Magazine article Gramophone

Australian Chamber Orchestra: Our Monthly Series Telling the Story Behind an Orchestra

Magazine article Gramophone

Australian Chamber Orchestra: Our Monthly Series Telling the Story Behind an Orchestra

Article excerpt

Founded 1975

Home City Recital Hall, Sydney

Artistic Director Richard Tognetti

An orchestra formed in the image of a passionate surfer? Only in Australia. The Australian Chamber Orchestra has become synonymous with Richard Tognetti, the determined violinist (and board-rider) who became its Artistic Director in 1990. The sometime pupil of viola player William Primrose set about instilling a revitalising, breezy energy in the ACO that would lead some to hail it as the finest chamber orchestra in the world.

Initially, the 2 3-year-old put some noses out of joint with his quest to 'clean up the sludge' in performances of Baroque and Classical repertoire. Tognetti was insistent that significant differentiations in character--the natural products of contrasting musical personalities and epochs--should distinguish interpretations from composer to composer. The world soon got wind of his work. Soloists wanted to travel down under to work with the ACO while New York, London, Amsterdam and Vienna wanted to tempt it north. Audiences in those cities were soon hearing an ensemble characterised by a tightness, crispness and focus that only made its frequent vivacity more endearing.

The ACO has spent the ensuing decades exploring repertoire from the Antipodes to the Baltics with Bach and Mozart as foundation stones. It has brought us recordings on Sony Classical, Chandos, Hyperion, BIS and ABC Classics. Much of the music it plays is transcribed (quartets by Beethoven, Schubert, Haas, Szymanowski, Janacek and Grieg as well as intriguing renderings of assorted violin and cello sonatas); much was written to order (by Sculthorpe, Vasks, Dean, Mazzoli) and much has been prompted by collaborations with non-musicians (filmmakers, actors, cabaret artists). …

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