Australian Chamber Orchestra – Euphoric

Prokofiev
Symphony No.1 in D, Op.25 (Classical)
Brahms
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op.102
Beethoven
Symphony No.8 in F, Op.93

Timo-Veikko Valve (cello)

Australian Chamber Orchestra
Richard Tognetti (violin)


Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 12 November, 2008
Venue: Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia

Richard TognettiThis concert was part of the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s final Australian tour for 2008, and saw the complete absence of any contemporary or consciously avant-garde works in the programme – a rare thing for the ACO.

Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony, completed in 1916, was as ‘modern’ as it got. Written away from the piano (as an exercise) and in a hypothetical if-Haydn-were-writing-in-the-20th-century style, the symphony’s four movements bristle with attractive harmonies and wry chord progressions. Here, a combination of lightness, clarity and, most importantly, playfulness carried the day, with Richard Tognetti’s brisk yet flexible tempos ensuring a characterful, distinctive performance. The ‘Gavotta’ in particular benefited from emphatic downbeats and an engaging rustic quality.

Brahms’s Double Concerto, written in 1887 for the violinist Joseph Joachim (though at that point not on speaking terms with the composer) and Robert Haussman, the cellist of the Joachim Quartet, is cast in the usual three movements and features substantial solo and duo parts for both instruments. The ACO’s principal cello Timo-Veikko Valve joined Tognetti at the front of the orchestra, Valve playing a 1729 Giuseppe Guarneri Filius Andrea, Tognetti a 1743 Guarneri del Gesù. This was a warmly expressive performance, with each soloist perfectly complimenting the other both in terms of tone and technique. Valve’s remarkable facility in the upper register of his instrument was especially impressive, and the only fault with the performance overall was a tendency for the orchestra to overwhelm the cello in the tutti passages.

Following the interval came Beethoven’s Eight Symphony, played at – some would say – precipitously fast speeds that result in observing the composer’s own metronome markings. Provided the musicianship is there, players have nothing to lose and everything to gain in taking this course – and so it was here.

This was a performance of verve and clarity (both are ACO hallmarks), with an unusual richness of sound to boot. Two encores followed, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance of the Flowers’ from The Nutcracker and Sibelius’s Valse triste, the latter a comment on the recent appalling decision by the Australian Federal Government to withdraw funding from the Australian National Academy of Music.

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