Extraordinary technical finesse shines with Nico Muhly concert


Each work served to emphasise what a brilliant virtuoso orchestra the ACO is, with extraordinary technical finesse and almost miraculous ensemble playing – without a conductor, but breathing as one and mastering a vast variety of challenges.

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Shrink was Muhly’s third world premiere in Australia this year, following two smaller commissions. The prolific composer, 38, equally at home at the Metropolitan Opera or with indie rock, has had a long collaboration and friendship with Kuusisto, who met the concerto’s ferocious demands with relish.

The first movement, built around ninths, required exuberance and vitality; the second, focusing on sixths, was ethereal and resonant. The last movement, built on thirds, saw Kuusisto in frantic, perpetual motion.

The Mills violin duet – pairing Kuusisto and ACO member Liisa Pallandi – used dissonance, harmony and textural variety, often exploring the edge of the note. It also reminded that, with minimalism, a little idea often has to travel a long way. Mazzoli’s richly textured work was deeply satisfying.

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