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Canberra Today 9°/12° | Friday, May 24, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Gifted composers, romantic music

Richard Tognetti… got to duel with Russian pianist Polina Leschenko through rapid passages in the first movement. Photo Zan Wimberley

Music / “Chopin & the Mendelssohns”, Australian Chamber Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall, November 18. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

PROFOUND connections through life have produced some of the greatest music the world knows. This concert joined gifted composers through their romantic music.

Under Richard Tognetti, director, and violin, the Australian Chamber Orchestra opened with the “Concerto for Violin and Piano in D minor”, by Felix Mendelssohn.

The exuberant music of Felix Mendelssohn is full of bright, clear tones, and romantic stylings. Tognetti on violin got to duel with Russian pianist Polina Leschenko through rapid passages in the first movement. It fluctuated from fast to slow with appropriate style changes. It was a lot like a duo for violin and piano for large parts. Virtuosic playing was required by both, and did they shine.

Leschenko showed amazing dexterity and flair throughout. While there was a page turner, it looked like the person was not needed. Her playing seamless. The slow movement, mainly for solo violin and piano, flowed, sang and melted through the ear, then down into the heart.

The lively final movement breathed fire and repeated the same construction as the first. Fast then slow sections quickly repeated with fitting changes in style. A brilliant performance all around.

After the interval, the manager for the ACO came to the stage to announce that Leschenko had had a medical issue and could not go on to perform the “Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor”, by Chopin.

The piece was replaced with “The Lark Ascending”, by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was fittingly beautiful as only the ACO knows how.

To round off the concert, Fanny Mendelssohn’s “String Quartet in E-flat Major”. Arranged for strings, this quartet is a work of substance with several bright solo moments across the orchestra. 

That strong quartet feel came through clearly in its intimacy. The thematic material spoke of a composer comfortable with writing for the string quartet, which is no simple feat.

Each section contrasted well. The craft of skilful writing was clearly on show in this work. It had something to say, and it said it with substance and style. 

With a double bass in the mix, the piece had greater resonance. It followed the cello lines a lot, but when it had its solo moments it added that extra oomph. 

The final movement was a delightful fast burst of rich, complex writing that excited. Even with missing the Chopin, the concert rewarded in many ways.

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