Anthony Marwood and George Enescu co-star in an exquisitely conceived program.

Hamer Hall, Melbourne
November 17, 2014

Eminent London-born violinist Anthony Marwood is renowned for a formidable combination of virtuosic technique and a rich, varied tone. He is a regular collaborator with eminent international ensembles, and has an ongoing relationship with ANAM in Melbourne. Marwood is currently touring Australia as Guest Director and Lead Violinist with the ACO, performing works by Stravinsky, Dvorak and Enescu.

In his notes to accompany their current program, Marwood described George Enescu as a composer “whose musical voice is slowly but surely being rediscovered in the concert hall.” This is welcome news, because his Octet, in the hands of Marwood and the ACO, was an absolute revelation. Even more astonishing is that this work was completed in 1900 when Enescu was a mere 19 years old. The other famous teen-penned octet (by Mendelssohn at 16) works fundamentally as a solo violin part with string section accompaniment; Enescu’s functions in a quite different manner. It’s a lush, sweeping work of complex counterpoint, reflecting the composer’s great love of J.S. Bach, and originally written for eight players in a doubled string quartet formation. Enescu was reportedly enthusiastic about his Octet being played with expanded scoring, which is how the ACO presented it in this performance.

Marwood led with a perfect balance of energetic virtuosity, passion and lyricism, in control but never dominating. His interplay with other contrapuntal voices, particularly Principal Violist Christopher Moore, was nuanced and vivacious. This cyclic, passionate and relentless Octet is fraught with the danger of peaking too early, thereby forcing players into a plateau of unsustainable intensity. It is a testament to Marwood and the ACO that the trajectory of this terrific looping and pulsating work was managed and sustained through to an exultant conclusion that resonated deeply, hanging in the air for seconds. It was received with deservedly rapturous applause.

The Enescu Octet beautifully complemented Stravinsky’s Divertimento and Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings in E Major. The Divertimento is a suite of excerpts from Stravinsky’s one-act ballet La baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss), for which the composer reworked a selection of lesser known works by Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky wrote an orchestral version of the Divertimento as well as an arrangement for violin and piano, which Anthony Marwood recorded some years ago with Thomas Adès for the Hyperion label. As befits his rich history with this work, Marwood’s violin dipped and soared richly over the spikey balletic orchestrations, arranged for string ensemble by James Ledger. The influence of gypsy folk dance was strongly evident, as was also the case for Dvorak’s gloriously lyrical Serenade. With its stately opening Moderato, instantly memorable Tempo di Valse, and unabashedly beautiful Larghetto, the Serenade worked beautifully as a bridge between the other two works in an exquisitely conceived and presented program in which Marwood and Enescu most definitely co-starred.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra tours Marwood’s Serenade November 20-30.