The Australian Chamber Orchestra has again impressed on the international stage with its performance at the Edinburgh Festival, an achievement whose significance is swelled by the knowledge that performing at this hallowed event is strictly at the invitation of Festival Director Jonathan Mills.
With Richard Tognetti directing from the violin, the concert was simulcast on BBC3 and included works from several styles and points in the time line of music history: CPE Bach’s String Symphony in B flat Wq182 No 2, Peteris Vasks’ Vox amoris, Giacinto Scelsi’s Anagamin and Grieg’s String Quartet in G minor (arr. Tognetti).
Latvian composer Peteris Vasks’ (b1946) Vox amoris is a 24 minute fantasy for violin and string orchestra, composed in 2008-9 and premiered by Tognetti and the ACO in Sydney in October 2009. Originally a double bassist, Vasks’ style is influenced by contemporary Polish composers crossed with Latvian aesthetics and a concern for the ethical issues of the 21st century.
Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) was born into Italian nobility. His style of composition reflects the trends of the 20th century, but is characterised by music made from varying the acoustic qualities of a single tone. Anagamin, his work for 12 strings is named after the Buddhist concept of a spiritual traveller who has nearly attained immortality.
Inaugurated in 1947, during the post war renaissance, the annual Edinburgh Festival has grown to be one of the most important in the world, attracting highly regarded names in classical music. This year, the festival will also feature The London Philharmonic conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, Sir Roger Norrington with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Wagnerian mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier, pianists Leif Ove Andsnes and Maria Joao Pires….the list goes on.
Edinburgh is about as far north on the planet, as Sydney is south. Both cities stage annual festivals which bear their names, and which are a hub of cultural life. There is another commonality: the director of the Edinburgh Festival, appointed in 2006, is 49 year old Jonathan Mills, graduate in composition from the University of Sydney, artistic adviser to several Australian cultural festivals, recipient of the Australian Centenary medal in 2002 and the Prix Italia in 2005. He is also the composer of several works, one of which is the chamber opera Eternity Man.
Read Andrew Clements’ review of the ACO’s Edinburgh Festival performance: