Omega Ensemble began its Master Series for 2019 in the Utzon Room in fine style with a concert of piano trios before a standing room only crowd. Mendelssohn’s evergreen crowd favourite, his Piano Trio No 1 in D minor was flanked by arrangements of important ensemble works by Schoenberg and Beethoven. These condensed sextets and septets lost no dramatic focus in their trio guise and the principal Omega musicians and guest performers were all showcased well when presenting these versions.
A most exciting and captivating concert showcasing some ravishing, passionate playing. There was intense rapport between the Ensemble who concentrated intensely and were in fine form.
First we heard Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quintet No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 87 . Violinist Anna Da Silva Chen led the quintet which was violinist Arena Nakamura, violists Amanda Verner and Neil Thompson, and cellist Howard Penny, guesting courtesy of the Australian National Academy of Music.
The first movement opened briskly and skittishly with scurries and flurries , becoming slightly slower and more sedate before jumping back to the brisk tone. The dynamic second movement was full of circular whirling interlocking melodies, with slinky slipping and sliding strings .The third movement was poignant, sombre and richly layered , wish some spiky sections contrasted with passionately explosive quiveringly anxious ones. The pulsating final movement was driven and relentless with brisk flurries .Each of the quintet had their own individual ‘voice’ but were a magnificently unified whole taking us to the tornado like conclusion.
David Bruce’s Gumboots was delightful and featured clarinettist Georgina Oakes. Celebrating “the rejuvenating power of dance , Bruce, in his program note, insists that the work is not ‘about’ the gumboot dancers of South Africa – the dance tradition, rooted in the horrendous conditions imposed upon black gold miners – but it is definitely inspired by them. It was in two contrasting halves, the first pulsating , rich limpid and fluid, the strings shimmering and throbbing in accompaniment, the second a series of five vibrant, fast bubbly dances full of emphatic, infectious rhythms as if scattering puddles while splashing in the rain .There was a bluesy/jazz feel and hints of Gershwin. For the first half Oakes used a bass clarinet at times .
After interval we heard a passionate heartfelt performance of Schubert ‘s String Quintet in C major, D. 956, the “Cello Quintet” in a fine, focused performance. Chen, Nakamura, Thompson and Penny were joined by Paul Stender who added his rich tones to the combination.The throbbing first movement was richly lyrical yet also emphatic and had a somewhat angry atmosphere, yet it ended in earnest, thoughtful discussion. The compelling second movement was slower lyrical and more reflective. It was turbulent and achingly Romantic – a heated yet courteous group discussion that built in ominous intensity. The third movement had a spiky dynamic beginning , the main melody line stated taken and embroidered upon. There was a buoyant start to the fourth movement, led by Chen, some of which was Hungarian inspired. It included scurrying and flourishes and leading to the conclusion it was almost as if the quintet were tripping over themselves .
A most bewitching performance.
Running time approx. 2 hours 20 minutes including interval
The Omega Ensemble in Momentum played at the City Recital Hall on 13 November 2018.
Above : Composer of Songs From The Bush, Ian Munro. Featured image : Omega Ensemble clarinettist and Co-Artistic Director, David Rowden.
Omega Ensemble again presented a chamber music concert in the delectable Utzon Room setting which championed works combining the clarinet with string quartet.
David Rowden’s seamless and sonorous clarinet tone across all instrumental registers and compositional style spoke beautifully to us throughout the event, sensitively supported by the Omega Ensemble strings.