The Fiddlers | ACO2

The Fiddlers | ACO2The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s emerging artists ensemble ACO2, graced Sydney with its brief presence last night at the Riverside Theatre as part of its 2009 regional tour. Led by distinguished violinist Helena Rathbone, the ensemble is comprised of the old and the new of Australia’s classical music scene. The wonderful ‘all strings’ performance showcased the works of the great composers for strings Vivaldi, Sculthorpe, Sallinen, Rautavaara and Dvorak.

ACO2 is by design an ensemble created to give up and coming young classical musicians the opportunity to hone their skills by playing alongside veterans in the industry. This trans-generational group of wandering minstrels certainly gave new life and energy to some age-old pieces of music in their robust performance. What became evident from the very first note struck was that these musicians have already emerged! It was impossible to discern who the new recruits were in this select team of superb performers.

The skill and finesse of the performances was awe inspiring and their presence as equally commanding. I would like to note here that the uniform, if I could be so crass as to call it that, worn by the females of ACO2 was an elegant, sheer black blouse with black pants. I thought that this was a novel idea as it somehow enhanced the grace of the performance onstage. And the performance was graceful, the musicians played movement to movement with metronomic precision and barely an audible breath in between.

What gave this classical performance it's edge was ACO2's choice of composer and their musical work. Aside from the more well known composers Vivaldi and Dvorak, the pieces that stood out for me as giving gusto to the repertoire were Sonata for Strings No.2 by Sculthorpe, Chamber Music III by Sallinen and The Fiddlers by Rautavaara. These three pieces segued from the traditional into an ephemeral, mystic world that is largely overlooked in classical ensemble performances. These pieces transcended expectation and gave the audience a journey of the most pleasantly, abstract kind.

Another highlight of the evening was the solo performance by cellist Timo-Veikko Valve; breathtaking comes to mind when contemplating the manner in which he plays. Valve would have to be considered prodigious on his instrument and definitely a draw card of this tour. Watching the way his fingers dance as he deftly finds notes at such a speed that it makes one wonder how he hits the right one each time. The pieces that have been selected by ACO2 as a part of this tour are contrasting in theme and style, and provide the audience with a gripping variety and never a dull moment.

Another feature of the performance was the movement onstage. Not just the swaying of the musicians as they felt their way through each piece but also the actual changing of places by all of the musicians. With each new composer, the players relocated to a different vantage point onstage in order to take up a new position within the ensemble. This afforded each musician the opportunity to let their talent be seen by the audience. I would encourage anyone who lives within reach of ACO2’s 2009 regional tour to attend this event and be captivated by such an enchanting showcase of musical mastery.

ACO2 presents

Venue: Riverside Theatres
Dates: Friday, 10 July 2009
Times: 7.30pm
Single Ticket Prices: Adults $37, Conc $33, 30 & Under $29
Big Noter Ticket Prices: Adults $33, Conc $29, 30 & Under $25
Bookings: Riverside Box Office 02 8839 3399 or

Tour details:

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