Black Lives Matter. Democracy. COVID. If nothing else, 2020 gave us much to think about. The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO)’s latest program, Beethoven & Bridgetower, is a thoughtful and provocative outcome, which seeks to break the silence on the overwhelming whiteness of classical music.

Richard Tognetti

Beethoven & Bridgetower is an evening built around Beethoven’s so-called ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata and its artistic offspring, including Leo Tolstoy’s creepy novella of the same name and Janáček’s ‘Kreutzer’ Quartet. Pianist and writer Anna Goldsworthy has worked with poet Rita Dove, author of Sonata Mulattica, to create a script. Richard Tognetti, Artistic Director of the ACO, has arranged Janáček’s quartet and Beethoven’s piano and violin sonata for string orchestra. And Belvoir’s Artistic Director Eamon Flack has fashioned the material into a compelling stage piece.

There is so much to unpack in this elegant assemblage of words and music. As Goldsworthy says, it is an archeological dig of a program, making connections, following threads, interlacing stories. The result makes a cogent argument for re-writing history. It is also startlingly beautiful.

The three movements of Janáček’s String Quartet No 1 provide...