Australian Chamber Orchestra
Perth Concert Hall
This was a feast of fine music from the Baroque era, presented with fastidious finesse by 14 of Australia's most polished string players. Presiding over events was Richard Egarr, a portly figure seated at the harpsichord with his back to the audience.
The ACO was in formidable form with Egarr, as versatile as he is gifted, at the top of his game. Biber's Battalia, that evocation of a military clash, made for riveting listening, with musicians vigorously stamping out rhythms to evoke the sounds of marching and conflict - and cellists standing as they simulated firearms with ferocious pizzicato. The hideously ear-grating simulations of drunken, carousing soldiers brought the house down.
Egarr is master of many keyboard instruments of the Baroque and Classical eras and he was in sublime form at the fortepiano in Mozart's Concerto in A, K414. How utterly different the fortepiano sounds to the modern piano, its subtle, delicate tone light years away from the stridency of which the modern piano is capable. The flawless fluency and buoyancy which Egarr brought to the solo part thoroughly deserved the ovation that greeted its completion. It was a memorable journey into the sound and mood world of the latter half of the 18th century.
Not the least of Egarr's accomplishments is his skill at linking commentary. This fountain of fascinating facts was as delightfully engrossing as his skill at the keyboard.
There were also two string sonatas by Dario Castello, memorable for their rich, ripe string sonorities.
A Concerto Grosso by Charles Avison was a departure from this excellence. Based on sonatas of Scarlatti, this arrangement had little of the sparkle and clarity one associates with the famed keyboard master. Handel's Concerto Grosso in A from his opus 6, on the other hand, was a delight in both content and presentation.