Above : Violinist Veronique Serret and pianist Clemens Leske performed Beethoven’s Spring Sonata. Featured image: Omega ensemble musicians played Farrenc and Elena Kats-Chernin. Photo Credit : David Vagg.
Omega Ensemble’s most recent concert, titled ‘Joy’ , was as usual an event full of ensemble music to blissfully lose yourself in. It was full of everything musical joy requires. The assembled musicians communicated the diverse works clearly, a range of colourful atmospheres were provided and the audience had the pleasure of hearing concert favourites as well as having the chance to discover newer or less frequently heard works.
This event began with a piano trio consisting of Veronique Serret (violin), Paul Stender (cello) and Clemens Leske (piano). Here the atmospheres and carefully combined colours in Schubert’s Notturno in E flat major D897 were finely shaped and the lyricism from all instruments was woven together well. It was a serene yet vivid offering with which to start.
The first half of the concert concluded with a joyous performance of Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in F major Op 24, ‘Spring’. As spring tries to assert itself in Sydney, this commanding interpretation was blooming with appropriate seasonal colour and warmth.
The dialogue and ensemble interaction between Serret and Leske was a pleasure to watch. The overall keen momentum maintained kept the work fresh and was led clearly by Veronique Serret as these players worked hard to jointly shape Beethoven’s unique dramatic gestures.
Sudden shifts in articulation and nuance were striking, in particular those led by Serret. Her realisation of the emotional and thematic architecture was exemplary here and was exchanged in suitable tone with Clemens Leske’s keyboard voice.
As well as exciting Beethoven-esque outbursts in the opening movement, the balance of melody and accompaniment lines in the second movement Adagio molto espressivo was one of the evening’s several solid listening highlights.
The chance to be exposed to less frequently heard chamber music works came via an elevated performance of Louise Farrenc’s Nonet for Strings and Winds in E flat major Op 38 (1850).
This sprawling work was given an airing by the musicians with Omega Ensemble’s signature bright clarity and a refined, elegant homogeneity to the group statements. Alternating solos across the line-up were boldly voiced and the blend of string and wind sonorities was clear and focussed throughout.
This concert reached a colourful conclusion with Elena Kats-Chernin’s Russian Rag. As the contrasting twentieth century work on the programme, it was heard in an arrangement especially written for the talents of a full Omega Ensemble.
Kats-Chernin’s music in the hands of these skilled ensemble players immediately communicated a quirky joy. This piece’s previous use as soundtrack music for Adam Eliot’s 2009 film Mary and Max would have resonated with familiar fun for quite a few listeners.
Via the infectiously lilting delight of Kats-Chernin’s uniquely recognisable musical brand, the assembled troupe of Veronique Serret (violin), Neil Thompson (viola), Paul Stender (cello), Alex Henery (double bass), Sally Walker (flute), Nicola Bell (oboe), David Rowden (clarinet), Todd Gibson-Cornish (bassoon), Michael Dixon (horn) and Clemens Leske (piano) shone once again with ensemble excellence.
The playing here had a very joyous, accessible and direct evocation of character, which was a consistent feature of this entire concert success.