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Australian Chamber Orchestra

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Season Overview
Company Overview

Season Overview

The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s 2014 season is as exciting and diverse as ever with classical masterworks rubbing shoulders with world premieres, surging through 42,000 years of musical evolution in one concert, hosting multi Grammy Award-winning Soprano Dawn Upshaw and Australian electronic music duo The Presets and collaborating with renowned actors from Bell Shakespeare.

Did you know that the lead guitarist from legendary band Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood, is also an award-winning classical composer? The ACO did, and they have commissioned a new work by the rock-star turned composer to be premiered in an otherwise all-Beethoven program featuring Beethoven Symphony No.1.

Also in the symphonic vein, Tognetti tackles the biggest symphonic configuration in ACO history for 
Mahler’s “Heavenly” Symphony No.4 and Sibelius’ Symphony No.6.

Smaller in scale but similarly emotionally expansive is a chamber music concert of Slavic melancholy and joy featuring one of the greatest pieces of chamber music in the canon,
Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A. Joining ACO’s principal musicians for this concert is first-time collaborator, Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen.

Far from a first-time collaborator, international superstar soprano and long-time ACO friend
Dawn Upshaw joins the ACO for the Australian premiere of Winter Morning Walks and sings works by Grieg and Rautavaara which are interspersed with spectacular string works including Grieg’s enduringly popular Holberg Suite.

In a celebration of the string sound, UK violinist Anthony Marwood takes the helm of the ACO, curating a program featuring the uplifting
Dvořák Serenade for Strings. Marwood is loved by audiences, critics and players for his inspiring leadership, golden sound and distinctive playing.

Distinctive in his own right, fiery Italian cellist Giovanni Sollima is renowned for his passionate performance style and it is invigorating to experience him performing alongside Richard Tognetti in
cello concertos by Boccherini and Haydn.

If all those classical masterworks and international guests weren’t enough, in 2014 the ACO flex their ever-adventurous muscles collaborating with
Bell Shakespere for performances featuring actors on stage with ACO’s musicians to enact the stories behind the music, and Tognetti embarks on possibly his most ambitious project to date.

A kaleidescopic surge through 42,000 years of musical evolution,
Timeline moves from ancient Aboriginal music up to the most recent Western music of today. Joining Tognetti for this epic journey are a cappella vocalists and lauded Australian electronic music duo The Presets.

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Richard Tognetti AO: Artistic Director and Lead Violin

Helena Rathbone: Principal 2nd Violin

Satu Vänksä: Assistant Leader Violin

Madeleine Boud: Violin

Alice Evans: Violin

Aiko Goto: Violin

Mark Ingwersen: Violin

Ilya Isakovich: Violin

Rebecca Chan Violin

Christopher Moore: Principal Viola

Nicole Divall: Viola

Timo-Veikko Valve: Principal Cello

Melissa Barnard: Cello

Julian Thompson: Cello

Maxime Bibeau: Bass

Company Overview

Internationally renowned for inspired programming and the rapturous response of audiences and critics, the Australian Chamber Orchestra is a product of our country’s vibrant, adventurous and enquiring spirit. In performances around Australia, around the world and on many recordings, the ACO moves hearts and stimulates minds with repertoire spanning six centuries and a vitality and virtuosity unmatched by other ensembles.

The ACO was founded in 1975. Every year, this ensemble presents performances of the highest standard to audiences around the world, including 10,000 subscribers across Australia. The ACO’s unique artistic style encompasses not only the masterworks of the classical repertoire, but innovative cross-artform projects and a vigorous commissioning program.

The outstanding Australian musician Richard Tognetti was appointed as Artistic Director and Lead Violin in 1989. Under his inspiring leadership, the ACO has performed as a flexible and versatile ‘ensemble of soloists’, on modern and period instruments, as a small chamber group, a small symphony orchestra, and as an electro-acoustic collective. In a nod to past traditions, only the cellists are seated – the resulting sense of energy and individuality is one of the most commented-upon elements of an ACO concert experience.

Regular international tours to Asia, Europe and the USA have drawn outstanding reviews for the ACO’s performances at many of the world’s prestigious concert halls, including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Vienna’s Musikverein, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center.

The ACO’s dedication and musicianship has created warm relationships with such celebrated soloists as Emmanuel Pahud, Steven Isserlis, Dawn Upshaw, Imogen Cooper, Christian Lindberg, Joseph Tawadros, Melvyn Tan and Pieter Wispelwey. The ACO is renowned for collaborating with artists from diverse genres, including singers Tim Freedman, Neil Finn, Katie Noonan, Paul Capsis, Danny Spooner and Barry Humphries and visual artists Michael Leunig, Bill Henson, Shaun Tan and Jon Frank. Committed to Australian composition, the ACO has given 1700 performances of over 250 works by 80 Australian composers.

