two hours including interval