ACO Season 2014 – Adventures in Music of the Memorable Kind

Spanning the breadth of the history of music in our civilisation, leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) virtuoso violinist Richard Tognetti and his team of talented players and a group of guest artists to die for, will cross all boundaries of culture and society in the production of marvelous music during 2014.

They will be teasing and tempting audiences with some of the greatest and most seductive sweeping sounds, premiere’s and concerts, both intimate and grand, perhaps yet seen or heard during the ACO’s own historical journey.

The diversity and depth of the works planned is monumental, the guests clamoring to play with arguably some of Australia’s finest musicians are all formidable, and the scope and scale of the program musically quite simply staggering and so it’s hard to know where to start.

From Radiohead guitarist and acclaimed composer Jonny Greenwood to the much-loved violinist Anthony Marwood, from the livewire Italian cellist and composer Giovanni Sollima to the Grammy award winning Australian soprano Dawn Upshaw and the Australian debut of acclaimed US soprano Kiera Duffy, there will certainly be a lot to go on with.

Guest Director Peter Evans will guide actors from the Bell Shakespeare Company, as they help ACO musicians bring to life autobiographical string quartets by pioneers of the modern musical style avant-garde Czech composers Leoš Janácek (1854-1928 and Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884).

Gordan Nikolic, London Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster and a violinist renowned for his infectious energy and enthusiasm will lead the ACO for this landmark event.

Challenging every level of their exceptional professionalism playing the diverse and often difficult program planned will surely require that everyone in the ACO be at the top of their game, as well as in complete harmony and tune with the brilliance of their varied guests and their musical prowess.

As precise and polished performers they know the works they play will only seem to have a soul if each individual musician knows their part to play and the role of their part as integral to the overall composition.

On top of the ambitious appealing programs to be played in every state in city, as well as some rural locations in a national touring schedule that would make most other orchestras heads spin, the ACO as an additional challenge will take on two of their biggest musical adventures overseas to date; to Canada and the United States and to Britain and Europe.

They will also be the centerpiece of two music festivals during the year – the Vasse Felix in Western Australia and the Tarrawarra Festival in Rural Victoria.

Maria Schneider and Dawn Upshaw photo Jimmy and Dena Katz

Sensational soprano Dawn Upshaw is a lady of renowned ‘sense and sensibility’. She has a great ability to collaborate and communicate with both her colleagues and the audience and has won herself a legion of fans.

As a recitalist Upshaw has become a generative force in concert music, having premiered more than twenty-five works in the past decade. She regularly presents specially designed programs, encompassing different cultures and styles.

With five Grammy Awards between them Dawn Upshaw and contemporary composer Maria Schneider will provide a stellar start to the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s 2014 season with the Australian premiere of Winter Morning Walks (7 – 23 February).

Schneider wrote this profoundly beautiful song cycle, based on the poems of American poet laureate Ted Kooser, especially for Upshaw and the ACO

An Australian first, it will be matched with a flourish of Romantic string orchestra compositions including works by British composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934) who was a Master of the King’s Musick.

His enduring and very popular Holberg Suite was based on a charming set of eighteenth century dances in the ‘olden style’ and his exhilarating Introduction and Allegro will be interspersed by Upshaw with songs by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) and Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-).

During May the Beatles will bump into Bach, and Stravinsky will share the stage with the Sex Pistols in Timeline, which is leader Richard Tognetti’s kaleidoscopic journey through more than 40,000 years of musical evolution.

From Australia’s ancient Aboriginal culture circa 40,000 BC, to Sumerian drones of 4,000 BC to the austere music of the 14th century and the polyphonic glories of the late Renaissance, through the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods of music before exploding into the modern era with all of life flashing ‘before your ears”.

This concert will surely be a tour de force.

It is being directed by Ignatius Jones, one of the world’s leading major event directors and creative strategists who has developed and brought to fruition such landmark events as Olympic ceremonies, the ‘opening night of a country (East Timor 2002) and Sydney’s New Year’s Eve and Millennium celebrations.

Richard Tognetti AO has significantly expanded the chamber orchestra repertoire since he was appointed leader of the ACO in 1989. He is truly a musical genius of our time and has been playing at the top of his game since he first stepped onto the stage with the orchestra he was appointed to lead aged 23.

He was impressive enough then, but now, even more so. Unlike other violinists, many of whom play in groups rendering the style of music they prefer personally, he pushes ever boundary of musical style from a Paganini pyrotechnic performance to a rare and intimate recital by Pärt and Prokofiev.

He performs regularly on the superb 1743 Giuseppe Antonio Guarneri del Gesù violin lent by an anonymous Australian private benefactor, as well as playing modern and electric instruments.

