Glittering Frost | ACOPhotos – Mats Backer

There is nothing chilly about Martin Fröst. He is a red-hot performer with extraordinary control over, and absolute mastery of his instrument. He superbly augmented the wonderful Australian Chamber Orchestra in a fiery but wide ranging concert on the Adelaide leg of their National tour.

But first came Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, its inclusion being “brave”, as leader, Richard Tognetti admitted to the audience. One actually wonders how often this is now aired live, given that it is one of the most recorded, and “most over-heard and least listened to” pieces in the repertoire, as Tognetti explained.

At the hands of this most sensitive and competent ensemble, we were treated to a classical and straight forward rendition with every nuance making it a fresh, crisp and thoroughly musical performance, far removed from the elevator/wallpaper/music-on-hold that it has often been degenerated to. From the firm opening, through the Andante second movement – as expressive as I have ever heard – the lyrical Allegretto to the flourish of bows at the end, this was a treat that opened new vistas to a familiar favourite.

Then came Mr Fröst. From the first note that he extracted from absolute nothing to a series of leaps and an improvisation against shimmering pipe-organ-like chord clusters on the strings, in the opening of Peacock Tales by his countryman Anders Hillborg, his mastery and control were apparent. Without the benefit – or the distraction – of the mime, mask, lighting and choreography of other performances, this one focused soundly on the music, which in itself is worth attention. There are passages of unified conversational agreement between piano (Benjamin Martin) and clarinet; there are sustained and tranquil passages; there are angular, rhythmic exchanges, and there are beautifully executed transitions between these moods from the troubled to the exuberant.

In all this, and in the fine arrangement by Goran Fröst (brother) of a set of Brahms Hungarian Dances, Martin Fröst shared the direction of the music with Tognetti, as the clarinet took the melody, allowing the rich sonorities of the strings to indulge in the Town Hall acoustic to our great benefit.

The Klezmer-like dance to which Fröst treated us as an encore showed his amazing ability to produce sounds rarely heard from a clarinet, combining circular breathing, astounding breath control and finger dexterity. Here were the real fireworks which brought rapturous applause.

Aaron Copland’s Clarinet concerto is an example of his skill at making simple melodies and sequences that hadn’t been thought of before, but when heard, one wonders why not. Quintessential Copland, it is full of the charming, down-home series of returns to the tonic, combined with complexities of chording and rhythms that were the perfect vehicle for Benny Goodman, for whom the piece was written.

Finally, the ACO showed us what it is made of again in Ravel’s String Quartet in F minor. Their delicacy of playing, their teamwork and ensemble (such unity and togetherness in pizzicato passages!) and Tognetti’s strong leadership bought this most satisfying concert to a fine conclusion.

Martin Frost with the Australian Chamber Orchestra

TOUR DATES – 12 - 28 May, 2011

Newcastle City Hall Thursday 12 May, 7.30pm 02 4929 1977
Canberra Llewellyn Hall, ANU Saturday 14 May, 8pm 1300 795 012
Melbourne Town Hall Sunday 15 May, 2.30pm 1300 182 183
Monday 16 May, 8pm
Adelaide Town Hall Tuesday 17 May, 8pm 131 246
Perth Concert Hall Wednesday 18 May, 7.30pm 08 9484 1133
Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall Sunday 22 May, 2pm 02 9570 777
Sydney City Recital Hall Tuesday 24 May, 8pm 02 8256 2222
Wednesday 25 May, 7pm
Saturday 28 May, 7pm
Wollongong IPAC Thursday 26 May, 7.30pm 02 4224 5999

Bookings: | 1800 444 444

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