The Players

Concerti Armonici – No.1 in G
Concerto Grosso, Op.6/1
Concerto for Four Unaccompanied Violins
Concerto in B flat for Cello and Strings [arr. Grützmacher]
Cantilena Pacifica
Octet in E flat, Op.20

Australian Chamber Orchestra
Richard Tognetti (violin)

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 25 March, 2006
Venue: Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia

This was the final concert in a national tour that saw the Australian Chamber Orchestra highlighting the soloistic talents of its members – hence “The Players”. Featuring a melange of baroque, pseudo-rococo (in the case of the Boccherini), proto-Romantic and contemporary styles, the ACO’s usual predilection for the off-beat came to the fore – with equally mixed results.

A bracket of baroque concertos of differing styles and scale began the concert. Wassenaer’s Concerto No.1 from his Concerti armonici (formerly attributed to Pergolesi), though thoroughly modern (for its time) in its rhythmic and harmonic effects, looks back not only to Corelli’s Op.6 but also Muffat’s Armonico Tributo; the ground-breaking use of the concerto grosso format in the first of Corelli’s Opus 6 surely needs no introduction; Telemann’s delightful concerto for four unaccompanied violins (the composer clearly specifying senza basso continuo) looks forward to a true galant style.

Performances were lean, exciting and rhythmically alert. The ACO can be a really HIP (historically informed performance) ensemble when it wants to be: the first two works (an unacknowledged harpsichordist realising the bass) were very stylish indeed; the intimate Telemann was more than that, its part-writing exquisitely and delicately rendered: this was the still centre around which the rest of the programme swirled.

Next came two arrangements: the increasingly non-PC Boccherini/Grützmacher Cello Concerto (or should that be Grützmacher/Boccherini?) with ACO principal Emma-Jane Murphy as soloist and, following the interval, Australian composer Richard Meale’s Cantilena Pacifica, an arrangement for string orchestra by Meale of the final movement of his String Quartet No.2; the soloist was ACO violinist Helena Rathbone.

Here the ACO milked the music for all it was worth. The “Boccherini” received an unabashedly Romantic performance (as it should). Emma-Jane Murphy perhaps got a little carried away, resulting in some slight intonation problems here and there, but the tremendously expressive result was well worth it. Meale’s work, with its sinuous solo violin floating above an almost static accompaniment, begs for the transparent and subtly distant treatment it received, recalling the Telemann along the way.

The concert concluded with a cracking performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet, the ACO bringing out the composer’s superb writing with wit and sparkle while maintaining a clarity of texture that, particularly in the Andante, took us back again to the intimacy of the Telemann.

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