2017  Annual Report

2017 was a significant and rewarding year for the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra. The support of numerous generous individual donors and philanthropic foundations together with a two-year grant from the Ministry of the Arts and a one-year grant from Creative Victoria enabled the orchestra to launch subscription series in both Melbourne Recital Centre and City Recital Hall in Sydney. 2017 also saw the presentation of a week-long youth orchestra workshop entitled Young Mannheim Symphonists. The ARCO Chamber Soloists toured regionally for the first time, presenting a concert in the Blue Mountains and also travelled to South Australia to perform in the Adelaide Hills.

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Italian Romance | Beethoven & Mendelssohn

Melbourne Recital Centre | Friday 24 March 2017
City Recital Centre | Saturday 25 March 2017

“there’s an infectious energy and a sense of enthusiasm that turns an ARCO concert into an event” – Limelight
“Beesley played with tenderness and warmth, and created a wonderful dialogue with the woodwind section." – Sydney Arts Guide
“what I actually felt coming off the stage was a bold and unanimous gesture; an ensemble saying, “Listen to this. This is what we made.” It was wonderful." – Harriet Cunningham

This new wave of Historically Informed Performers brought a revitalised spirit and energy to Beethoven and Mendelssohn’s masterpieces. The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, his playful Contredanses and the sublime Romance for violin featuring concertmaster Rachael Beesley, Wolf’s Italian Serenade for Strings and Mendelssohn’s thrilling ‘Italian’ Symphony, conducted by Berlin-based Guest Conductor Benjamin Bayl.


Unfinished Romance | Rossini & Schubert

City Recital Centre | Saturday 20 May 2017
Melbourne Recital Centre | Monday 22 May 2017

“the kind of thrilling, committed performance that is a hallmark of ARCO’s dedication to squeezing new sounds out of old bottles." – Limelight
"I have to confess something right here, at the very beginning of this review. I am, quite simply, in love with the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra." – Classikon

The style and grandeur of the Romantic period came alive on the period instruments of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra with the mesmerising mezzo soprano Fiona Campbell. The most extraordinarily spectacular overtures and arias from Rossini’s well known operas and Schubert’s most famous work, the ‘Unfinished’ Symphony was conducted stunningly by Berlin-based Guest Conductor Jakob Lehmann.


Revolutionary Romance | Spohr & Mozart

Yabba Yabba Residence, Blackheath | 16 September 2017
City Recital Hall | 17 September 2017
Melbourne Recital Centre | 22 September 2017
UKARIA Cultural Centre, Adelaide Hills | 24 September 2017

"Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra has firmly established itself as a fixture of the HIP music scene in Australia ... the ARCO Chamber Soloists, led by violinist Rachael Beesley, shaped with an exquisitely organic, breath-like phrasing ... the sound [the basset clarinet] produced was incredible, Van Bruggen coaxing a smooth, caramel timbre from the instrument ... an impeccable sense of ensemble and tight-knit camaraderie ... a wonderfully intimate offering from ARCO Chamber Soloists, with Van Bruggen’s basset clarinet a particular treat." – Limelight
“On the evidence of this concert, ARCO values balance, expressive subtlety, and mellifluous melodic shape and avoids distorting mannerisms and unnecessary over-emphasis... This was a gem of a concert for its caressing sweetness of sound and pristine tonal beauty." – Sydney Morning Herald
“ARCO is a precious gem in the Australian musical landscape and should be taken very seriously." – Sounds Like Sydney

The beautiful rich sounds and textures of the ARCO Chamber Soloists, with the star of the basset clarinet Nicole van Bruggen created thrilling and engaging performances delighting audiences and critics alike. Spohr's revolutionary new world of string playing was represented on gut strings and Mozart’s famous Clarinet Quintet, and the sublime Grande Sestetto Concertante - better known as the Sinfonia Concertante, revealed the extraordinary artistry and virtuosity of these world-class HIP musicians.


Young Mannheim Symphonists

Sydney | July 2017

“This extraordinary group of students of such different ages and from so many different backgrounds could already make a fantastic sound on the first day! They were living proof that a love of music and learning thrives in every corner of Sydney and beyond. It was pure delight to be able to work with them at the highest level; by the end of the four days they played a concert that was so wonderful it brought tears to my eyes.” - Megan Lang ARCO education coordinator 

Some of Australia’s brightest young musicians spent an amazing week of learning and playing in the company of Australia’s finest performers of Historically Informed Performance style (HIP). The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra conducted a four day workshop from 4-7 July with school students from all over Sydney, west to the Blue Mountains and Bathurst, south to Sutherland Shire and north beyond the northern beaches to Noosa in Queensland! Hosted by Santa Sabina College in Sydney’s inner west, more than 40 talented young musicians worked intensively to create a fresh and inspiring interpretation of Mozart’s Symphony no. 35, the ‘Haffner’. All brought their own modern instruments; however the tutors demonstrated on period instruments and shared their expertise and experience so that the students learned how to create a sound and style in keeping with the aesthetics of Mozart’s time. The sessions included full orchestral and sectional rehearsals, lecture/workshops and demonstrations – and lots of singing, gesturing, dancing and socializing with like-minded peers. Tutors were ARCO members - including some who flew in from Adelaide, Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast. The orchestra was directed by ARCO’s own concertmaster Rachael Beesley and tutors included Simone Slattery (violin), Simon Oswell (viola), Anthea Cottee (cello and double bass), Megan Lang and Nicole van Bruggen (woodwind), Matthew Manchester (brass and timpani) and Joanna Tondys (harpsichord).

Further Education Outreach Programs

§  Workshop with the Early Music Ensemble of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music coaching the Mozart Clarinet Concerto – led by Nicole van Bruggen and Rachael Beesley
§  Open rehearsal / Workshop for Melbourne Conservatorium Students during Revolutionary Romance
§  Workshop for the Sunshine Coast Youth Orchestra conducting Rossini’s Barber of Seville - Guest Conductor and Concertmaster Jakob Lehmann
§  Victorian College of the Arts horn students in attendance for rehearsals during Italian Romance – lessons given by visiting Dutch natural horn virtuoso, Stefan Blonk

Two of the orchestra’s priorities for the 2017 Concert Season were developing audiences in both metropolitan and regional centres, and enriching the music education of young emerging artists. Audience numbers grew considerably in 2017 for all concerts. We saw extraordinary attendance of the young generation at the orchestra’s concerts with 17.9% of the 2017 concert audience consisting of students. In addition, 47 young musicians worked under the expert guidance of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra musicians in Young Mannheim Symphonists in July.

The increase in performance and education activities in 2017 required an expansion of the management team. Since establishing the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra in 2013, the orchestra was managed by the trio of co-founders, Artistic Director Richard Gill AO, General Manager Nicole van Bruggen and Artistic Team Member and Concertmaster/Director Rachael Beesley. In 2017, a Company Manager was brought in to support the General Manager, and the role of Education Manager was created to coordinate the Young Mannheim Symphonists and work towards upcoming education programs. The orchestra employed a Production Manager, Designer and Publicist to work on a casual basis, ensuring the success of the orchestra’s activities.