In this week’s column, Angus McPherson‘s upcoming streaming highlights include the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s celebration of Richard Tognetti’s 30 years as Artistic Director, a second Bang on a Can Marathon, and the ‘Global Pandemic Edition’ of Vanessa Tomlinson and Erik Griswold’s 84 Pianos.

Australian Chamber Orchestra
ACO Mountain
The Australian Chamber Orchestra's Mountain. Photo © Maria Boyadgis

June 15 – 21

Following the launch of the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s ACO HomeCasts series, the orchestra has announced a new digital season celebrating violinist Richard Tognetti’s 30 years as the orchestra’s Artistic Director, the live celebrations of which were scuppered by the COVID-19 pandemic and concert hall closures. The week-long season will begin on June 15 with a solo Bach performance by Tognetti, followed across the week by the premiere of Tognetti’s new original song The Other Way (with Satu Vänskä on vocals, Tognetti on electric violin and Slava Grigoryan and Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie on guitar), a performance of Szymanowski’s String Quartet No 2 from the 2018 Indies & Idols tour, and Tognetti’s performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto at the Sydney Opera House in 2018, as well as excerpts from film projects Musica Surfica and The Reef.

ABC Classic has partnered with the ACO and will also celebrate the 30th anniversary with a program of live performances, artist interviews, archival footage and curated playlists, programmed to take place across radio, online and social platforms, and the ACO will also perform live in the ABC Classic studio on June 18 at 1pm, the first live classical broadcast at the ABC since lockdown began.

“Over the past few months, the Australian Chamber Orchestra has been committed to providing engaging musical experiences to our national and international audiences at home during lockdown,” Tognetti said. “Our first digital season, the ACO HomeCasts series has reached over 1.5m people, tuning into over 20 performances. Whilst we wait to tread the boards of our beloved concert halls once again, I am thrilled to celebrate my 30 years as Artistic Director with the Orchestra with this special anniversary program culminating in the online premiere of one of our most celebrated performances, the epic cinematic documentary Mountain.”

If you missed the ACO’s collaboration with director Jennifer Peedom, Mountain, when it premiered in 2017, it’s well worth a look when it brings the online celebrations to a close on June 21. I’d recommend viewing it on the largest screen you have – don’t use your phone for this one – as the beautifully shot vertiginous mountaineering footage is part of the thrill. Narrated by Willem Dafore, Mountain “marries the music of composers such as Vivaldi, Chopin, Peter Sculthorpe and Tognetti himself with stunning video footage in a poetic exploration of the often fraught relationship between humans and mountains,” I wrote in my review of the live performance.

The album, released by ABC Classic, also received a glowing review from Limelight, with Steve Moffatt singling out Tognetti’s own compositions. “Tognetti shows versatility in his pieces, ranging from the purely orchestral Bartók-inspired Majesty and terrifying Sublime sections to a couple of songs featuring vocals by violinist Satu Vänskä,” he wrote. Flying sounds like a Scandy-noir opening title, while Vänskä gets aggressive in Madness Bites, co-written by Joseph Nizeti, with crashing drums and synthesisers illustrating the arrogance of some extreme athletes.”

It’s exhilarating stuff.

Bang on a Can Marathon II
Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens will kick off the second Bang on a Can Marathon

June 15, 5am to 11am AEST

For new music enthusiasts, the Bang on a Can marathon went digital this year, hosting a live streamed event at the beginning of May, broadcast – like the Metropolitan Opera’s gala – from the homes of the musicians. “I sat up in my desk chair for Anna Clyne’s Rapture, a jaggedly minimalistic work for clarinet and electronics; for Adam Cuthbért’s Synthetic Flora, an eerie dreamscape for trumpet and electronics; and for an angular meditation by the composer-guitarist Mary Halvorson,” Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker. “The master percussionist Steven Schick, performing in a temporary home studio that doubles as a laundry room, gave a riveting account of Vinko Globokar’s 1973 score Toucher.”

“As with the Met gala, audio quality varied from the acceptable to the atrocious, and there were a few outright snafus: we saw Meredith Monk for several minutes before we heard her, live from her Tribeca apartment,” he wrote. “The habitats of American composers and new-music specialists are generally less palatial than those of opera stars. The undoubted highlight was a glimpse of a legendary three-toed box turtle, named Neutron, which has been living with Monk since the late nineteen-seventies.”

A second marathon has now been announced for June 14 (early June 15 in Australia), with 25 live performances from musicians around the USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Scotland, Italy, Ireland, and Japan. “We had a blast doing it, but we noticed something as soon as it was over,” said co-founders and co-hosts Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe. “We are all still isolated! Listeners everywhere are still hungry for connection! An entire ecosystem of composers and performers still needs our attention, and our love, and our financial support!”

The second marathon will feature the world premieres of ten new works, commissioned for the event from composers Leila Adu, Aaron Garcia, Susanna Hancock, Carla Kihlstedt, Žibuoklė Martinaitytė, Shara Nova, Helena Tulve, Ailie Robertson, Tomeka Reid and Kendall Williams. The marathon kicks off with composer, singer, songwriter, historian, archivist, and activist Rhiannon Giddens and will conclude with Terry Riley, joining live from the middle of a remote rice field in Japan where he is apparently sheltering from being on tour, in an early celebration of his 85th birthday.

84 Pianos –  Global Pandemic Edition
84 Pianos – Global Pandemic Edition

June 12 at 6pm AEST

For those looking for a new music experience in a more familiar time-zone, Vanessa Tomlinson and Erik Griswold (who together formed Clocked Out) are rebooting 84 Pianos, which was created for all of the pianos at the Queensland Conservatorium, premiering at the World Science Festival in 2017 as part of 100 Ways to Listen. The ‘Global Pandemic Edition’ of the work will not be limited to 84, however. When Limelight’s Vincent Plush saw the premiere, he described it as “a joyous and brilliant success,” noting that “its formula could easily be adapted for anywhere between 2 and 2,000 pianos.”

“We will include as many pianists from as many houses from all corners of the country into the mix as we can,” the organisers have said of this new version which will be performed on June 12 at 6pm AEST – and the number of pianist signed up is already over 100. Pianists from around the country have been invited to take part in the one-time only performance billed as a “choose-your-own adventure entry inside a piece of new music” which will be live-streamed on YouTube. Clocked Out are teaming up with sound artist Leah Barclay and video artist Greg Harm, who will create live-streaming sound and video mixes. The list of pianists taking part so far includes Sonya Lifschitz, Michael Kieran Harvey, Gabriella Smart, Natasha Vlassenko, Alex Raineri and many, many more.