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Canberra Today 6°/6° | Friday, July 1, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Up close and a revealingly close concert

Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra. Photo: Martin Ollman

Music / “Sounds of Vienna”, Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, National Portrait Gallery, June 7. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

VIENNA stood at the centre of the cultural world on the dawn of the 19th century. Two Austrian composers, Franz Schubert, and Joseph Eybler helped bring light to the late classical and early romantic eras.

The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra specialises in the performance of classical and romantic orchestral and chamber music repertoire. ARCO are the perfect group to perform the two works in this concert titled “Sounds of Vienna”.

Founded under the artistic direction of renowned musician and educator, the late Richard Gill, today ARCO is under the co-artistic direction of Rachael Beesley and Nicole van Bruggen. ARCOs music-making has seen their reputation for high-quality music performance swell through international acclaim.

Beginning with the “String Quintet in D Major”, by Joseph Eybler, ARCO, who perform in historically informed style on period instruments, make listeners feel like they are sitting in a private house experiencing a performance for family members and a few friends.

Sitting so close to the performers, just two metres away, the experience couldn’t be any more intimate. But the acoustic revelations that become realised in such close contact is akin to experiencing your partner’s breath up close.

The double bass, with its penetrating expression right in front of you, is something else. But what is greater is the quality of this group’s playing. Also apparent are the subtleties of the individual lines of music, and how each phrase speaks something special in the overall context of the composition.

Seeing the players react to the intimacy of the music is another special experience in up close quarters. The eye movement from the score to other players is a visual story in itself.

In between all this, there is the music. The delicate and sensitive sounds of Eybler’s quintet is a discovery of the passionate and the intimate. The group’s handling of the music said so much about their commitment and understanding of the playing of music from this period. Everything about their playing said connection. A connection to the music and relating that into an enjoyable experience.

The tone, style, dynamic and volume of the music grew in the “Octet in F Major” D.803 by Franz Schubert. This turbulent, swelling music with its multiple lines of individual music captures attention through its dynamic complexity. There is so much going on in this music that trying to tell its story is difficult. It does not let up. Even in the slow movement, the complexity remains, albeit at a slower pace.

Over the six movements, and at almost an hour of music, there’s a lot to take in. But fortunately, in the hands of such fine players, it was a warming experience. The few solo moments brought back that intimate expression experienced earlier in the concert. The lines where the clarinet took the lead were the most alluring. Its velvety sound played so well, brought out the best in the music.

The “Allegro Vivace – Trio” third movement is the most expressive section throughout the work. Its clear and driving dance-like tonalities captured the effects of movement splendidly.

One hopes to see and hear ARCO in Canberra much more. Their kind of music-making never goes astray or to waste. On a long tour, covering eight cities, it was a treat to hear them bring such fine music to the capital of Australia for a good-sized audience.

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Ian Meikle, editor

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