Richard Tognetti (born 4 August 1965) is an Australian violinist, composer and conductor. He was born in Canberra and raised in Wollongong. He is currently Artistic Director and Leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Tognetti studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Alice Waten and undertook post-graduate study at the Berne Conservatory with Igor Ozim, where he was awarded the Tschumi prize in 1989. On his return to Australia later that year the Board of the Australian Chamber Orchestra made him artistic director and lead violinist - at only 25 years of age. Under Tognetti's 17 years of leadership the orchestra has earned a reputation as one of the leading chamber orchestras in the world. The Times has gone so far as to say "This group must be the best chamber orchestra on earth".
Tognetti is an extremely versatile violinist, performing on period, modern and electric instruments. For example with Australian rock musician Iva Davies, he co-wrote and performed on 31 December 1999 for an international millennium broadcast The Ghost of Time on electric violin, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed with a number of different musicians from different genres. His musical abilities extend to his abilities to arrange music for different ensemble types. He has arranged the music of composers like Janáček, Szymanowski, Paganini, Beethoven, Ravel and Satie, greatly expanding the chamber orchestra repertoire. He also conducts opera, making his debut in the 2001 Sydney Festival, conducting Mozart’s Mitridate, rè di Ponto.
Tognetti maintains a busy schedule both in Australia and globally with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, as well as with other groups. He has played at events like the Salzburg Festival, as well as local events such as the Huntington Festival, of which he is artistic director.
He is heavily involved in the making of recordings, performing as soloist in the concerti of Beethoven, Mozart, Dvořák and the Australian premiere of the Ligeti concerto. He has also lead the Australian Chamber Orchestra in critically acclaimed recordings of works such as the Beethoven piano concertos with Stephen Kovacevich, the Bach keyboard concertos with Angela Hewitt and the ground-breaking 2000 collaboration with rock singer Peter Garrett and cartoonist/philosopher Michael Leunig resulting in the release of a recording of Camille Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals accompanying a book of Leunig’s text and illustrations. He has also strongly supported Australian composers such as Peter Sculthorpe.
He has recently completed recordings of all of Bach's works for violin, including the concerti with the ACO, the accompanied sonatas and the solo sonatas and partitas, for which he was awarded the 2006 Fine Arts ARIA for Best Classical Album.
Amidst his ever more varied activities have been an appearance at the Opening Ceremony of the Rugby World Cup 2003 with James Crabb and work on Peter Weir’s 2003 film Master and Commander – as composer, soundtrack soloist and violin tutor to Russell Crowe.
In 2007, the ACO received from an anonymous donor the 1743 "Carrodus" violin, made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù. This instrument is claimed to be one of the finest in existence (although in fact it has not even been played for over 50 years) and was bought for approximately $10 million. It is currently played by Tognetti in the ACO.
Tognetti previously played a 1759 JB Guadagnini violin, using a combination of raw gut and steel strings. The violin was purchased by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for its Fine Art collection and, since the arrival of the del Gesù instrument, is now played by the ACO's principal violin, Helena Rathbone. It has been lent to the ACO on a semi-permanent basis.
On July 8, 2007 a long concert called "All-Beethoven Marathon" was given at the Church of San Domenico, Gubbio (Italy) with Tognetti as Concertmaster/Conductor, including Angela Hewitt, Daniel Müller-Schott and the Trasimeno Festival Orchestra, described as a leading event in the history of Beethoven performing. Certainly with his brilliant and clever re-interpretations of the Classics he is helping nowadays to dissolve the boundaries between classical and contemporary music.
Tognetti was declared a National Living Treasure in 1999 and received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the University of Sydney in 2005. In his acceptance speech when awarded the degree Tognetti likened his musical ability to the graceful batting style of former Sri Lankan cricketer Roshan Mahanama.
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