Llewellyn Hall, ANU, Canberra
June 23, 2018

Two world premieres, a massive concerto by Shostakovich and an engaging Haydn symphony made up an ambitious concert program for the Australian Chamber Orchestra.  They delivered brilliantly.

Opening the program was Movements (for us and them), by the 32-year-old, Samuel Adams (his dad is composer, John Adams). He says his approach is to “create flexibility and volubility” without being “too specific about [his] intentions”. So, it’s open to the listener to take their own view of the composer’s bent. Even so, he wanted the piece to bridge the interpersonal relationship between composer, orchestra, and audience.

Steven Isserlis, ACO, Australian Chamber OrchestraSteven Isserlis and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Photo © Jeff Busby

Written for strings, Movements is in concerto grosso form, founded on a single motif, interweaving and moving in and out of sync across the orchestra, exploring the many ways it can be expressed.  The opening scurried like a busy rush hour, building volume and tension until a final climactic release, with almost inaudible cellos underneath, introducing a meditation with an abstract line for Richard Tognetti’s violin. Then there were suggestions of a hoedown, building through...