The Australian Chamber Orchestra launched its 2019 season by pairing with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in a program interleaving the glorious contrapuntal richness of Bach’s motets with the austere simplicity of Estonia’s most wellknown composer Arvo Part.
Bach’s motets are all ostensibly written for double choir alone, but the survival of a set of instrumental parts by Bach for the second motet, Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV226, suggests the practice adopted in this performance of adding instruments to the vocal lines was also followed by Bach at least on occasion.
Standing on opposite sides of the stage with the ACO seated in between, the Estonian Philharmonic wove these
immaculately intricate polyphonic fabrics with unmannered clarity and purity of line and tone to create a texture whose complexity hovered beyond one’s capacity grasp it all at once. In this respect Part’s music is the opposite – pared back to phrases of unassuming simplicity which seem to say ‘‘it is sufficient to make this utterance and no more’’.
Conductor and ACO artistic director Richard Tognetti led with an instrumentalist’s perspective, maintaining tautness of tempo, articulation and phrasing.