This was a very striking and unusual concert for the wonderful Australian Chamber Orchestra led by the brilliant Richard Tognetti.
This is the latest in the marvellous series of studiocasts with photography by director Matisse Ruby and her team of Tyson Perkins and Drew English.
Photographed in black and white, the concert began dramatically with Tognetti, his back to us, striding to the podium.
JS BACH – (arr. Tognetti) The Musical Offering, BWV1079) opened the program – the strings were sharp and angry at first but then they changed to slower and shimmering, rich and meandering, delicate with a bright flute (Emmanuel Pahud) darting and leaping.
Led by Richard Tognetti, this was a magnificent concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra filmed at City Recital Hall, the first of their online Studiocasts.
The concert opened frenetically with explosively emphatic strings in Schubert ‘s ( arr.Tognetti ) ‘Quartettsatz in C Minor D 703’. While only one of four planned movements, it is striking and organically formed to stand alone. There were strong, pulsating melodies and a fiery dialogue between the two sections of the Orchestra. The music ebbs and flows, swoops and dives, swirls and rapidly cascades. The same busy chords that open the movement wildly come full circle to close it. The restatement of those chords also sees the return of the emotionally eloquent second theme which is presented in a different tone to how we first hear it. The third theme is the same piece but now in C major, and the work combines to bring the movement to its conclusion. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : RAPTURE→
The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) will return to City Recital Hall and Wollongong Town Hall next month to present Beethoven 250, paying tribute to the most influential composer to have ever lived, Ludwig van Beethoven. The socially distanced concerts will premiere at Wollongong Town Hall on Thursday 12 November before touring to City Recital Hall, Sydney from 14-20 November 2020.
Richard Tognetti, Artistic Director, Australian Chamber Orchestra said: “We opened our 2020 season celebrating the anniversary of this true musical revolutionary. Beethoven suffered from profound deafness but his extraordinary perseverance and determination led him to become a musical legend, whose music has endured for centuries. Despite the challenges we have faced this year, the Orchestra has continued to bring music to our audiences and it seems only fitting that we conclude 2020 with a celebration of Beethoven’s genius.”Continue reading ACO CELEBRATES 250TH YEAR ANNIVERSARY YEAR OF BEETHOVEN→
The wonderful concert that brought the ACO’s 2019 season to a close was entitled BRAHMS/DVORAK with the ACO in glorious rich and finely nuanced form under the leadership of Tognetti whose conducting was precise , vigorous and yet extremely expressive as well .
Andrew Ford’s ‘Fanfare for Neverland’ ( a world premiere) for solo trumpet as played by Visa Haarala up in the top gallery was a bright yet lyrical piece , with the trumpet slithering , skittering and sliding .
The Australian premiere of Andrew Norman’s Grand Turismo followed , using eight virtuoso violinists .It is a flurried , circular conversation between them , at times sharp and spiky then suddenly contrasted with soft lyrical segments and tiny pauses of stillness. The emphatic animated ensemble music has ominous pulsating under rhythms.
Brahms ‘Concerto for violin and cello in A Minor ‘(Double Concerto) made up the bulk of the first half , with the ACO enlarged to the size of a full symphony orchestra , a treat featuring Tognetti on violin and Timo-Veikko Valve on cello in an extraordinary partnership, Helena Rathbone beating time when Tognetti was playing . The entire work crackled with tension.
The first movement began stridently Valve on cello passionately , elegantly ‘singing’ then becoming fiery. lighter flowing sections were contrasted with scurrying orchestral swells .A duet between Tognetti and Valve was hovering lyrical and humming. It was then Tognetti’s turn to ‘ sing’ on the violin in an eloquent , heartbroken fragile solo with the Orchestra dynamically accompanying. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : BRAHMS AND DVORAK @ 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
A glorious concert with magnificent performance by the ACO , led by Richard Tognetti and Croatian -born soloist Dejan Lazic on piano , focusing on music mostly by Mozart and showcasing the ACO’s great strengths as well as exploring the “Sturm und Drang” style . The Orchestra and Lazic had a great rapport.
HAYDN ‘s Symphony No.39 in G minor ‘Tempesta di mare’ began the concert The first movement with its brisk strings and robust circular melody that was looped and repeated and listen out for the horns featured. The second movement was an elegant lilting dance like movement while the third movement with its horns and woodwind was a cascading wall of pulsating sound .The fourth and final movement was scurrying with its flurried , impatient strings. Throughout the work there were contrasts in mood and at times quite sharp , spiky rhythms that made the work sounds very fresh and contemporary.
The individual elements in this landmark production are tremendous but I found the performance dark , somewhat disturbing and perhaps a bit fragmented and disjointed ( which , I understand , is at least partly what the ACO intended ).
LUMINOUS is a haunting collaboration between the ACO and controversial photographer Bill Henson. It is a revival of this work , with brand new imagery, updated repertoire and guest vocals from indie Israeli-Australian singer-songwriter Lior.
