The Australian Chamber Orchestra (= ACO) was founded in 1975 by John Painter. Every year, this ensemble presents performances of the highest standard to audiences around the world, including 10,000 subscribers across Australia. The ACO’s unique artistic style encompasses not only the masterworks of the classical repertoire, but innovative cross-artform projects and a vigorous commissioning program.
The outstanding Australian musician Richard Tognetti was appointed as Artistic Director and Lead Violin in 1990. Under his inspiring leadership, the ACO has performed as a flexible and versatile ‘ensemble of soloists’, on modern and period instruments, as a small chamber group, a small symphony orchestra, and as an electro-acoustic collective. In a nod to past traditions, only the cellists are seated - the resulting sense of energy and individuality is one of the most commented-upon elements of an ACO concert experience.
Regular international tours to Asia, Europe and the USA have drawn outstanding reviews for the ACO’s performances at many of the world’s prestigious concert halls, including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Vienna’s Musikverein, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center. Recent festival appearances include the BBC Proms, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Interlochen and New York’s Mostly Mozart. The Australian Government recognises the ACO’s achievements by designating it as an international flagship arts company. The ACO has performed in 355 cities on 40 international tours.
Several of the ACO’s principal musicians perform with spectacularly fine instruments. Richard Tognetti performs on a priceless 1743 Guarneri del Gesù, made available exclusively to him by an anonymous Australian benefactor. Principal cello Timo-Veikko Valve plays on a 1729 Giuseppe Guarneri Filius Andreae cello, also made available by an anonymous benefactor, and Principal Second Violin Helena Rathbone plays a 1759 J.B. Guadagnini violin on loan from the Commonwealth Bank Group.
The ACO has made many acclaimed recordings, for labels including BIS, ABC Classics, Sony, Channel Classics, Hyperion, EMI, Chandos and Orfeo. In 2005 the Orchestra collaborated with pianist Angela Hewitt on the final instalment of her 10-year project to record all of J.S. Bach’s keyboard music. This double-CD set for Hyperion was ‘CD of the Month’ for Gramophone magazine. Similar critical praise was lavished on the ACO’s recording with Emmanuel Pahud of Antonio Vivaldi’s flute concertos for EMI. Richard Tognetti and the ACO recorded J.S. Bach’s Violin Concertos (BWV 1041-1043) for ABC Classics (2006), winning one of three consecutive ARIA Awards for Richard Tognetti's Bach recordings. The ACO is featured in the documentary Musical Renegades, the Classical Destinations II television series screened internationally in 2008-2009 and Musica Surfica, which has won awards at film festivals in Europe and America in 2008-2009. In 2009, ABC Classics released a 2-CD compilation celebrating Richard Tognetti's 20th anniversary with the ACO. The ACO currently records for the prestigious European label BIS.
In 2005, the ACO inaugurated an ambitious national education program, which includes outreach activities and mentoring of outstanding young musicians, including the formation of ACO2, an elite training orchestra which tours regional