Under the umbrella title A FRENCH CELEBRATION the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) in their latest marvelous concert brings to us a delicate, nuanced feast of super music by mostly French composers Franck, Respighi and Ravel with international guest artists- mezzo soprano Susan Graham, Karen Gomyo on violin, and Christian Ihle Hadland on piano.
The first half of the concert consisted of two Ravel works, beginning with the ravishing Piano trio in A minor, featuring the glorious talents of Norwegian pianist Christian Ihle Hadland. His playing in the first movement was shimmering passionate and intense, soulful and crystal like.
The second movement had a jumpy spiky opening, perhaps a possible jazz influence, with rumbles on the piano. It then become languid and passionate and developed into a flurried conversation between the piano and string trio. The third movement had a breathy, dreamlike opening- Hadland swaying, intensely caught up in the music- then a glorious cello solo, eventually joined by the violin and piano.
The piano makes a melancholy statement, eventually all four musician restate the melody and the music became sadder and more delicate, deep piano rumbles bringing the movement to a close. The final fast, flowing movement begins with birdlike ripples dominated by the piano. There is a tumultuous whirling trio that takes us to the thrilling, exhilarating ending.
The second Ravel work (Trois Poemes de Stephan Mallarme) featured mezzo soprano Susan Graham. Graham was tall, statuesque in grey and silver, and she gave a glorious, refined performance. She was warm and luminous and in fabulous voice with creamy legato. Listening closely to this piece one picked up hints of Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe’ and ‘Scherahazade’.
‘Soupir’(Sigh) was delicate and lyrical. ‘Placet futile‘ (Futile petition) was spiky, delicate and passionate. The orchestra breathed and played as one. Graham was simply magnificent.
‘Surgi de la croupe et du bond (Surging up from the rounded flank and leap) began with swirling, surging strings. The piece was dreamy, lush and languid, Graham’s voice soaring effortlessly.
After interval was the Respighi ‘’Il Tramonto’ (The Sunset, an Italian translation of Shelley’s poem), again featuring Graham, who was radiant and powerful, with splendid rich tones in the telling of this sad story. It was far darker and more operatic than the Ravel, with tremulous violins bringing it to a conclusion.
The Franck Piano Quintet in F Minor with Hadland positively beaming from the shiny black piano began with a superb solo by Hadland full of elegant, refined playing- fiery, spiky and intense then calming to a dialogue between piano and the four companions.
The second movement was far more lyrical and delicate- fragile, languid and dreamy. Cascading ripples on the piano were answered by sharp, decisive strings. Hadland dropped jewelled music into the air in an intense , hypnotic performance.
The third, final movement was very fast and intense– a dynamic discussion between piano and strings with frenzied violin playing and swirling tumultuous confrontations. There was notably intense concentration by all the players In a magnificent performance that brought this glorious concert to an end and thrilled applause. Bravo!
Running time 2 hours (approx.) including interval.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s concert A FRENCH CELEBRATION played the City Recital Hall between the 14th and 18th July.
The ACO is next taking this concert to the Melbourne Melbourne Recital Centre on the 20th July, the Adelaide Town Hall on Tuesday 21st July and Perth Concert Hall on Wednesday 22nd July.
For more about Australian Chamber Orchestra – A French Celebration, visit https://www.aco.com.au/whats_on/event_detail/french