Henson’s photos, often first seen in extremely close grainy close up , blur the boundaries between gender , adulthood and youth , night and day, rural and urban .There are extraordinary lonely graffitied landscapes with windy trees and the models in the Caravaggio – like images quite frequently appear world weary and bruised . The camera work , panning in extreme close up then pulling away to reveal the full photo creates totally different images at times, red dots revealed to be a leaf or hair for example, making this reviewer think of sunspots and other planets perhaps. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : LUMINOUS @ CITY RECITAL HALL→
GOLDBERG VARIATIONS from the Australian Chamber Orchestra under the dynamic direction of Richard Tognetti gave a thrilling performance.
The first half of this luscious concert was off to a breathlessly fast start with Stravinsky’sThree Pieces for String Quartet , spiky and emphatic with hints of his Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). The melody bubbles and flows around the Orchestra but this is contrasted with a rich, stickily languid and melancholic section full of yearning.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s STEVEN ISSERLIS PLAYS SHOSTAKOVICH would have to be one of the most mesmerising and intense concerts by the ACO in a long while. Under Tognetti’s stylish leadership the Orchestra was in magnificent form , and the Cello Concerto No.1 in E-flat major by Shostakovich as played by guest artist their old friend Steven Isserlis was absolutely amazing .
First we heard the world premiere Samuel AdamsMovements (for us and them) which featured fast furious dazzling playing in the first Movement. The second movement was pulsating and slower. Tognetti stated the melody the Orchestra embroidered upon that with some sharp spiky comments. The third movement was shimmering and whirling with unusual use of the cellos and the main melody theme held and ‘sung’ like an extra long breath .The last tumbling insistent movement made me think of darting fish underwater. The work included slow chromatic ascents and sections where the strings were rather fractured and yet interwoven. Continue reading ACO MESMERISES WITH ‘STEVEN ISSERLIS PLAYS SHOSTAKOVICH’→
ACO: TOGNETTI TCHAIKOVSKY BRAHMS
This is a vibrant , electrifying concert that was superbly played and had the packed audience bursting with enthusiasm. The work of two masters was paired with that of two female composers born in 1980 and included an Australian and a world premiere.There was a rich lustrous sound throughout. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA: TOGNETTI TCHAIKOVSKY BRAHMS→
The Australian Chamber Orchestra are renowned the world over for their adventurous and distinctive programming, that sees re-imagined interpretations of celebrated classics stacked alongside performances of ambitious new commissions. They begin 2018 with Three Soloists, Two Premieres and a Collaboration with the Australian National Academy of Music.Continue reading ACO OPENS 2018 WITH TOGNETTI, TCHAIKOVSKY & BRAHMS→
This was an absolutely ravishing, exquisite concert and a feast for the senses.
Fourteen years after his Australian debut with the ACO, one of Richard Tognetti’s great musical friends is back with his special 14K solid gold flute. Guest soloist Emmanuel Pahud currently divides his time between his Principal Flute position at the Berlin Philharmonic and touring the world as a soloist.
Through the concert there was a great rapport between Tognetti, Pahud and the Orchestra.
We first heard CPE Bach’s Sonata for Flute in A minor in three movements. The first movement was slow and languid, the second intricate, bright and bubbling with the flute darting and fluttering. In the third movement the flute was even more birdlike in parts; teasing , scampering and swooping. Pahud’s playing was dazzling and effortless with creamy, expressive, beguiling legato. Continue reading Australian Chamber Orchestra in Concert with guest artist Emmanuel Pahud→
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. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : ‘MOUNTAIN’ @ THE CITY RECITAL HALL→
Intimate Mozart indeed. This was a ravishing concert full of superb playing.
The concert was a small scale recital, the ACO being represented by Artistic Director Richard Tognetti and three featured principals: second violinist Helena Rathbone, cellist Timo-Veikko Valve, and guest viola player Florian Peelman.
This was another glorious concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Under the charismatic, dynamic leadership of Richard Tognetti the ACO was in magnificent form. There was wonderful ensemble playing providing a lush, warm tone combined with marvellous phrasing. Tognetti’s playing was simply dazzling and hypnotic.
The latest magnificent concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra was stirring and tempestuous at times and threatened to lift the roof off the City Recital Hall with its rendition of Brahms colossal Third Symphony after interval.
Tognetti was vibrant and emphatic in his conducting, jumping between the conductor’s podium and solo violin, using both the long violin bow and his long, delicate, powerful hands.
Those of us lucky enough to be in the audience for this concert were treated to an angelic aural feast. Led by Tognetti and with featured soloists Timo –Veikko Valve on cello and Yevgeny Sudbin on piano the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) played sublimely.
