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The ACO to climb mountains and other musical summits

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The ACO to climb mountains and other musical summits

by Jo Litson on August 16, 2016 (August 16, 2016) filed under Classical Music | Chamber | Instrumental | Vocal & Choral | Comment Now
In a diverse 2017 season, cinema and Americana rub shoulders with classical masters and contemporary voices.

Following the huge success of its multi-media concert The Reef, first seen in 2012 and 2013 and then revisited this year, the Australian Chamber Orchestra will present the world premiere of Mountain, a similarly ambitious project, as part of its 2017 season.

Richard Tognetti. Photo by Paul Henderson Kelly

Where The Reef celebrated surfing, the ocean and the desert with a fusion of music and footage filmed around the world heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef in northern Western Australia, Mountain looks to awe-inspiring peaks. Subtitled “a cinematic and musical odyssey”, it is a collaboration between the ACO and film director Jennifer Peedom, whose BAFTA-nominated documentary Sherpa (filmed on Everest in 2014 after a tragic avalanche that killed 16 Nepalese mountain guides) was released in 2015.

Tognetti has worked with Peedom to assemble what he calls “a soundscape to mirror the serenity, magnitude, harshness and terror of the landscapes filmed” with music by Chopin, Grieg, Vivaldi, Beethoven and Tognetti himself. Describing the multi-sensory event as “our big project, our evolutionary beast”, Tognetti says: “It’s evolved out of the surf movies we’ve made. It’s a four-way collaboration with Jen as Director, Renan Ozturk, one of our greatest mountaineers and 2013’s National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and Robert McFarlane whose book Mountains of the Mind inspired Jen to the point where she is using his words threaded throughout the film. I wanted to create a total work of art, the grand unifying theory is what I’m after, and for people to have this out-of-body music experience that is aided by your other senses. I am convinced that you can enter a heightened state of sensory perception, including the aural, if you titillate the visual as well.” Mountain is presented at the Sydney Opera House in June in partnership with Sydney Film Festival and Vivid LIVE.

International guests for 2017 include American folk independent artist Sam Amidon, fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud who is Artistic Director of the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and Swiss-French flautist Emmanuel Pahud, principal flute with the Berlin Philharmonic. 

Pekka Kuusisto. Photo by Mick Bruzzese

The season opens in February with the unique pairing of Finnish violinst Pekka Kuusisto and Vermont-born Amidon making his ACO debut. “We invited Pekka to unleash his imagination and this is the result,” says Tognetti. The concert, entitled Murder & Redemption, features Janáček’s Kreutzer Sonata inspired by Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata with its tale of sex, adultery, betrayal and murder. The programme also includes John Adams’ Shaker Loops along with American folk murder ballads and songs of salvation in new arrangements by Nico Muhly, performed by Amidon, who sings and plays banjo. Amidon’s interpretations of American folksongs have been described as “quietly psychedelic” so expect something a little surreal.

“When people think about ‘folk music’ they may imagine banjos and happy campfires…but the lyrics of these old songs are extremely broad, and they reach the deepest and darkest aspects of human nature, as well as some of the most transcendental questions,” says Amidon. “It is these links between the old ballads and a darkly psychological piece such as the Kreutzer Sonata, or the spiritual expression of Shaker Loops, that we hope to explore on this tour.”

In April, Tognetti – a three-time ARIA Award-winner for his recordings of Bach’s violin works – directs a programme of Bach violin concertos along with two Haydn symphonies. In May, the ACO Soloists take centrestage. Principal Violin Satu Vänskä takes on the fiendishly difficult Harmonic Labyrinth by Baroque composer Pietro Locatelli and is joined by one of the ACO’s newest members, violinist Glenn Christensen, and Timo-Veikko Valve for Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins and Cello. The concert will also include a world premiere by Australian composer James Ledger.

In June/July, the ACO welcomes pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout. Born in South Africa, raised in Australia and now based in the UK, Bezuidenhout is a renowned Mozart virtuoso who, since 2009, has been recording the complete keyboard music of the composer he first fell in love with as a youngster when he saw the film Amadeus. He performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 13 in C with Tognetti and an intimate ACO ensemble in a programme that also features Schumann.

Henning Kraggerud joins the ACO in September for a concert called Arctic to Antipodes. One of the world’s leading interpreters of Grieg, Kraggerud will perform his own concerto arrangement of Grieg’s Violin Sonata No 3 in C Minor. The concert will also feature Tognetti’s arrangement of Grieg’s String Quartet No 1 in G Minor, a composition by Kraggerud and the world premiere of a work by Australia’s Ross Edwards. In September/October, Emmanuel Pahud returns 12 years after his Australian debut, having made frequent guest appearances with the ACO overseas. The concert will trace the Franco-Germanic lineage from Bach senior to his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, through to Franck, Debussy, Ravel and Boulez.

Emmanuel Pahud. Photo by Josef Fishchnaller

On October 25, Victorian audiences will be treated to a one-off concert called Souvenir de Florence, which takes its name from Tchaikovsky’s String Sextet, for which he sketched one of the major themes while visiting Florence. The 2017 season ends in December with the biggest concert of the year when Tognetti directs the ACO and the Choir of London in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, which was a big success when the two groups collaborated in 2013.

The ACO Collective, under the artistic direction of Kuusisto for the second year running, will tour regional Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. The ACO also presents its three popular, intimate, weekend-long festivals: the TarraWarra Festival at the TarraWarra Museum of Art in the Yarra Valley in February, the ACO Uluru Festival in Central Australia in June, and the Vasse Felix Festival in Western Australia’s picturesque Margaret River region in December, tickets for which are always in hot demand.

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