MUSIC / Australian Chamber Orchestra - Royal Hall, Harrogate

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The Independent Culture
More than some, the Harrogate International Festival manages to live up to its billing. This year it hosts orchestras from Budapest, Moscow and Australia; even its Composer in Residence, Richard Rodney Bennett, is as much New Yorker as Englishman these days.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra is on the border between national and international standards of achievement. Franz Hasenohrl's edited highlights of Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel turned out far from the 'frolic' the arranger intended, and worrying individual deficiencies were evident in Mendelssohn's Tenth String Symphony. Spirits were raised in the outer movements of Mozart's Second Horn Concerto, but in the slow movement Barry Tuckwell seemed not entirely at ease in the awkwardly dry acoustics.

The Symphony No 29 displayed the orchestra's true credentials. Even heard against the background of the Royal Hall's noisy extractor fans, this was clearly Mozart playing of exceptional grace, wit and taste. The strings concluded with Janacek's First String Quartet, arranged by their leader and driving-force Richard Tognetti. Such arrangements tend to lose more in focus than they gain in power and richness; but gooseflesh in the final pages and a heavy lump in the throat at the end suggested that this one manages to hit home.

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