Hope – Australian Chamber Orchestra

Partita [arr. Vojtěch Sadek]
Concerto funèbre
Romanian Dances [arr. Arthur Willner]
Per Australia
Sonata for Strings No.3 in C
Concerto in D for Violin, Strings & Continuo, RV208

Australian Chamber Orchestra
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin & guest director)

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 11 July, 2007
Venue: Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia

Wilfully eccentric or eccentrically wilful – however you might categorise Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s persona, there’s no getting around her astonishing musicianship. In this latest tour by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the diminutive Kopatchinskaja, 1834 Pressenda violin tucked under her chin, danced barefoot between ensemble and audience like a benign goblin, whipping up a magical storm in a programme of sharply contrasting works.

The Partita is an arrangement for string orchestra of a string trio by Gideon Klein (1919-1945), who, like so many gifted artists and intellectuals, met his death in a Nazi concentration camp. The trio was Klein’s final composition, but one listens in vain for even the merest intimation of mortality. This vigorous, energetic work is thoroughly life-affirming, and was given an appropriately vigorous performance, Kopatchinskaja and the ACO moulding the contrasting rhythms and broad, melodic outlines with great conviction.

Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s four-movement Concerto funèbre was played with equal conviction. This time the spotlight was firmly on Kopatchinskaja, who put her almost supernatural command of harmonics, extremes of register, rapid bowing and articulation firmly at the service of the music. The ACO was equally immersed in Hartmann’s often-mysterious soundworld, the dynamic control and near-perfect ensemble a wonder to behold.

In many ways, Bartók’s Romanian Dances brought a return to the mood of the Klein, making the Hartmann feel like the central movement of some vast concerto. Contributing to this impression was the rustic, improvisatory quality in the playing – so apposite for the folk origins of this music.

The second half opened with Kopatchinskaja’s own Per Australia. Written in celebration of her first visit to this country and as a tribute to the ACO, it uses a multitude of effects (including the novel use of a harpsichord and vocalisations from the musicians) to paint an imaginary picture of a country Kopatchinskaja had not yet seen. The result is a playful yet highly controlled cacophony that has much in common with the paintings of Australian artist Fred Williams. Both musicians and audience seemed delighted with it.

Then came one of Rossini’s string sonatas and classic ACO: punchy, incisive playing and a real feeling for balance and texture. It made an ideal introduction to Kopatchinskaja’s pyrotechnics in the Vivaldi. Not only in the outer-movement cadenzas, but also in the profusely ornamented middle movement (in which the only accompaniment was cello and harpsichord), Kopatchinskaja added to the aforementioned qualities in her musical arsenal an exquisite sense of fantasy and invention. Here was playing worthy to stand alongside that of Fabio Biondi or Giuliano Carmignola.

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