We will be hearing plenty of Beethoven this year, as it marks his 250th birthday. (Ludwig first saw the light of day eight months after Cook landed at Botany Bay.) Between 1799 and 1824, Beethoven loosened the symphony from the relatively formal Classical constraints of Mozart and Haydn and turned it into a monumental statement, paving the way for Berlioz, Wagner, Bruckner and Mahler. The Australian Chamber Orchestra is the ideal vehicle for Beethoven’s early symphonies, being the right size. Their disc of No 5 (a rhythmically taut, vital performance newly issued on ABC Classic) makes it clear that leader Richard Tognetti and his ensemble are fully in sync with the composer’s revolutionary spirit.

Richard Tognetti and the ACO. Photograph © Julian Kingma

Symphony No 1 begins in the wrong key before scurrying off to its home ground of C. Already, Beethoven was confronting his peers with the shock of the new. Innovation was very much the ACO’s approach in tonight’s performance, with hair-trigger responses, punchy accents and finely calibrated dynamics, particularly in the Scherzoand Finale. I loved the delicacy with which Tognetti eased into the opening Allegroof the first...

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