Signs, Games and Messagesis the title György Kurtág gave to his collection of miniatures, which contains his Hommage à J.S.B, produced across decades of the now 93-year-old Hungarian composer’s life. It is these ideas, more than intimacy, that thread through this playfully cerebral concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra: the name Intimate Bachcaptures the small forces on stage (all performing on gut strings), certainly, but not the escalating intensity, clever humour and rolling momentum of a concert that began with ACO Artistic Director Richard Tognetti performing the Andantefrom Bach’s Sonata for Solo Violin No 2 in A Minor and reached its climax in a blistering rendition of the sixth BrandenburgConcerto – by way of Kurtág and Brett Dean.

Australian Chamber Orchestra Intimate Bach Richard Tognetti, Erin Helyard, Timo-Veikko Valve and Atte Kilpeläinen in the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s  Intimate Bach. Photo © Prudence Upton

Tognetti took his Andanteat a brisk stroll in the solo Bach, his pulsing accompaniment notes, played on gut strings, barely audible at first under the singing top line, the violinist holding back periodically as if to reflect or take in the passing scenery. He was soon...

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