Beethoven - Australian Chamber Orchestra
In 2020 the Australian Chamber Orchestra will celebrate two monumental anniversaries: 30 years of fearless leadership with ACO Artistic Director Richard Tognetti and 250 years since the birth of the great Ludwig van Beethoven.
To celebrate both milestones, ABC Classic is releasing a collection of the ACO’s legendary Beethoven recordings – including never-before released recordings of two of his greatest works: Symphonies 5 and 6.
These recordings represent some of the orchestra’s finest performances, including two #1 albums and three ARIA Award-nominees, and feature collaborations with some of Australia’s finest artists – soprano Nicole Car, and pianists Tamara Anna Cislowska and Erin Helyard.
Beethoven has endured for centuries as one of the most popular and beloved composers around the world, with his music found everywhere from concert halls, to film soundtracks, to disco-era chart-toppers. He was a true musical revolutionary and is credited with paving the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras. His music has always been a mainstay of the ACO’s core repertoire, but this marks the first time that they have recorded these two monumental symphonies.
Since its establishment in November 1975, the Australian Chamber Orchestra has become one of the world’s most daring and exciting ensembles, renowned globally for its inspired programming, unrivalled virtuosity, energy and individuality, showcased through an extensive and ongoing program of international touring and recordings for many of the world’s top labels.
Australian Chamber Orchestra
Across the 30 years of Richard Tognetti’s leadership of the Australian Chamber Orchestra there has been considerable tut-tuttings over his treatment of Beethoven.
Lots of exaggerated tempos and dynamics, it was said, and altogether too much colour and movement, which obscured Beethoven’s original scores. Musicologists winced, audiences cheered.
Now, in the 250th anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth, the ACO is featured on an extraordinary release: three discs comprising 26 tracks sprawling over nearly four hours of music.
The core string ensemble of 18 players — joined by 80 guests — gives vigorous performances of the fifth and sixth symphonies, as well as meticulous readings of movements from violin and piano concertos.
For good measure, Tognetti and fortepianist Erin Helyard perform two violin sonatas and soprano Nicole Car dazzles in the concert aria Ah! perfido.
Almost all the orchestral performances were recorded in the past several years at the City Recital Hall in Sydney, and the recordings capture the urgency and excitement the ACO habitually generates in live performances. Let’s not overlook the elegant 28-page booklet with notes by various authors, highlighted by Tognetti’s eloquent insights into old Ludwig van. How I wish I had read that years ago! What emerges is a fresh look at Beethoven, enriched and invigorated by casting off the shackles of European traditions and conventions.
Tognetti has been reinventing Beethoven, mostly for Australian ears. His Beethoven is no longer monarchic and magisterial; it is vibrant and urgent. His performances are respectful enough but not reverentially tethered to conventional practices.
“It’s not that we have too much Beethoven,” Tognetti suggests. “It’s that we don’t have enough time to succumb to it.” Well, this year those old European companies will be dusting off their recordings on original instruments in bright, newly remastered packaging. But if we think there is little more to learn about the man, we cannot go past these ear-expanding ACO performances.VINCENT PLUSH
Symphony No. 5, Op. 67 *
Symphony No. 6, Op. 68 ‘Pastoral’ *
in the countryside
String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130,
with Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 (arr. Tognetti)
II. Adagio un poco mosso
Sonata for Violin & Piano, Op. 30 No. 3
Sonata for Violin & Piano, Op. 47 ‘Kreutzer’
* Never previously released