QPAC Concert Hall was packed – in the auditorium and on the stage, with 30 additional musicians augmenting the ACO's usual 18. And when Tognetti came on stage he was greeted not only with rapturous applause, but by rock star-style whoops and whistles. Which was fun, and it was great to see a wide age range in the audience. Your aged reviewer was accompanied by a twenty something year old keen to hear his first live performance of the famous "Fifth".
The concert-goer on my left was obviously not familiar with the ACO, and a little surprised to see most of them standing up as they played. "Looks undisciplined" he said.
Undisciplined is not a word one would normally use to describe the ACO, particularly in the Violin Concerto in D major, where Tognetti introduces virtuoso cadenzas with delicate precision and joy as forty eight musicians swayed and played as one. The interplay between Tognetti and his musicians was a joy to behold. Such was the precision and melodic beauty of the first movement that some in the audience decided to break convention and many burst out in applause, to stop when they realised that it "wasn't done" and then to have a "what the heck" moment when others joined them to initiate a second rebellious burst of appreciation.
Tognetti acknowledged the subversive applause with his bow and with a grin. A musical historian suggests to me that audiences of the period would not have shared our inhibitions, but might well, as in a modern jazz concert, have applauded even during the movements, to acknowledge a particularly fine piece of musicianship.
Had that been so Tognetti's Beethoven concert would have been punctuated by a great deal of applause. Both Tognetti and the ACO delighted us with their virtuosity and their interplay as they made Beethoven their own. My aforementioned twenty something concert-goer was practically levitating after the second movement.
And then, after the interval, came "the Fifth": with audience members sharing glances and smiles at the iconic opening notes.
Played on period instruments we were able to imagine time fading away, and that what we were hearing may well have been closer to what Beethoven imagined than the almost industrial strength opening that some enormous orchestras produce. Who knew (as our program notes told us) that one interpretation is that the first few notes are meant to resemble bird-song?
And certainly Tognetti's opening was more delicate than we had been expecting. And the ACO combined passion with precision – one pizzicato note sounding as one – and the interaction of soloist and orchestra was a delight to hear.
A very familiar friend became new again.
The whole evening was joyous, up-lifting, inspiring.
And applause at the end was augmented by rapturous and unabashed whoops and whistles, which felt entirely appropriate.
Richard Tognetti Director & Violin
Australian Chamber Orchestra
Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major
Beethoven Symphony No.5 in C minor