Any reservation about missing the vivacious Richard Tognetti at the helm of the Australian Chamber Orchestra for this concert was quickly dispelled. Finnish Guest Director and Lead Violinist John Storgårds matched Tognetti’s passion and energy like for like, providing a lively, skilful concert of contemporary classical pieces.
With four out of five pieces being ACO premieres (three performed for the first time in Australia) it was a night of exciting and vibrant pieces showcasing the innovative, energetic chamber orchestra. The members are youthful, talented and clearly passionate about their work and the ensemble.
Jurgis Juozapaitis’s aptly named Perpetuum Mobile opened the evening. It was a short, lively, major key composition. Note after note after note filled the Perth Concert Hall in an insistent constant rhythm. It energised the audience and gave some indication of the avant-garde nature of the work yet to come.
In direct contrast, the last piece, Jean Sibelius’s Impromptu for String Orchestra, was a welcome conclusion, and calmed the audience like a lullaby at the end of a busy day. Leaning more towards a baroque classical piece than modern classical, it was once more a vehicle for the ensemble working together in peaceful, andante, melodious harmonies.
Toshi Ichiyanagi’s short Interspace for String Orchestra was a slow unsettling piece, eerie in its atmosphere with a filmic bent. It did however; emphasize the exquisite bow work of the performers.
Of the five pieces, the Preludes and Fugue for 13 Solo Strings by Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, was a disappointment. Whilst it was technically brilliant, the continuous discordant sounds coupled with a lack of consistent pace or rhythm made listening for 30 minutes a taxing task. My mind wandered away from the performance, causing the cacophonous noise to fade into the background.
The highlight was undoubtedly the Chamber Concerto by Finnish Eero Hämeenniemi (a contemporary of Storgårds). It was the showpiece for John Storgårds and he performed with sheer brilliance. Written in 1996, Hämeenniemi wrote the piece with ample points for improvisation, and these Storgårds attacked with gusto. At times he appeared to be taunting and challenging other members, playing to them directly in a game of cat and mouse with short, violent bowing. The third movement even saw him whistling a counter melody with his violin. It was obvious ACO were having fun, to the point that the cello players had to look away from Storgårds due to laughter. It was a vibrant, virtuoso performance and the audience took an audible breath before applauding rapturously.
With a title of Audacious, the concert was certainly that - bold and daring. The Australian Chamber Orchestra takes risks, challenging audiences’ musical contemplation and exploration. If you like your classical music ‘avant-garde’; see this performance.
Australian Chamber Orchestra
8 – 18 June 2008
John Storgårds Guest Director and Lead Violin
Juozapaitis Perpetuum Mobile
Hämeenniemi Chamber Concerto for Violin and Strings
Lutoslawski Preludes and Fugue for 13 Solo Strings
The Arts Centre, Hamer Hall
Sunday 8 June 2.30pm & Monday 9 June 8pm
Bookings 1300 136 166
Adelaide Town Hall
Tuesday 10 June 8pm
Bookings 13 12 46
Perth Concert Hall
Wednesday 11 June 8pm
Bookings 08 9484 1133
City Recital Hall Angel Place
Saturday 14 June 8pm; Tuesday 17 June 8pm & Wednesday 18 June 7pm
Bookings 02 8256 2222
Sydney Opera House Concert Hall
Sunday 15 June 2.30pm
Bookings 02 9250 7777