From Baroque music to the latest violin concerto

ACO photo

One of the most distinctive features of the Australian Chamber Orchestra is the sheer breadth of our repertoire. Our programming seeks to find elusive relationships between Baroque music and a modern cello concerto; between a mighty Romantic symphony and Renaissance polyphony; and between a Classical violin concerto and a piece composed by a contemporary rock star.

At the heart of our repertoire is music written for strings, whether it’s in the form of vibrant concerti grossi by Baroque composers or the stirring body of string sound in a 19th Century symphony. Our 17 core musicians are remarkable for their versatility as much as for their virtuosity, and adapt effortlessly from playing solo, through the myriad combinations of chamber music up to our most expansive configurations in the symphonic music of Brahms, Mahler or Sibelius.

Virtuosic string playing was very much the fashion in the music of such Baroque composers as Vivaldi, Corelli and Geminiani. In subsequent periods of music history, the string ensemble lies at the heart of the increasingly large ensemble of musicians which eventually formed the symphony orchestra. The ACO prides itself on maintaining a strong connection with the genesis of orchestral music by comprising a full-time ensemble of 17 string players with the capacity to shrink to a string quartet and expand to a full symphony orchestra, as the programming demands.

In addition to exploring the rich diversity of music from the 17th Century to the present day, the ACO has created many cross-art-form collaborations which have taken the Orchestra into new artistic territory and reached audiences who would rarely experience the music of a chamber orchestra. Whether it’s a contemporary dance work set to the music of French Baroque composers, a Berlin cabaret hosted by the legendary Barry Humphries or a surf and oceanic adventure with a live orchestral score, the ACO fearlessly takes up the challenge.

Among our guest artists are some of the most distinctive and remarkable musicians on the world stage. In any one season, our audiences can hear a Romantic cello concerto played by one of classical music’s greatest virtuosos, a sacred cantata from 18th Century Venice, a choreographic clarinet concerto under full theatrical lighting, a new Australian violin concerto specially written for Richard Tognetti and a Beethoven symphony played on gut strings with early 19th Century woodwinds.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Artistic Peer Review Panel (comprising representatives from the arts community across four states) is invited to the ACO’s national subscription season and provides the ACO with regular feedback. The panel assists the ACO by responding to the repertoire, soloist(s), audience engagement and concert experience of each program thereby informing the ACO’s artistic self-assessment and programming patterns. 

Members of our Artistic Peer Review Panel are: Jim Koehne, Anthony Peluso, John Painter, Mary Vallentine AO, Siobhan Lenihan, Marshall McGuire, Jane Davidson, Alan Dodge, Lyn Williams OAM, Yarmila Alfonzetti, Toby Chadd, Katie Noonan and Elaine Armstrong.