The Omega Ensemble ended their second year as Sydney City Recital Hall’s artists in residence with a sonorous collection of works featuring a chamber arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite.
First in the concert was Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s amusing Serenata in Vano (1914), in which the instruments compete, ultimately in vain, for a “fair one’s” attention. The performers blended their tone colours beautifully, playing off each other and intertwining their melodic lines as they vied for their subject’s attention. The jocular march, which ends the work, evoked images of gentlemen wandering home after their unsuccessful attempts, with clarinetist David Rowden in particular injecting an abundance of humour and creating a lighthearted atmosphere in the hall.
From serenity to a turbulent Serenade
Mozart’s Wind Serenade in C Minor was next on the program, snapping the audience into a serious, almost turbulent, first movement. Mozart moves between a multitude of different emotions, from gloomy to passionate, and the ensemble also moved as one with the music, weaving together their melodic lines with sensitivity. Of particular note was Celia Craig (oboe), whose warmth sang above the ensemble with an effortless grace.
A masterpiece in an intimate setting
After the interval David Rowden, Omega Ensemble’s Artistic Director and Founder, announced their 2016 season before welcoming the ensemble to perform Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite, specially arranged by Tarkmann for wind and double bass.
The tonal pallet was further widened by oboist Georgina Roberts doubling on cor anglias and clarinetist John Lewis doubling on bass clarinet. Double bassist Alex Henery, who alternated between luxurious bowing and delicate pizzicato, was particularly enjoyable to hear as he provided the ensemble with solid, yet musical, foundation of sound.
While an abridged arrangement, the performers superbly captured and conjured the imagery of the ballet, from the marching toy soldiers to the Arabian dance, creating a kaleidoscope of sounds throughout the work.