Pure strings

Melbourne Chamber Orchestra
Melbourne Recital Centre, June 24

As promised, nothing but strings featured at this latest Melbourne Chamber Orchestra concert. The body playing to its great strength: a disciplined, accomplished group of young players engaging with solid repertoire favourites. For the most part, the event also lived up to the title's promise of purity, with only a few deviations marring Sunday afternoon's major work: the Sou-venir de Florence sextet by Tchaikovsky, in orchestral garb.

Following this year's conservative path, the ensemble began with a pair of well-known Baroque double concertos. Violinists Kate Sullivan and Francesca Hiew gave an authoritative reading of the solo lines in Vivaldi's A minor Concerto for Two Violins, just as familiar in its transcription for solo organ by Bach. Both orchestral surrounds and the solo lines' dovetailing could hardly be faulted, at their best in the middle Andante's sinuous duet. Artistic director William Hennessy and his 2IC Rochelle Bryson then took on the central roles in Bach's D minor Double Concerto; another solid rendition with loads of vitality in the outer movements reinforced by a nicely judged alternation between aggressive full-bodied passages and subtle solo intermeshing.

Donizetti's Quartet No. 17 in an arrangement by Hennessy made a welcome novelty, distinguished for its melodic character rather than its expressive depths. But the Tchaikovsky produced this concert's most gripping performance. Particularly through a commendable account of both central movements, this MCO interpretation convinced by its ardent address and driving nature, right up to a whip-crack response in the Piu vivace page concluding the work.