Australian Chamber Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

It was a study in contrasts: an account of a symphony at a level that critics dream about but seldom encounter in reality – and a concerto performance that buttressed the view that orchestral direction should, in many cases, be left to a conductor, allowing soloists to function purely in that capacity in order to be able to give undivided attention to the solo line.

If, due to some magical form of time travel that would have enabled Mozart to be present at this performance of his ‘Paris’ Symphony, I would have been surprised had the ACO’s account failed to win the Salzburg Master’s approval.

Here was a performance to savour with its meticulous attention to fine detail, tempi that seemed entirely appropriate, unfailingly musical phrasing and corporate tone that, with the use of period – or period-copy – instruments, would have made the composer feel entirely and comfortably at home. Certainly, for concertgoers not accustomed to the sound of a period wind choir and valveless horns of the time, this might well have been revelatory.

This was an excceptional account; I hung on every note. If ever a justification for the existence of an ensemble such as the ACO was needed, then it lay in the keeping of this splendid offering.

There were no microphones in evidence at this concert so this extraordinarily fine reading is lost to posterity. Has thought been given to the ACO embarking on a complete recording of Mozart’s symphonies? If this account of the ‘Paris’ is anything to go by, it’s an idea that ought to be seriously entertained.

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor made for less satisfying listening, the chief reservation stemming from direction of the accompanying orchestra that was not always as felicitous as it might ideally have been.

The solo violin line is cruelly demanding; it calls for unremitting focus on the job in hand. And whether the soloist, who has a great deal to think about and do in this concerto, is the ideal person to take on the added burden of directing an orchestra playing a tricky score, is debatable. Occasionally – inevitably, perhaps, with such an arrangement – the orchestra had to be left to its own devices – and at other moments, the assistant concertmaster helped out by waving her bow, in lieu of a baton, at the musicians.

Had the soloist, however, been able to focus purely on the solo line while another was able to give undivided attention to anticipating the requirements of the soloist, the result might well have been that much more satisfying overall.

Also on the program was Beethoven’s Symphony No 7.

Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn

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