As others of my colleagues have remarked this concert could be subtitled, ‘In the key of C’. Most of the program was heavenly, ravishing music by Beethoven but it also included the Australian premiere of Jonny Greenwood’s Water. Tognetti conducted dynamically and enthusiastically when not performing solo on the violin. The Orchestra was supplemented where required with extra orchestral members , meaning we heard a full wind section, brass and timpani. Continue reading ACO: Tognetti’s Beethoven→
The Australian Chamber Orchestra for this current program tackle the biggest symphonic configuration in their history and two ACO premieres in one concert, the heavyweight Sibelius 6 and Mahler 4. The concert could have another subtitle , ‘ Spring water and Blue sky’ to encapsulate the two different symphonies , Sibelius’‘ spring water ‘and Mahler’s ‘ blue sky’ .
First however we were treated to a delightful surprise prelude. To introduce the newest member of the ACO Instrument family – a rare Joseph Guarneri filius Andreæ violin dating from 1714 – violinist Rebecca Chan performed the exquisite Sibelius Serenade No 2, Op. 69, for violin and orchestra, with the orchestral parts adapted as a quartet from the ensemble.It was haunting ,shimmering , sometimes dance-like and at one point you could almost see the whirling snowflakes.
The complete ACO then assembled onstage for their version of Sibelius’ Symphony No 6 ,of which the composer said it evoked `spring water’’ and always reminded him of the smell of the first snow of the winter.
This HUGE epic performance will leave you reeling with exhaustion and euphoria. Boldly ambitious and sweeping, for this extraordinary concert the Australian Chamber Orchestra attempts to follow the entire history of music in an evening (42,000 years of music in roughly two and a half hours by a blending of an expanded chamber orchestra, six vocalists and two electronic musicians).
Linked in with the VIVID Festival as well, this was an astonishing , ravishing concert. Directed by Ignatius Jones it also featured electronic duo The Presets who are returned to their classical music roots.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra and Choir of London’s luxurious Christmas gift to us was an inspired and inspiring performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. It is in 6 parts, all originally separate cantatas performed on different days at different churches in the years 1734-5 and tells the Gospel story of the Nativity in a many layered, sumptuous performance. Sometimes the music is soaring, lyrical and rippling ,at other times it is contemplative or tumultuous. This particular concert Experience lasted four hours as it included an hour dinner interval. One wonders however if this would have been better suited acoustically and atmospherically to the City Recital Hall.
Technically the standard of musicianship throughout from the core ACO instrumentalists and their guests was both vibrant and scholarly precise with great attention paid to the period instruments .It was interesting to see the use of a chamber organ and the oboes d’amore and oboes da caccia for example among those instruments played.
In Monday’s concert, special guests, The Choir of London, performed as a most impressive general choir (assorted angels and shepherds and other characters) while simultaneously featuring successive soloists of exceptional quality from its ranks to perform the various arias and recitatives as required. One of the altos however, was a little drowned out by the orchestra at times but otherwise it was a stunning performance. The Choir of London, described as ”a flexible community of musicians who create change”, is the idea of Michael Stevens, based in Melbourne. The choir aims to increase musical opportunities throughout the world for those with limited capacity for making music within their environment and succeeds in its goal marvelously.
Tognettis’ conducting was energetic and vibrant, full bodied and at times was practically dancing with fluid bends, outstretched arms and grand portes des bras. This was contrasted with assured but far smaller other indicative movements. And his violin playing was hypnotic, powerful and sublime – for example in the duet with alto Fiona Campbell in the aria Keep Thou, My Heart Now which was one of the highlights, closely followed by Tognetti and Helena Rathbone’s wonderful fugato that introduced the aria I Would but For Thine Honor Live Now, in Part IV. The exquisite opening of part 11, the lyrical Sinfonia Pastrorale , was ravishing too .
As the first thrilling sounds of the opening rippling chorus filled the auditorium, it became obvious that the evening would provide an aural feast. Bach’s version of the story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is, as a colleague of mine has said, ‘a joyous current, which bursts forth from the more melancholy, foreboding interludes in exuberant trumpet, horn and timpani orchestration’. For example in the bright trumpets and rippling melodies of Part 111 .And did I hear parts of ‘O Sacred Head Sore Wounded’ in Part 1?
Featured soloist, darkly handsome tenor Nicholas Mulroy, in the role of Evangelist, set the standard for the entire performance with his opening recitative. His dramatic presence and powerful vocal strength kept the audience attentive within the story of the Oratorio, providing continuity as each excellent soloist added different nuances with their particular contributions. Special mention must also be made of bass Alex Ashworth in various bass roles in particular that of Herod in Part VI.
Julia Doyle’s shining aria, But a Wave of His Own Hand, in the concluding Part VI was another unexpected, delightful surprise.
The audience expressed their appreciation at the end with thunderous applause and a tumultuous standing ovation richly deserved. Fabulous Christmas fare.
This was a one off performance at the Concert Hall on December 16 2013. The concert ran for 4 hours including a one hour dinner interval.
Photo by Jon Frank
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