This month, Richard Tognetti and the ACO joined creative forces with musicians from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama in a concert of Romantic heavyweights Brahms and Beethoven, presented a critically acclaimed concert featuring works by Australian composer Roger Smalley, Mozart, Shostakovich and Peteris Vasks and also performedThe Reef, the ACO’smuch-loved live music and film work in which breathtaking natural footage of the Western Australian ocean and landscape combines with music performed by the ACO, including Tognetti’s own compositions. In thiswork, the ACO is joined by its regular artistic collaborators Brian Ritchie from the Violent Femmes, Jim Moginie from Midnight Oil and didgeridoo player Mark Atkins, with staging direction from Nigel Jamieson.
With the UK and Europe the birthplace of western classical music, it is Richard’s and the ACO’s Australian interpretations and sensibilities that offer
s British audiences the opportunity to listen anew to familiar works as well as attracting new concert goers.
The UK Telegraph reported ’At home everywhere from the red-dust towns of the Outback to the night-clubs of Manhattan, the Australian Chamber Orchestra challenges accepted formulae of classical concert-giving. So in the conventionally sedate surroundings of the Barbican's Milton Court, where the ACO's artistic director Richard Tognetti has been featured as a resident artist this season, something different was called for: behind the orchestra a giant sunrise was screened, in front of it Mark Atkins played his didgeridoo, summoning up one of the world's oldest musical cultures. Welcome to The Reef, Tognetti's personal odyssey attempting to unite his own two arts, music and surfing. Though the remaining two concerts of the residency are more routinely programmed – being the ACO, there will be no routine playing – this audio-visual project finds the orchestra simultaneously living up to the first part of its name and attracting wider audiences.’
Bachtrack reported ‘There are so many things that make the ACO’s performance special. For a start, they don’t sound like an orchestra: they’re so tightly together that you feel like you’re listening to a mysteriously expanded string quartet. We’re used to the idea of a star violinist breathing life into a phrase by giving it a shaped contour in both dynamics in rubato, but it’s an extraordinary thing to hear four violinists playing that complex shaping identically. These are risk-taking musicians, throwing themselves into those sforzandi to the point where one bow went flying. Their dynamic range is extreme, with pianissimi held more steadily and softly than I have ever heard.’