Several of the ACO’s musicians perform with spectacularly fine instruments. Tognetti plays a 1743 Guarneri del Gesù violin, on loan from an anonymous Australian benefactor. Principal Cello Timo-Veikko Valve plays a 1729 Giuseppe Guarneri Filius Andreae cello, on loan from Mr Peter Weiss AM. Principal 2nd Violin Helena Rathbone plays a 1759 Guadagnini violin on loan from the Commonwealth Bank Group. Assistant Leader Satu Vänskä plays a 1728/29 Stradivarius violin owned by the ACO Instrument Fund, through which investors participate in the ownership of historic instruments.

The ACO has made acclaimed recordings for labels including ABC Classics, Sony, Channel Classics, Hyperion, EMI and Chandos and currently has a recording contract with BIS. Highlights include the three-time ARIA Award-winning Bach recordings and Vivaldi Concertos with Emmanuel Pahud. The ACO appears in the television series Classical Destinations II and the multi-award-winning film Musica Surfica.

In 2005, the ACO inaugurated an ambitious national education program, which includes outreach activities and mentoring of outstanding young musicians, including the formation of ACO2, an elite training orchestra which tours regional centres.


Artistic Director: Richard Tognetti AO
General Manager: Timothy Calnin


Telephone: +61 2 8274 3800
Fax: +61 2 8274 3801


 [The ACO] plays everything with raw, high-spirited, rhythmically propulsive energy… Early music doesn’t get much hipper than this. Los Angeles Times

For vitality, elegance, playfulness and technical prowess… it would be hard to top the ACO. San Francisco Chronicle

Tognetti and his 21-piece group can apparently play anything, and they play it all with tremendous verve. San Francisco Classical Voice

The energy and vibe of a rock band with the ability of a crack classical chamber group. Washington Post   

What a pleasure and yet what a shock it is to be reminded of just how remarkable a performance can be. The Scotsman

Listening to the ACO is like taking a swig of a vitamin drink. Suddenly: pow! The music certainly feels stronger, muscled, hot from the gym… If that’s what Australia does for you, I’m also emigrating. The Times

A visit from the ACO always raises questions. Does violinist Richard Tognetti, its leader for 19 years, have a slowly mouldering portrait in the attic? Can ugly players even audition? More pertinently, let's ask about what we settle for from music-making in the UK - why do so few of our ensembles present their music with this kind of ear-grabbing vigour? The Guardian

The Australian Chamber Orchestra is a ticket to musical bliss. The Times, UK

The Australian Chamber Orchestra… took the breath away.  Such supple phrasing and dynamics!  Such a gorgeous tone… Such freshness, passion, and commitment!… This group must be the best chamber orchestra on earth. The Times, UK

A brilliant, stimulating evening…..played with gusto and briskly focused vitality. San Francisco Chronicle

There was only one thing wrong with the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s April 12 Santa Fe Concert Association performance: nothing…It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever heard. The Santa Fe New Mexican, USA

Astonishingly warm, fullbodied and tightly focused: the sound radiating from the crammed Wigmore Hall stage could only have come from the marvellous Australian Chamber Orchestra….Such panache, such confidence! Eighteen minds thinking and breathing as one. Heavenly playing, but that was expected: you’d have to scour the universe hard to find another band like the ACO. The Times, UK

The lean, sleek ensemble from Down Under is well enough established now to dare a little with its selection of tour repertoire. In a refreshing change from the standard chamber music blockbusters, the group offered a diverse collection of works spanning three centuries, cleverly united by the theme of a descending minor scale, symbol of intense melancholy. Financial Times, UK

It probably did not come as a surprise to those who knew it through its recordings, but the Australian Chamber Orchestra had those who were listening for the first time riveted to their seats. El País, Spain

Tognetti's beaming violin set the pace, driving the others to follow and injecting a catch-me-if-you-can spontaneity. Clear, too, was the commitment to make each aspect of the score audible, and the sound-sculpting was top-notch. Washington Post, USA

This concert was that rare thing, a beautifully shaped whole in which all the parts were absolutely in tune with each other and with the space…. The orchestra played like angels throughout, with springing rhythmic grace and impeccable style... (Richard Tognetti) is one of the most characterful, incisive and impassioned violinists to be heard today. The Telegraph, UK

Unified, polished and energetic.. (the Corelli) was delivered with virtuoso ensemble playing and an invigorating spontaneity that seemed to flow from Mr. Tognetti’s charismatic leadership....these spirited Australians seemed reluctant to start the long trip home. Encores came by way of Boccherini and Vivaldi. The New York Times

Tognetti's sound - and his orchestra's sound - has rough edges, and those rough edges are a kind of glory. Theirs is the aggressive give-and-take approach of musicians playing for themselves - the take, sometimes, as in take no prisoners. This is obviously just the kind of music-making on which Anderszewski and Upshaw thrive. But it also made Corelli's Concerto Grosso Opus 6, No. 4 overwhelming fun… and the Szymanowski quartet arresting. Los Angeles Times


Tognetti's Beethoven
Presenter Australian Chamber Orchestra
Venue Concert Hall
Dates 02 Nov - 03 Nov
Marwood's Serenade
Presenter Australian Chamber Orchestra
Venue Concert Hall
Dates 30 Nov


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