Annabel Crabb

Annabel Crabb and Richard Tognetti go way back

The Chat 10 Looks 3 host on her history with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

“Cooking a hearty vegetable soup and listening to Jack Johnston” – WOW. This is the kind of gaslighting with which I deal on an almost-daily basis at the hands of this woman. Click here to see exactly what I'm talking about. Where do I start? First, Sales: it’s “approached Crabb and ME”, not “approached Crabb and I”. Second, who is Jack Johnston? Third, I love the fact that you think you introduced me to Richard Tognetti.

Actually, I met Richard in 1994, when I was working at the Adelaide Festival, as driver to Festival director Christopher Hunt. I was a law student at the time and my other part-time job was pumping petrol at the Ampol on Burbridge Road. At the 1994 Festival, the ACO was enlisted to accompany Mark Morris on his whooping choreographic swing through Adelaide, with a selection of works including Dido and Aeneas, and an unforgettable interpretation of Handel’s L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato, all of which were undertaken in collaboration with the ACO and THAT is when I first saw Tognetti play.

And did I have any understanding of what I was seeing? No: Not really. But I did have – by virtue of my role as driver – an opportunity to see all these performances and even though I could not have explained why at the time, I have never forgotten one second of that Festival. Mark Morris – a fizzy, fuzzy haired, brilliant OCCURRENCE of a person – was unforgettable on stage, and even though I didn’t know much at all about the form, even I could tell that the choices he made about music off stage were at the heart of what made these works so memorable. And Tognetti – not much older than I, but already the Artistic Director of the ACO – he was immediately identifiable even to an interested outsider as a proper genius. Watching him and Morris interact offstage was a show in itself.

Real-life creative geniuses are always fun to witness, because they have a sort of shamelessness in their own talent. And I mean that in the best way possible; shamelessness in the sense that they don’t ever NOT do something because no-one else would attempt it, or because it’s risky or unorthodox.

Watching the ACO is like watching an organism function, all its valves and pumps moving smoothly, a miracle of design even if you don’t really understand all the constituent bits. “Making it look easy” is the most straightforward way of putting it. But then when you see Richard and Satu playing punk interspersed with Bach at ACO Underground, you get a sense of all the other exhilarations available to people who are THAT good at their jobs.

Anyway, journalists are kind of shameless too, but for different reasons. And much as I complain about Sales chivvying me into her grandiloquent dream projects (when you come to the show, I will TELL YOU her list of demands from the ACO for this one), what I’m really excited about is the opportunity to ask smart people dumb questions. Which – as much as we gussy it up from time to time – is the essential trade of the journo. In the case of the ACO, these questions are the ones which always bubble away in my brain when I see them play. How do you make decisions about how you play, what you play? How do you subsume your individual talents in deference to the whole? Are you as aware of the audience as we are of you? Are viola jokes really a thing? And so on. I can’t wait.

By Annabel Crabb


Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb appear on stage with the ACO in For the Love of Music with Chat 10 Looks 3, on Mon 8, Tue 9 & Fri 12 April in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Click here to buy tickets.