He and the ACO are set to knock everyone’s socks off with their musical art performing the soaring, intense extremely lyrical Symphony No 6 by noted Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). With its bright sounds and air of restraint this is a truly surprising ‘idyll’, one that has attained a freedom of style all of its own,

The highlight of that particular night will be when soprano Kiera Duffy, known for her ‘gleaming high voice and insightful musicianship’ joins Tognetti and the team on stage as they perform the spectacular sweeping Symphony No 4 by stellar Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), whose works are known for their earnestness, integrity, great lyricism and joyous abandon.

During the late nineteenth century Mahler was an important bridge between traditional composition and modernism in music, a forerunner of 20th century techniques of composition. His Symphony 4 is a kaleidoscope of musical colour, which is often called an ‘Ode to Heavenly Joy’ as it progresses from light to shade, sweeping the audience along on a journey that seems to rock and evolve all at the same time.

It enhances our enjoyment to know it’s all about living a heavenly life, which in truth most of us would want to do… the words say it all…

No worldly tumult is to be heard in heaven
All live in greatest peace
We lead angelic lives, yet have a merry time of it besides…

As the final three lines clearly state ‘… angelic voices gladden our senses, so that all awaken for joy!

It takes an artistic personality who is uncompromising to perform the final movement, the truly special piece of Mahler’s symphony and the enigmatic final rendition of his song Das himmlische Leben the fourth symphony was built around well. Guest soprano Kiera Duffy is certainly up to the task.

Giovanni Sollima, photo by Gian Maria Musarra

Well versed and rehearsed in her prolific concert career to date, this rising star of both opera and stage in addition to her varied work in modern music also excels at singing Baroque music.

The recipient of many awards, the dazzling svelte like Duffy is a class act with a ‘gleaming tone’ and ‘sublime musicality’. Critics have been taking notice of her ‘magnetic poise and intelligence’ in the relatively short length of time since she was a finalist in the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Mahler actually composed the fourth movement song in 1892 at the time he was reworking his first Symphony, and well before he started to work on the Symphony No. 4, which was not completed until 5 August 1900.

The No 4 is all at once simple, guileless, complex and sophisticated as it arouses and then disassembles people’s preconceptions of what a symphonic piece of music should be.

Arranged specifically for a ‘chamber orchestra’, much smaller than usual for the magnificent Mahler, to my mind Symphony No 4 should be embraced just for its sheer beauty, without having to understand every nuance of what it is about or by endeavouring to analyze it to death.

Being easy on the ear has contributed much to its popularity. You can lose yourself in the music and Mahler himself was pleased, happy and confident that this work, which is so full of character, would be one everyone could enjoy and understand

There is no doubt in my mind ACO audiences should be well satisfied with this special production. Giovanni Sollima will be sure to provide a memorable cello experience, especially when he plays the simply delicious C major Cello concerto by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), one of the most celebrated composers of his day.

It’s equally good to see that the considerable beauty of virtuoso piano playing will be showcased on this meritorious program.

Finnish pianist Paavali Pjumppaneni photo by Petri Puromies

Critically acclaimed Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen, Russian pianist Yevgeny Sudbin and Scottish pianist Steven Osborne will all call on their ‘overflowing energy’ to provide audiences with many memorable moments

Jumppanen will join ACO players Satu Vänskä, who will be playing Australia’s only Stradivarius violin, as well as Rebecca Chan, Christopher Moore and Timo-Veikko Valve to perform the Piano Quintet by Czech composer Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904).

This is acknowledged as one of the true masterpieces of the chamber music form. In a more turbulent vein, they will also play Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, which was written just before the Nazi invasion of the USSR and offered a harrowing premonition of the coming terror.

Yevgeny Subdin photo by Clive Barda

Sudbin will perform three big bold works by Europe’s romantic period composing genius Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) with Richard Tognetti on his priceless ‘Carrodus’ violin made by del Gesú, which is one of the four or five of the finest of the finest of such instruments in existence.

Osborne, who has won numerous awards and prizes, including the Royal Philharmonic Symphony Award 2012 has wide repertoire and pre-eminence among British pianists has emerged with the unique magic of his own particular sound.

His concerts with the ACO at the end of 2012 were critically acclaimed, hailed by The Australian as “the most thrilling musical memory of the entire 2012 season”.

In a real treat for Melbourne audiences, ACO Artistic Director Richard Tognetti and Steven Osborne will perform together a rare and intimate recital playing music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (1935-), Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827).

Another Melbourne-only concert will combine the pyrotechnics of Paganini with the world premiere of Tognetti’s twisted take on the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute. Principal Violinist Satu Vänskä and Principal Violist Christopher Moore will join Tognetti in this whirlwind of full-throttle string playing that will end the year in a spectacular style.

Monteverdi, Mahler, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Enescu, Debussy, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rameau, Brahms, Satie, Reich, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Aphex Twin, Mariah Carey, Paganini, Radiohead and Nirvana… the list goes on and on.

Anthony Marwood

Much-loved violinist Anthony Marwood returns for a third time to lead the ACO. He is also one their favourite guest directors and the program he will play spans a homage to Tchaikovsky, one of the ACO’s favourite string works and an epic octet by Romanian genius George Enescu (1881-1955), which combines sophisticated melody with a touch of Romanian folk music.

Not as well known as his fans would like, Enescu was a child prodigy and his Octet, Op.7 was written when he was still a teenager. Marwood himself describes the work as “complicated but rewarding” as it changes tempo towards the end, culminating in a wild waltz with a surprisingly fierce conclusion,  ‘a contrapuntal chef d’oeuvre displaying an extraordinary architecture’*.

This profound program will keep ACO audiences throughout Australia busy embracing the exceptional colour and variety of the musical experiences this gem of a chamber orchestra has on offer.

The diversity of their 2014 season will bear witness to the genius, energy and accomplishments of Australia’s national living treasure Richard Tognetti and the ACO.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2013


Program 2014

Tour presented by Total
7 – 23 February

Helena Rathbone Lead Violin
Dawn Upshaw Soprano
Scott Robinson Alto and Bass Clarinet
Jay Anderson Double Bass
Frank Kimbrough Piano

JOHN ADAMS Selections from John’s Book of Alleged Dances
GRIEG Holberg Suite
GRIEG Solveig’s Song
RAUTAVAARA Die Liebenden: Liebes-Lied
MARIA SCHNEIDER Winter Morning Walks (Australian Premiere)
ELGAR Introduction and Allegro

Tour presented by Johnson Winter & Slattery
12 April – 6 May

Richard Tognetti Director and Violin
Giovanni Sollima Cello

RESPIGHI Ancient Airs and Dances: Suite No.3
BOCCHERINI Cello Concerto in G
SOLLIMA L.B. Files (Australian Premiere)
HAYDN Cello Concerto in C
VERDI String Quartet

Tour presented by Virgin Australia
19 May – 4 June

Richard Tognetti Director and Violin
Ignatius Jones Director
Graham Ross Vocal Director
Concept by Richard Tognetti

Tour Presented by BNP Paribas
16 June – 29 June

Richard Tognetti Director and Violin
Kiera Duffy Soprano

SIBELIUS Symphony No.6
MAHLER Symphony No.4

Tour presented by Transfield
10 Jul – 22 Jul

Satu Vänskä Violin
Rebecca Chan Violin
Christopher Moore Viola
Timo-Veikko Valve Cello
Paavali Jumppanen Piano

DVORÁK Piano Quintet in A, Op.81

Tour presented by IBM
18 Aug – 2 Sep

Gordan Nikolic Violin

Peter Evans Co-Artistic Director, Bell Shakespeare
Bell Shakespeare Actors to be announced
Concept by Timo-Veikko Valve
Presented in association with Bell Shakespeare

25 August

Richard Tognetti Violin
Steven Osborne Piano

PROKOFIEV Violin Sonata No.2
DEBUSSY Violin Sonata
BEETHOVEN Violin Sonata No.10 in G, Op.96

26 October – 3 November

Richard Tognetti Director and Violin
Timo-Veikko Valve Cello
Yevgeny Sudbin Piano

JONNY GREENWOOD New Work (Australian Premiere)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No.1 in C, Op.21
BEETHOVEN Coriolan Overture, Op.62
BEETHOVEN Triple Concerto in C, Op.56

16 – 30 November

Anthony Marwood Violin

STRAVINSKY Divertimento (arr. for string orchestra)
DVORAK Serenade for Strings
ENESCU Octet, Op.7 (arr. for string orchestra)

10 December

Richard Tognetti Director and Violin
Satu Vänskä Violin
Christopher Moore Viola

LOCATELLI Violin Concerto in D “The Harmonic Labyrinth”
TOGNETTI Caprice on Paganini Caprices (DEVA)
PAGANINI/TOGNETTI Deviance on Paganini Caprice No.24
TOGNETTI Mutant Mutations on the Queen of the Night Aria (World Premiere)
PAGANINI (arr. Tognetti) Caprice No.5
PAGANINI La campanella
PENDERECKI String Quartet No.1
HINDEMITH Trauermusik
SCHUBERT Quartettsatz

*International Enescu Society Biography George Enescu by Pascal Bentoiu

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