Mostly Mendelssohn review: Australian Chamber Orchestra brings short, precocious career to life

Stefan Jackiw
The Sydney Morning Herald

A bare 21 years separated the two works by Mendelssohn framing this concert: the String Symphony number 9 in C major, La Suisse, written when the composer was 15, and the violin Concerto in E minor Opus 64, written at the height of his maturity. Three years later, he was dead.

Mendelssohn's was one of the most precocious and compressed musical careers in history, achieving a lifetime of music by his late 30s.

Bottesini's? Gran Duo Concertante for Double Bass and Violin is a piece of virtuosic flummery, apparently designed to show that the redoubtably reliable old retainer, the double bass, is every bit as capable of the capricious flightiness as the violin. Bass player Maxime Bibeau? did just that, partnering with violinist Stefan Jackiw? in ingenious cadenzas at the top of the finger board, and dancing on high harmonics to create the effect of a glass harmonica.

After interval, the orchestra played Hugo Wolf's Italian Serenade in G major with light whimsy, capturing its elaborate swoops and courteous gestures with just enough exaggeration and grace to give them a delicate sense of irony and wit.

Jackiw returned to end the concert with an earnest, breathless and strikingly accomplished performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in an arrangement by Richard Tognetti? for 10 string instruments plus soloist. Jackiw's sound is lean and transparent, with thrilling glow in the upper register and characterised by brilliance and refined colour, more than warmth and breadth. Tognetti's arrangement was effective and clear, and, as the tour continues, the arrangement will allow for more intimacy, and close listening than was exploited at this performance.

Read the rest of the review here