OMEGA ENSEMBLE @ THE UTZON ROOM, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Concert Program

Neilsen : Wind Quintet, Op 43

Hindemith  Kleine Kammermusik for Wind Quintet, Op. 24, No. 2

Françaix Quartet for Winds

Beethoven Quintet in E flat major for Piano and Winds, Op. 16

Neilsen : Wind Quintet, Op.43
Impressions of this long and interesting work varied, like the performance itself, crisp with good harmonic density allowing the musicians to flourish with much individual expression and solo performance. Repeatedly the variation in mood evoked visual pictures of the natural albeit at times dense environment which challenged and contrasted with the reality of observing a pleasure craft sailing past the panoramic window of the room. Utzon would have been pleased!
Kleine Kammermusic for WIND quintet. Paul Hindermith Opus 24 1922

Something different, unexpected, well named and very playful indeed which contrasted with the mid afternoon haze and softness of the harbour view. This was a new experience for the audience and me, hearing it for the first time.

This piece was a forceful statement from the beginning, allowing full testing of virtuosity, personal expression and enjoyment by the musicians which frequently became clearly visible to all to enjoy. So we too enjoyed, absorbed the mood of the performers and interpreted  the work and journey accordingly.

My preference for experiencing this work more than once with its  constant  but very interesting interplay of the dissonant and deliciously warm melody variations would be in a dark room allowing a swirl of images to form and assault our imagination beyond one’s usual expectations.

The power, emotion and momentum produced at times seemed more than what could be expect from a quintet, and with the easily perceptible Stravinsky like harmonic and rhythmic punctuations made it exciting listening, some of which felt reminiscent of Petrushka.

Consequently, the frequent confrontation within the work with so much sudden dissonance  may be disturbing to some and invigorating to others, like life itself, unpredictable, but this work one can enjoy more than once.  

Quartet for Winds, Jean Francaix 1933

No horn! No wild images to blow your mind, just light, enthusiastic, joyful sound with traces of lively exuberance. Genius it seems manifests in infinite ways contriving some very complex multi instrument compositions like Wagner has and at the other end of the scale we, today experienced the opposite in a quartet with verve sparkle and wit with such ease.

Although composed recently. mid last century, the work defies the trend towards atonal and dissonant compositions allowing the simple combination of sound to be easily digested and identifying a clear positive statement with just four wind instruments, one could call elation without the extreme.

Such is genius, often overlooked, but here within the bare bones of the Utzon room Francaix’s work was a sheer delight,  made possible on this occasion only by the talent and sensitivity  of the four really fine artists involved.

Quintet in E-flat major for Piano and Winds. Op. 16, 1796. Ludwig Van Beethoven

Suddenly, like warm air flooding a cold room, from the very first phrase, that familiar Beethoven sound embraced the space filled predominantly with a white haired audience. Immediately, the reaction was palpable. Is this because since his death we made him so popular and as such his works are familiar or is there an enduring special quality about the way he tells the story – unlike any other composer?

In this early work, like in many of his later compositions, Beethoven touches the nerve quickly and directly – no ambiguous wavering and innuendo for him, boldly, with the minimum foreplay he is into one’s head in the simplest, most economic way creating themes and enormous variety emotions, frequently at an amazing rate. And it hangs together amazingly well producing delight which I called the ‘Beethoven sound’, already there, untapped at 27, that everybody now recognises.

This work, probably re-written for our benefit seems in parts as intended to enhance the role of the piano and as such have the wind quartet provide spatial continuity and a background.

Whatever the original intention for the Viennese audience, this performance in Sydney required extreme skill to provide a performance of considerable virtuosity and Omega’s lovely pianist Maria Raspopova did deliver and so did the 4 members of the wind group, splendidly.  

Repeat listening is recommended for deeper understanding of the work and its possible relationship to the later, more mature and intricate piano trio, also in E-flat major created 12 years later on with Beethoven’s return to composing chamber music.

Review by Michael Bures ASTC RAIA

 

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