Omega played with relaxed comaraderie
The Omega Ensemble’s ‘Mendelssohn’s Quintet’ took place against a backdrop of sailing boats, ferries and sparkling water visible through the window of the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room. The ensemble was engaging and assured, playing with a relaxed camaraderie.
Domenico Cimarosa’s Clarinet Concerto arranged by Arthur Benjamin
Domenico Cimarosa’s Clarinet Concerto was assembled and arranged by Australian composer Arthur Benjamin in 1942, using musical material from Cimarosa’s piano works. As such, it plays more like a suite of movements than a unified concerto. The soloist was David Rowden, Omega Ensemble’s artistic director and clarinettist, who played with panache despite a slightly tentative opening. His approach was stylish and elegant, deftly navigating the contrasting moods of the movements, and culminating in a bright and confident finale.
Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Quintet
The players were in their element for Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Quintet; Rowden displaying a burbling virtuosity in the first movement and Paul Stender’s dark cello solo introducing the Fantasia. The suppleness and flexibility of Rowden’s playing made the Clarinet Quintet a delight to listen to. The Menuetto was brisk and cheery, and the galloping strings of the fourth movement supported the clarinet’s florid solos. The balance between clarinet and strings was impeccable throughout both the Cimarosa and the Weber, the sound crisp and fresh in the intimate space.
Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quintet No. 2, Op. 87
Felix Mendelssohn wrote his String Quintet No. 2, Op. 87, in 1845, two years before he died, making it the most modern work on the program. The strings shone, no longer having to temper their sound to sit below a soloist, and obviously relishing Mendelssohn’s engaging string writing. The ensemble was tight and precise, ably led by violinist Huy-Nguyen Bui. Mendelssohn was unsatisfied with the finale and didn’t consider the quintet worthy of publication – it wasn’t published until after his death. There is definitely something abrupt and almost perfunctory about the ending, but the ensemble pulled it off with aplomb.
Polished, thoughtful performance
Omega Ensemble’s first performance for 2015 was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, this ensemble once again demonstrated a polished, thoughtful performance and I will be looking forward to the season to come.