07/20/2013 - & July 21*, 22, 2013
Wolfgang Amadeus. Mozart: Adagio and Fugue, K. 546
Johann Sebastian Bach: Concerto for Three Violins, BWV 1064
Felix Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Nr. 1
Alberto Ginastera: Concerto for Strings, Op. 33
Helena Rathbone, Rebecca Chan (violin)
The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Patricia Kopatchinskaja (guest director and violin)
P. Kopatchinskaja (© Marco Borggreve)
Performing in her third national tour for the Australian Chamber Orchestra and guest directing the ensemble, Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja raised high expectations of joyous and energetic concerts. Having declared the ACO to be “...absolutely the best ensemble in the whole world...” and “...a miracle...” in her 2010 tour, she has on this occasion taken control of the orchestra for whom she has such affection and constructed a program which shares the spotlight and offers opportunities for others from the ensemble to join the musical fireworks.
Sharing some of the limelight with the guest director for these performances is the newest of the ACO’s impressive collection of period instruments: a double bass made by Italian luthier Gasparo da Salò in the last quarter of the 16th Century. With parts of the instrument made from wood dating to 1266, it joins Australia’s only Stradivarius violin (1728/9), a 1743 Guarneri del Gesù violin, a 1729 Giuseppe Guarneri filius Andreae cello, and a 1759 Guadagnini violin. Even before the concert proper began, Bassist Maxime Bireau brought this newest member of the “ACO family” to the stage to introduce it with a solo piece which amply demonstrated the luscious, purring timbre of this huge instrument.
Patricia Kopatchinskaja lead the orchestra onto the stage, barefoot as the title of this season of concerts suggests. She was met by rapturous applause in expectation of the energy and dare-devil bravado she has displayed in previous tours. She wears no shoes so that her trademark energetic foot-stamping does not interrupt the music. As the concert progressed and the program became more animated, this became a wise investment as she tapped, bobbed her head, flung her hair and eventually stamped out the rhythm onto the stage floor.
Opening with the Mozart the ACO and its guest emblazoned a clear mark of authority on the music. Its sonorous bass lines, the technical prowess of the counterpoint, and a lightness of touch in the upper registers gave weight and seriousness to the piece. As leader of the orchestra and director of this program, there was no doubt that the band and the audience were in the hands of a master. Kopatchinskaja’s program notes stated that she “...wanted to explore polyphonic and democratic ideas within the ensemble...” and from the outset, this dramatic and studious piece established that as a leader she is as much a member of the team as a soloist.
J. S. Bach’s D Major Concerto for three violins allowed ACO Principal Violinist Helena Rathbone and Core Violinist Rebecca Chan to share the front of the stage with Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Three formidable talents serenaded, caressed, duelled and wove together an entrancing tapestry of sounds. There was joy and strength in the returns to the unison phrases of the start throughout the opening movement. The central Adagio strung out long phrases and melancholy harmonies but the final movement gave flight again to the virtuosity of three soloists who worked together as one. The violins chased, flirted and toyed with one another, concluding a massive chase which left the audience breathless trying to keep pace with them.
Mendelssohn’s daredevil masterpiece opened the second half of the concert. The intensity and seriousness of the sixteen year old’s vision referencing Mozart and Haydn has themes stated, re-imagined, reversed, intertwined and woven artfully into a youthful liveliness. As soloist, Kopatchinskaja demonstrated herself to be every centimetre the showgirl. The foot tapping, head nodding and beating time for the rest of the ensemble became infectious, almost willing the audience to keep up with the beat and to tap along. Through the display of colour, light and shade devised for the soloist the piece prepares the way for an exhilarating finale. Showy displays and wild-fire runs combined with increased foot stamping and tossing of hair, leading the audience to a conclusion met with equal portions of gasps and applause.
The Ginastera 1965 Concerto for Strings gave us every possible nuance and emotion from the instruments. Rising from a sparse, contemplative beginning, variations through solo instruments and then sections of the orchestra eventually gave way to the frenetic and vigorous conclusion aptly named Finale Furioso. Here again, Ms Kopatchinskaja showed herself a masterful soloist and a dedicated ‘team player’.
Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s fiddling has been described as “angelic and demonic” and in this program we were treated to samples of many of the sensations her playing can evoke. We witnessed a player completely enveloped by the music, executing wildly difficult artistry as if it were the most natural sound in the world.
Is she the “firebrand” violinist of the publicity or a wild child totally in love with the diversity of the sound she is able to conjure from the instrument? Either description suits this endearing and captivating performer.