City Recital Hall
17 September 2017

It was a gentle spring afternoon in Sydney when the Chamber Soloists of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra (ARCO) gathered to present Revolutionary Romance featuring chamber works by Mozart and Spohr, showcasing Australian clarinet virtuoso, Nicole van Bruggen playing the basset clarinet.

Joining van Bruggen in this chamber ensemble were violinists Rachael Beesley and Anna McMichael, viola players Simon Oswell and Jane Rogers and cellists Mime Yamahiro-Brinkmann and Natasha Kraemer.

Preceded by a pre-concert talk from the ensemble’s Principal Conductor, Richard Gill AO, the opening piece Allegro Moderato from String Sextet in C Major, Op.140 by Louis Spohr was in perfect keeping with the optimism of spring. It was joyful start to an afternoon of superbly lyrical and tremendously empathetic playing.

A sub-group of the larger ARCO ensemble, these chamber musicians were a small but cohesive group led by violinist Rachael Beesley in the role of Concertmaster and Director, whose subtlest of gestures spoke to the deep level of communication and understanding amongst the players.

The star of the concert was perhaps Nicole van Bruggen performing on her basset clarinet – an instrument of great visual beauty as well as extraordinary sound. Invented by Mozart and two colleagues, clarinetist Anton Stadler and clarinet maker Theodor Lotz it was reconstructed in Paris from a small diagram in a programme. It is intended to sound as it did in Mozart’s day with a range that extends into the lower register and offering a luscious timbre that prevailed throughout the cascades and the unending legatos of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet inA Major K.581. Nicole van Bruggen’s playing was both energetic and sensitive. Her enthusiasm for her art was palpable.

Finally, the chamber music version of Mozart’s Grande Sestetto Concertante in E flat K 364 known also as the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola. This original version was an apt showcase for the unusual tonal shades of these period instruments, plied by expert hands, notably the violist Jane Rogers.

ARCO is a small but precious gem in the in the Australian musical landscape and should be taken very seriously. The Revolutionary Romance tour continues in Melbourne and at the Ukaria Cultural Centre in South Australia.