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ACO: Tour Three – Great Romantics


In a concert at Angel place I heard a stripped back representation of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, a string sextet: Richard Tognetti, Helena Rathbone, Christopher Moore, Stephen King, Timo-Veikko Valve and Julian Thompson give a performance of Ian Munro’s commissioned piece BLACK IS THE NIGHT as part of the 20th Anniversary celebration of Richard Tognetti’s leadership of the ACO; Brahms’ String Sextet in G, Op.36 [Agathe] and Schoenberg’s TRANSFIGURED NIGHT.

Brahms has not very much interested me. I nearly always imagine myself sitting in a scene either at a colonial concert at Government House in the late 1800’s or in one of those magical soirees in a Visconti film (L’Innocente or Death in Venice) when I hear his chamber work. So, I imaginatively transported myself to such an environment. Watching this close knit group of musicians with their concentrated eye contact to cue each other in the performance was fascinating to observe. The ensemble seemed to be seamless and fully engaged. The music, undoubtedly played well, ( the audience, more learned than I, responded enthusiastically.) flowed over me in a fairly mindless way.

On the other hand, the sublime composition and playing of TRANSFIGURED NIGHT by Arnold Schoenberg, captured me from the first notes. The sounds of this Program Music, telling the story of a walk at night by a man and woman, based around a poem by Richard Dehmel, is delicate and bewitching in it’s composition. Schoenberg wrote,” It does not describe some action or drama but is limited to depicting nature and expressing human feelings…..” The beauty of the sound, especially in the last few minutes was enhanced by the ‘theatrical’ concentration of the sextet of players. This was truly a transfiguring experience this night. I was moved and left in a state of ecstatic awareness. The night I went out into was vibrating with details that the music had alerted me too. Gorgeous.