New Kids on the Block


Saturday night in the middle of January. Possibly one of least likely nights of the year that people will venture out of the house, bemoaning instead the eternal wait for January’s pay packet, and a continued dedication to the hallowed detox. But, given my complete inability to refuse a good invitation, sure enough I found myself accompanying a friend to a concert. It was held at Cadogan Hall, and was suitably entitled ‘From Venice to Buenos Aires: The Eight Seasons’ so, naturally, I couldn’t resist the draw.

Brainchild of three musical devotees, Will Kunhardt, Rowan Bell and Ben Norris, the concert was played by London’s newest and coolest group: the Arensky Chamber Orchestra. And tonight marked their first public performance, two years after the idea was first bandied about. “I thought we would just get together and have a bit of a play to our friends over a couple of bottles of wine. It’s awesome where we’ve got to since then,” Rowan said, when talking to me afterwards about the orchestra’s inception. The friend I went with happened to count a couple of friends in the group, whom she knew from her Scottish National Youth Orchestra days, highlighting their already superb and well documented quality. I was quite amazed.

Enthralled, enchanted and enraptured from the very first note, the audience sat in deep but mesmerised thought throughout each of the beautifully played seasons. A low-lit blue haze provided a backdrop to atmospheric pieces by Vivaldi, effortlessly conjuring up Venice, and Piazzolla’s four seasons and charismatic red lights took me back to long, languid days and sultry nights spent in the darkened Milongas of Buenos Aires. Cello bows tap-tap-tapped on their wooden bodies, reminiscent of tango heels grazing panelled dancehall floors. And during the interval the passionate parlance was kept up by an Argentine accordion player, blending into the animated chatter of heady listeners consuming glasses of sparkling cava Rosado.

The enthusiasm of the players that emanated from the violins, cellos, and harpsichord was something that would be difficult to bottle, or indeed record. There’s something to be said for the adrenalin of your first concert. And incredibly the orchestra had only had one full day to practise all together – the day before. It was (almost) seamless, minus a momentary bow change from the guest director, Andrew Haveron, concertmaster of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Overheard post-performance discussions included reference to the upcoming Kings of Leon gig to be played in Hyde Park later this year, proving the Arensky audience are savvy and selective in their combination of interesting musical tastes, but also putting this group very much on the map in respect of being in tune with what London’s musos are listening to.

The ACO will be performing next on the 17th March at Cadogan Hall, London. Website.


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