Formerly known as orchestra seventeen88, young period ensemble ARCO has announced its ambitious 2017 season.

In late 2013, legendary Australian conductor and music educator Richard Gill co-founded a young period instrument ensemble called orchestra seventeen88 with Rachael Beesley, Nicole van Bruggen and Benjamin Bayl.

Rachael Beesley, Richard Gill and Nicole van Bruggen. Photo by Nick Gilbert 

Dedicated to the performance of Classical and Romantic orchestral and chamber music repertoire, using a historically informed playing style on period instruments, the ensemble quickly established its credentials with Limelight describing it as “Australia’s brightest and shiniest new orchestra” and “an important addition to Australia’s musical landscape”.

Having just turned three, the ensemble has been rebranded the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra. Not only does the new name encapsulate who and what they are, but it makes for an apposite acronym, ARCO, which in Italian music terminology means to ‘bow’ a string instrument.

The orchestra also has a new website and has just announced its 2017 season, with three programmes to be presented at the Melbourne Recital Centre and Sydney’s City Recital Hall, along with some performances in the Blue Mountains and the Adelaide Hills.

The season opens in March with a concert called Italian Romance featuring three Beethoven works – his Coriolan Overture, his Romance for Violin and Orchestra No 2, featuring concertmaster Rachael Beesley, and his Twelve Contredanses for Orchestra. The programme will also include Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade for Strings and Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony in A major. The Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor Benjamin Bayl will conduct.

Mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell. Photo by Nick Gilbert

In May, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Richard Gill will lead a programme called Unfinished Romance. Australian mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell will join the Orchestra to perform a series of sparkling arias from three Rossini operas: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), L’Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) and La Cenerentola (Cinderella). The concert will also include Schubert’s Overture in C minor with its portrayal of unrequited love, and his passionate ‘Unfinished’ Symphony No 8.

The 2107 season will conclude in September with a chamber concert entitled Revolutionary Romance featuring the ARCO Chamber Soloists directed by Beesley. Star of the basset clarinet Nicole van Bruggen will perform Mozart’s famous Clarinet Quintet, written for Viennese master clarinetist Anton Stadler, while Mozart’s exquisite Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, will be performed in the chamber music version. The concert will also feature Louis Spohr’s Allegro Moderato, a favourite movement from his String Sextet.

Gill is well known as a passionate advocate for music education, and that has always been a focal point for the Orchestra. In 2017, ARCO will present a series of workshops for public and private school students in Melbourne, and at Sydney’s Santa Sabina College.