The Australian Chamber Orchestra put its stamp on the great standards of classical repertoire in a concert of works by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. The Art of Fugue was concert opener and artistic director Richard Tognetti’s inclusion of oboes and horns in his arrangement of the first four movements added organ-like fatness. Bach’s contrapuntal lines were deftly delineated and in a surprising touch the fourth movement was plucked rather than bowed with the musicians singing along in a strange quasi-jazz vocalise. Well why not? Bach didn’t specify instrumentation which leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5 featured Tognetti as soloist. In the opening Allegro his fluid bowing was graceful and dance-like making the pyrotechnics of the brazenly fast (self-composed) cadenza something of a shock. The Adagio was likewise laden with vibrato colouring, dynamic extremes and micro-phrasing which risked swamping the melody line. I prefer my Mozart more unadorned, although I did enjoy Tognetti’s dreamy, high cadenza. The accents and exotic colours of the “Turkish” Rondeau gave it the necessary brassy gleam.
Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge was performed in its original form as the finale of the String Quartet Op 130. The weightiness of Tognetti’s string orchestra arrangement was balanced by the forthrightness of his musical direction. The ACO were flawless and explosive in the first movement's transitions between tenderness and extroversion. They took the Presto breathlessly fast, the detail almost lost in the rush of notes while the Andante’s open-ended phrases were given a questioning air. The dance had a lurching kick to it and the introverted melody of the exquisite Cavatina unfolded slowly, circling around on itself with an endless wondering. And finally the cataclysmic fury of the Grosse Fugue, the orchestra red-faced with effort as the tug and wrestle of the fugal parts were worked out in gloriously dense layers of melody.
This review copyright The West Australian 2016.