Madness & Confrontation | Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra

Image by Nick Gilbert

Bringing together two of the most well-known composers of the Romantic era, the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra showcased their exceptional talent for another program. When coordinating this concert program, Rachael Beesley and Nicole van Bruggen wanted to recreate an 18th Century concert, mixing styles and genres to keep the performances dynamic.

The first half of the program featured pieces from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart including songs from the Marriage of Figaro interspersed with movements from “Clarinet Concerto in A major”. Opening with the Figaro “Overture” was a welcome introduction to the orchestra with such a familiar piece. They were joined by baritone singer David Greco and soprano Jacqueline Porter who gave wonderful renditions of some choice songs. The two complimented each other well and added light theatrics to Mozart’s classic composition. In particular, Porter’s piercing and incredibly clear voice was captivating.

Another special moment of the Figaro pieces was a brief solo performance from Anthony Abouhamad on the fortepiano; a cheerful instrument one doesn’t get to hear played very often. The mix of instruments the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra employs creates a delightful dynamic between modern familiar sounds and those more authentic to the time of composition for their chosen pieces.

In between Figaro performances, Nicole van Bruggen joined the orchestra with her basset clarinet to perform four movements of Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A major”. This clarinet displays an earthier, softer sound than a typical modern clarinet which created a beautiful harmony with the rounded tone of the surrounding string instruments. Each movement was rather different in its exploration of the relationship between the solitary clarinet and the surrounding orchestra. In the first “Allegro”, the clarinet seemed to flutter lightly over the top of the violins while the “Adagio” took a slower and more refined approach. The “Rondo” and final “Allegro” became playful again before finding deep dramatics for a full finale to the first half of the concert.

For the second half of the concert program, the orchestra performed the very well-known and much-loved “Symphony No. 5” from Ludwig van Beethoven. The first movement doesn’t need explaining but after the enormous and sinister opening, the following movements mimic the grandiosity with a more playful quality. Particularly in the second and third movement, the strings are allowed some interesting moments including the violins all buzzing in unison or the deep and discordant double bass and cello moments where the sound seems to be being thrown around the room. It’s in these places that the power of Beethoven’s composition to take advantage of quiet tension for full impact in the crescendo is clearly demonstrated. The orchestra has masterful control of pacing and partnerships to make sure all the punches of this grand style land.

The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra are phenomenal players who bring life and energy into every piece, no matter how many times the audience may have heard these notes repeated around the world. Familiarity or obscurity do not distract from the players’ excellent talent.

The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra’s 2019 concert program In Celebration, marking their fifth birthday, will continue with two more concerts throughout the year. Please visit their website for more information.

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