Australia

Australian Chamber Orchestra review: An expressive journey through loss, desire

Leader, violinist Helena Rathbone began the Dowland with plain vibrato-free sound evoking both the sound of the Renaissance viol, and a comfortless world denuded of warmth that paradoxically can be highly expressive.

The first A of the Tristan Prelude (arranged by Sebastian Gurtler) took the last note of Dowland's lacrimose pathos into the extremities of Romantic performance creating tonal intensity and making free use of portamento (sliding the finger to glide from one pitch to another) to realise Wagner's white-hot expressive fervour.

Bach's Ricercar followed on from Wagner's ambiguous ending without a break, ushering in cooler restraint, textural transparency and delicacy. Strauss' Metamorphosen itself transforms the funeral march from Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, something the composer said was subconscious, until, recognising the connection, he inserted a direct quotation at the close.

In the interesting sextet arrangement of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364 after interval, the solo and tutti roles of the original are disbursed among all instruments to create genuine chamber-music dialogue that suits the expansive discursiveness of the original even though it was not Mozart's original idea.

Despite the fact that all the works on the program were arrangements of pieces originally written for other forces, the program retained an expressive authenticity, transmitted by the ACO players with musicianship of the highest order.

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