In comparison to this year’s US tour in April, with its arduous travel schedule and endless hotel check-ins and check-outs, the European tour looked like a breeze – at least on paper.
We flew directly to Edinburgh to play at the Edinburgh Festival, then took the train to London for a concert in Cadogan Hall before flying to Slovenia for an 11-day residency in the Maribor Festival. But a closer look at the program revealed a musical pentathlon, a challenge to the energy, stamina and versatility of any ensemble. Our London concert, for example, contained two “main courses” in the form of Ravel’s String Quartet (arranged by Richard Tognetti) and Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night. But it was the vast quantity of repertoire for the Maribor Festival that was the real test. We were involved in 12 different programs in 11 days, rehearsing every morning and every afternoon and appearing on-stage almost every evening.
We have never played to the overture+concerto+symphony formula, but the concerts Richard curated for this year’s Festival caused musical worlds to collide. While the big gigs like The Reef and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony drew crowds and excited reactions, the chamber concert in the eerie 18th-century mansion which had been a children’s mental asylum in the communist era will never be forgotten – partly because of the atmosphere of the place but perhaps even more for the performance of Shostakovich’s Ninth Quartet, led by Satu Vänskä with Rebecca Chan, Christopher Moore and Timo-Veikko Valve.
As the Maribor concerts got under way, some fantastic reviews from Edinburgh and London started to appear, opening with The Sunday Telegraph’s comment “probably the finest string ensemble on the planet” and followed by The Guardian “The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s infrequent visits to Britain with its director Richard Tognetti deserve to be cherished just as much as those by great symphony orchestras like the Cleveland or the Royal Concertgebouw. There’s no string band in the northern hemisphere that communicates such energy, such joy in its music-making as the ACO does, nor combines those qualities with such precision and detailed ensemble.”
After an intense year of international touring in 2012, we have a less hectic international schedule in 2013. Our international program for next year includes the Niseko Winter Music Festival in Japan in January and a residency at the Hong Kong Arts Festival in March, followed by a visit to Berkeley, California. Meanwhile 2014 is shaping up impressively with concerts in the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, Lincoln Center in New York and London’s Southbank Centre.
Read all of the reviews here