Season Preview: Your guide to the arts in 2021The Australian Chamber Orchestra has announced its 2021 season, a hybrid season of live and digital programs. The ACO will present seven live concert series in Sydney, touring nationally from May, as well as eight online concert films on the orchestra’s new ACO StudioCasts platform.

Australian Chamber OrchestraThe Australian Chamber Orchestra. Photo © Stephen Ward

“We’re proud to announce one of our most groundbreaking seasons yet, particularly given it has emerged out of one of the most challenging years we’ve faced,” said Artistic Director Richard Tognetti. “2021 will see us presenting two seasons in one and giving people more music than ever before. After almost a decade of film-making, a season of concert films feels like a natural evolution for the Orchestra. As Australia’s most travelled Orchestra, we are committed to bringing transformative musical experiences to all audiences across the world and ACO StudioCasts does just that in true ACO style.”

“After what has been a challenging year for many, we’re delighted to announce that in 2021 we will be performing at least twice in all our major touring hubs across the country,” Managing Director Richard Evans said. “While we will have a reduced touring footprint following the effects of COVID-19, we are thrilled to be able to reunite with our national audiences. We also launch ACO StudioCasts, our very first digital subscription, for both our live audiences and those who cannot get to our concerts. Working with leading directors and cinematographers, ACO StudioCasts enhances our live performance offering with exclusive programs and associated premium content premiering throughout the year.”

The live season opens in in Wollongong and Sydney in February with what was the first program of the 2020 season to be cancelled due to the pandemic, Tabula Rasa, featuring Arvo Pärt’s work of the same name, Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony in C Minor, and the world premiere of British composer Thomas Adès’s Shanty.

In May musicians from the ACO will tour to Melbourne for the first time in over a year with Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, as well as Canberra, Sydney and Wollongong.

The ACO will partner with Belvoir for two concerts next year. “The ACO has had a long list of theatrical collaborators for various projects over the years,” Evans tells Limelight. “In 2021 we continue this tradition, working with actors and creatives from the Belvoir St Theatre. Richard Tognetti and Eamon Flack have enjoyed a number of creative conversations of late, and 2021 emerged as the right moment to come together.”

The first, in March – Beethoven & Bridgetower – focuses on George Bridgewater, who premiered Beethoven’s Kreuzer Sonata and to whom the work was dedicated before the pair fell out and his name was removed from the dedication. The concert will pair the Beethoven with Janáček’s Kreuzer Sonata, and the text will be written by writers yet to be revealed, directed by Belvoir AD Eamon Flack. The second, Baroque Revelry – in Melbourne and Sydney in June – explores the sordid underbelly of Baroque Europe with the music of Barbra Strozzi, Francesca Caccini and Giuseppe Tartini.

“Encompassing some actors and more than a few tablespoonfuls of immodest behaviour, I am not sure what they will come up with, but I have a sense it will be quite a bit of fun and strip the baroque repertoire of its often too gentile reputation,” Evans says.

The ACO will follow up the success of its cinematic project Mountain with a sequel, River, directed again by Jennifer Peedom and featuring music by Tognetti, Bach, Vivaldi, Ravel, Jonny Greenwood and a new collaboration with William Barton. River plays in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle and Sydney from 29 July.

River sits as its own creation, but of course is seen as a companion piece to The Reef and perhaps more particularly, MountainMountain was theatrically released in 27 countries and toured internationally as a live concert; we dare to hope for similar success with River,” Evans says.

River is by its nature less of a thrill-seekers’ romp than Mountain, but similarly contains the soaring beauty and intensity of nature’s form in all of its colours and shapes overlaid at points with recent human impact and its menacing modernity,” he says. “Overwhelmingly, River is a reminder that it is never too late to ask ourselves: ‘are we being good ancestors?’”

In August and September, Music for Healing, will see the ACO tour nationally with guitarist Slava Grigoryan, in a program featuring music by Morton Feldman, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Iain Grandage, Pink Floyd and more, before the orchestras brings the year to a close with Joseph and James Tawadros, on Oud and Riq respectively, who will tour nationally with the ACO for a program that intersperses Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with music by Joseph Tawadros and Vivaldi’s contemporaries.

In addition to the mainstage season, Principal Violin Helena Rathbone will lead the ACO Collective on a tour of regional Queensland and New South Wales featuring Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons alongside a new commission by Holly Harrison.

Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra filming at Carriageworks. Photo © Cameron Emerson-Elliott

The ACO’s online season – which draws on the success of this year’s ACO HomeCasts – will see eight concert films released across the year, and then available on demand, starting with Rapture & Revolution in February, a program, drawing on this year’s Beethoven 250 concert, of Beethoven, Schubert and Vaughan Williams. The films will be recorded at locations including the Sydney Town Hall, Carriageworks and Studios 301. March’s Bach and the Beyond, directed by Matisse Ruby with cinematography from Tyson Perkins, will also feature Swiss flautist and long-time ACO collaborator Emmanuel Pahud, recorded in lockdown in Berlin. Other film concerts include Love & Transfiguration (music by Bach, Vasks, Sibelius and Schoenberg), Tchaikovsky Serenade (music by Ruth Crawford Seeger, George Walker, Ravel and Tchaikovsky), as well as Tabula Rasa, Schubert’s Quintet, Beethoven & Bridgetower and Baroque Revelry, which draw on the programs in the live concert series.

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