Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Eight-million-dollar Violin

When Richard Tognetti appears at the helm of the Australian Chamber Orchestra in their Spivey Hall debut on Friday, April 20th, he well might be playing a exceptionally rare and extraordinary instrument: a Del Gesu violin valued at 10 million Australian dollars -- just shy of 8 million US dollars at current exchange rates. It's been given to the ACO on permanent loan as a magnificent gift from an anonymous donor.

Check out the news from the Australian Broacasting Corporation's website, and read Richard's description of the violin's sound and character:

I certainly hope he'll bring this violin on tour! The prospect of hearing such an amazing instrument in the excellent acoustics of Spivey Hall is enticing indeed.

Tognetti, as leader of the orchestra, will in all likelihood be one of the featured soloists in Vivaldi's Concerto in B minor for Four Violins & Orchestra, Op. 3 No. 10, as well as the concertino soloist in Corelli's Concerto Grosso in F major, Op. 6 No. 2. This violin is believed to have been made in 1743; Vivaldi died in 1741. Baroque music played masterfully on a very, very, very fine baroque violin.

I'm sure it will also sound fantastic in Tognetti's hands in Haydn's C-major Cello Concerto with Dutch soloist Pieter Wispelwey, and Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence. With any luck, the Italian connection to this program just got a lot stronger.

"Truth-in-blogging" disclosure: I'm still in love with Australia. I used to work for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Based in Sydney and traveling regularly to Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart and Perth, I managed artistic planning and supervised artistic development programs for the six professional orchestras of the ABC. (They are now independent of the ABC, supported by a service organization called Symphony Australia.)

For four and a half years, I often heard two or three performances a week, either at the Sydney Opera House or the Sydney Town Hall, or several concerts in consecutive days in different cities, traveling to consult with the other network orchestras performing in their halls. The Australian Chamber Orchestra played in these cities, too -- the "competition" (as it were, if that's apt) to the ABC/Symphony Australia six.

So, when I finally had a free night, did I really need to hear another orchestra concert? Probably not...still, I couldn't resist hearing the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Why? Because of the energy, zest and appeal of their performances, and Richard Tognetti's imaginative programming that would explore interesting repertoire I'd otherwise not experience.

The ACO is a very hard-working and inspiring group: they have subscription series in several Australian cities and tour internationally every year, so they're constantly on the go. They've won a huge following in Australia and abroad, and I'm certain they'll make an amazing impression when they perform at Spivey Hall. To quote The Times of London: "This group must be the best chamber orchestra on earth. . .the Australian Chamber Orchestra is a ticket to musical bliss."

Looked at a globe recently? It's a l-o-o-ng way from Atlanta to Sydney -- though, I must say, not a difficult journey. Just 5 hours to LAX or SFO, change planes, stretch your legs, then hunker down for the 14 hours to Sydney (three or four films, several nice naps, a couple of meals), and there you are -- as simple as that. (Business class makes a big difference, though!)

No matter how long, it's a totally worthwhile trip. I was always very, very excited to return to Australia after being away for weeks at a time, talent-scouting conductors and soloists in Europe and the US to perform with the orchestras.

Australia is a fantastic destination, a country that cultivates and sustains a wonderfully vibrant and diverse cultural life. I've never known anyone who's visited Australia who didn't love something he or she discovered there. Making the long trek to the US for their tour, the ACO musicians bring with them a very special spirit of music-making. I'm proud they're making their Atlanta debut with us. We're in for another memorable night.


Anonymous Katherine Kemp (ACO Artistic Administrator) said...

Dear Sam,
Your lovely post turned up on my ACO google alert, so now I know you're blogging I'll be sure to check back often. Thanks so much for your kind words about the ACO. Yes, it's definitely intended that the 'Carrodus' make its first public US appearances in over 50 years with this tour, and RT will certainly be in the soloists. So will our Principal Second Violin, Helena Rathbone, who will be playing the 1759 Guadagnini owned by the Commonwealth Bank (which Richard has played for the past decade). The Orchestra is really excited about coming - we've heard lots of good things about Spivey Hall and its acoustic. Unfortunately that night I'm supposed to be having a baby in Sydney, so I won't be there! I do hope all's well with you. Warmest wishes, KK

7:32 PM  
Blogger Spivey Hall said...

Many thanks for the update, Katherine! Delighted we'll have two exceptional violins joining the excellent ACO musicians and Pieter Wispelwey. Sorry you won't be at Spivey Hall, but I'll be thinking of you on April 20 (as will the Aussie musicians here) and hope all goes will with the arrival of your baby.

[NB: Katherine Kemp, aka KK, was my valued colleague at ABC Concerts/Symphony Australia before she joined the Australian Chamber Orchestra. I remember I once made reference to Joni Mitchell, and was astounded that she and others at the office had never heard of
her! (Not sure if it was a cultural thing or a generation gap!) Once through with "Big Yellow Taxi," though, I think some degree of enlightenment was achieved. ;-)]

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure am looking foward towards the Australian Chamber Orchestra, I believe all Classical and Non- Classical Music Lovers would be blown away with the ACO.

I can't Wait... Also For Christian Teltzaff

6:33 AM  

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