This was a stirring, passionate concert with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in fine, elegant form.
Under the baton of guest director and violin soloist Henning Kraggerud, the concert celebrated the music of Norway’s best known composer. It was multi layered and displayed a great range. There was fine ensemble playing and some very exiting mini solos.
Special guest of the Orchestra, Henning Kraggerud, Artistic Director of the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra , is renowned for his interpretation of Grieg and his extraordinary creative versatility, with a career that his seen him playing many different roles from being an Artistic Director to composer, performer, arranger and even and improviser. He spends much of his time touring the world as a concert soloist and has written over 200 compositions.
As the Orchestra leader, he danced, crouched and lunged into the music, such was his passion. The Orchestra and Kraggerud developed an attentive rapport playing together with great panache and passion. Kraggerud briefly spoke about each of the works before they were played and contextualised the works for the audience.
The first piece, Grieg’s In Folk Style from Two Nordic Melodies took the concert off to a striking start. The first melody began with violas then cellos. It was haunting, lyrical, ebbing and flowing. The second melody made me think of whirling snowflakes as the violins twinkled .Sometimes the piece was sharp and spiky, yet it remained reflective. The work came to a soft, shimmering rather pensive conclusion. Perhaps dawn was approaching?
Next came the world premiere season performances of Ross Edward’s Entwinings, with the composer in the audience (and taking curtain calls after).
The work began briskly and emphatically, with a percussive, sharp spiky feel. The second movement was pulsating and shimmering with dynamic circular rhythms leading to a sizzling conclusion. The third movement began with a lament by the cellos, and included the use of pizzicato on the violas.
Some of the work was reminiscent of pulsating, interstellar music. Eventually there was a return to the circular, whirling melodies of the first movement, then leading to a pensive ending.
Next piece was the Australian premiere of Grieg’s Violin Concerto (Sonata) No.3 in C minor (arranged as a concerto by Henning Kraggerud and Bernt Simen Lund) which featured a tumultuous, fiery opening. The piece was given a passionate, dramatic rendition.
I found the use of woodwind in this piece to add texture and a different ‘voice’ in various parts. In the first movement where the main theme is urgently stated, the strings were like angrily snapping wings at times whilst the woodwind rumbled underneath .The second movement was lyrical and dynamic with a mini flute solo and the third movement was breathless with its dynamic galloping rhythms Darting, fluttering woodwind were eventually joined by fiery strings.
After interval came the Australian premiere of Kraggerud’s Topelius-Variations (From Topelius’ Time) with its mostly feverish strings and sweeping, pulsating rhythms. There was a slower, somewhat calmer section with Kraggerud then playing of a shining, lyrical, lamenting solo lead to a soft, reflective finale.
The final work was Grieg’s richly textured String Quartet No.1 in G minor arranged by Tognetti for orchestra. This piece was off to a scurrying, rather angry start, the music passionately played as it bubbled and swirled. The second movement was a rather sharp, spiky yet simultaneously lyrical conversation between the three sections of the orchestra with shimmering, fluttering, skittering strings.
Cellos pulsated and the melody was stated and then repeated emphatically, at one point featuring a dance like rhythm.
There was a sort of violin duet for Vanska and Kraggerud and the final section was quite fast and spiky, a boisterous, darting discussion that felt like it would continue after the music stopped.
The concert came to a conclusion with tumultuous enthusiastic applause from a full house.
PROGRAM GRIEG In Folk Style from Two Nordic Melodies ROSS EDWARDS Entwinings (World Premiere)* GRIEG (arr. Henning Kraggerud and Bernt Simen Lund) Violin Concerto (Sonata) No.3 in C minor (Australian Premiere) HENNING KRAGGERUD Topelius-Variations (From Topelius’ Time) (Australian Premiere) GRIEG (arr. Richard Tognetti) String Quartet No.1 in G minor * COMMISSIONED BY ROB AND NANCY PALLIN TO CELEBRATE NANCY’S 70TH BIRTHDAY.
Running time 2 hours 15 minutes (roughly) including interval. Henning Kraggerud and the Australian Chamber Orchestra are touring nationally with this concert until September 12.