Music / Beethoven & Prokofiev. Australian Chamber Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall, March 9. Reviewed by Graham McDonald
THIS was an unusual concert in that all three works presented were not originally written for string orchestra. Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op.80 was written for violin and piano, Such Different Paths by English/Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova started as a string septet and Beethoven’s last string quartet was just that.
The Prokofiev sonata was arranged for violin and string orchestra by guest director and soloist, Italian violinist Lorenza Borrani. The arrangement works delightfully well and it was fascinating to try to pick out how the piano part was expanded and embellished for 16 string players. The piano parts could certainly be heard in the cello and bass lines, often with the violas taking the middle of the keyboard and two ever shifting violin parts on top. Lorenza Borrani brought passion to the solo violin parts while still directing the orchestra through a memorable performance. The orchestra applauded her as enthusiastically as the audience.
Such Different Paths is a more recent composition, written originally for Dutch violinist Janine Jansen and scored for seven string players; two violins, two violas, two cellos and bass. The violin parts were expanded into two sections of five, sometimes it seems with three solo lines that constantly shifted and swapped around. This complex and intriguing music, full of dense chords with clashing harmonies. The work ends with harmonics played on the cellos, violas and the first violin section before resolving finally to just the cellos and bass.
The final work was Beethoven’s String Quartet in F major, op.135, written in 1826, the year before his death. The quartet has been expanded with some extra lines for the violins that allowed the first violin part, again played by Borrani, some fancy solo lines. This piece was perhaps was the least successful of the arrangements for string orchestra. The four lines of the quartet may have lost a little clarity with the extra instrumentation, but that would be only the most minor criticism.
As always the ACO played with the skill, musicianship and enjoyment we have come to expect. They look like they are having a good time and that communicates itself to the audience. I cannot recollect a concert passing so quickly. A memorable evening.