02 August 2023


I'm pretty sure that the Romantic era came after the Classical era, but for the sake of a great initialism, I can fully understand the inversion.  The Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra (ARCO) came to Albert Hall and we were there.  They have been around ~10 years but only first visited Canberra late last year, so this is an early relationship.  What got me was how big this group was.  I'd expected perhaps a smaller group from the full ensemble, but no, they were ~40 players, all with their period instruments, for ARCO is a HIP group in the sense of Historically Informed Performance, meaning they seek to inform themselves of the styles and sounds and approaches of musicians of the era and play thus.  I guess they succeeded.  Certainly the music sounded more soft and mellow with gut strings and early winds and brass.  And the conductor was playing along with all, so there was a gentleness and consistency from all having to feel the rhythm that bit more personally.  But I was particularly interested in bassist Pippa Macmillan with her impressive history and some previous contacts and her residence now in Australia.  She was seriously impressive, all commitment and top-of-beat speed in fast passages and strong pizz from a Cremonese bass and that cream wood, strongly arched, underhanded period (baroque? viol?) bow.  But there were a string of friends and acquaintances and faces from other ensembles to follow and the 40-part whole to imbibe.  The program was named Midsummer dreams, with Mendelssohn Midsummer night's dream overture and Beethoven Symphony no.8 (Fmaj op.83)  and Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony (no.3 Amin op.56).  The Mendelssohn appealed to me most, despite Beethoven's pride in his no.8.  B8 was more varied and challenging but the Mendelssohn was just so lyrical and picturesque and lovely.  It seemed to fit this format of period instruments in a smallish hall with a smallish audience.  And what a pleasure that was!  It's not too often you can experience a seriously capable orchestra of so many players with period instruments in such close proximity.  Albert Hall is somewhat like the rectangular European concert halls but this is smaller and closer for all.  So, a great pleasure to hear such music so well played in such intimate surroundings.  Seriously lovely.

The Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra (ARCO) performed Mendelssohn and Beethoven at Albert Hall.  Rachael Beesley (violin) conducted and Pippa MacMillan and Chloe Ann Williamson (bass) provided the bottom end.

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