There’s a special type of anticipation that runs through the ACO offices in the weeks prior to Steven Isserlis’ arrival. An exceptional musician and one of our oldest musical friends, Steven’s intelligent and deeply expressive playing is the perfect match for the dynamism and virtuosity of the ACO.
Steven Isserlis plays Shostakovich, our twelfth tour with the British cellist, has been on the cards since our last tour together in 2013, when Richard Tognetti and Steven agreed it was high time to bring Steven’s interpretation of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto to Australian audiences.
Over the years that followed, a diverse set of musical opportunities made themselves known to the Orchestra, and a theme of internationalism, exploration and struggle began to emerge from this central root of Shostakovich.
Setting the international scene for the program will be the world premiere of Movements (for us and them) by US composer Samuel Adams, commissioned by the ACO and Stanford Live. Recently catapulted into the limelight when conductor Riccardo Muti chose him as one of two Composers-in-Residence at the Chicago Symphony, Adams’ composition will explore the traditional Baroque Concerto Grosso in a 21st century light, a concept he’d had in mind after being struck by an ACO performance during our 2013 tour of the US.
Isserlis then joins the Orchestra onstage, drawing the audiences focus from group to soloist. Widely regarded as one of the most musically and technically challenging pieces in the cello repertoire, Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto will see Isserlis at his sublime best.
Elena Kats-Chernin’s new work, A Knock One Night, sheds further light on Shostakovich’s world, tracing lives upturned by the Soviet Russian regime. Commissioned by Mirek Generowicz to share his family’s dramatic journey to Australia, the piece follows the central characters from their arrest in Poland to enslavement in Kazahstan, ‘amnesty’ in the Middle East and eventual resettlement in the UK. The powerful story illustrates the realities of Shostakovich’s Russia while humanising the plight of those who seek refuge, both past and present.
Finally, and with renewed positivity, Joseph Haydn’s celebrated London Symphony reminds us of the opportunity internationalism can provide for the restricted. After breaking free of a long contract in the palace of Esterháza, Haydn took no time setting off to London to write music for the city’s cosmopolitan audiences. His London Symphony is the pinnacle of his symphonic works, and one of Richard Tognetti's personal favourites.
Old and new. Adventure and refuge. Familiar and unknown. Power and restriction. Audiences can expect an explosive performance that spans structures, centuries and countries.
Steven Isserlis plays Shostakovich tours nationally 23 June – 4 July, with stops in Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Tickets available via the link below: