The COVID-19 pandemic has put paid to most of the celebrations planned for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. The fact that this performance by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Artistic Director Richard Tognetti (whose own 30th anniversary with the band has likewise been marred by the pandemic) was going ahead at all, albeit in reduced (or “denuded” as Tognetti put it) form, gave the atmosphere in City Recital Hall an added frisson of anticipation – both on stage and in the audience.

Richard Tognetti Richard Tognetti in the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Beethoven 250. Photo © Nic Walker

The shorter program, sans interval – a format that looks to be par for the course for at least the next 12 months – was originally to have comprised works marking 50-year increments from Beethoven’s birth. Here however, it was condensed to three works, each 100 years apart, before finishing with the Cavatinaand Grosse Fugefrom Beethoven’s Opus 130 String Quartet.

Right from the scurrying opening bars, Tognetti and ACO ensured there was plenty of lilting lyricism alongside the feverish urgency of Schubert’s...