Concert Review: From Chamber To Charleston/Omega Ensemble/Maria Raspopova

Omega Ensemble at the City Recital Hall. Image supplied.
Omega Ensemble at the City Recital Hall. Image supplied.

Omega Ensemble

From Chamber to Charleston

Thursday 17 September 7.30, 

City Recital Hall, Sydney.

In spite of an eleventh-hour personnel change (pianist Daniel de Borah unfortunately having to withdraw from the concert, replaced by Maria Raspopova), the latest addition to Omega Ensemble’s 2015 series was a polished affair. Clarinettist David Rowden’s company of chamber music all-stars performed with undiluted joy and a deliciously expressive tang, as they lovingly sculpted gems by Ravel, Mozart, Martinu and Saint-Saëns. 

Ravel’s sparkling Introduction and Allegro drew dreamlike music-making from Omega, with fresh nuances of instrumental colour suffusing their performance. Harpist Jane Rosenson’s dazzling clarity of tone mingled satisfyingly with the ensemble, dauntlessly led from the string end by the remarkable physicality of violinist Rebecca Chan. Reprogrammed from Hummel’s Septet in D minor, Omega’s rendition of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet K581 was a dynamic one, the four additional semitones on the low-end of the basset clarinet producing unimpeded phrasing which was immediately noticeable for listeners familiar with the standard clarinet version. Rowden’s tone was rounded and sweet, and with exceptional economy of movement he and the ensemble brought Mozart’s dialogues between clarinet and first violin, at times playful and at times melodramatic, to the forefront.

Young Russian pianist Maria Raspopova proved an able stand-in for Daniel de Borah in Martinu’s comically evocative La Revue de Cuisine, a chamber ballet soaked in the melting pot of influences that defined early twentieth century Paris. A melange of jazz-inflected chords and rhythms, the work was performed with all requisite winks and nudges by the charismatic ensemble, which for the concert’s second half included the light-hearted precision of the trumpet, admirably handled by Owen Morris. The concluding Septet, Camille Saint-Saens’ opus 65, was one of the composer’s great successes. In its four movements the trumpet is seamlessly mixed into the chamber music sound-world, and on this occasion Morris’ bright, clear tone brought conviction both to the instrument’s idiosyncrasies and its surprising ability to meld with traditional chamber instruments (here, piano, violins, viola, cello and double bass). The flawless unisons of the Minuet and Maria Raspopova’s exuberant gestures in the triumphant concluding movement were just two memorable moments in this crisply motivic and criminally underrated septet.

Luke Iredale for SoundsLikeSydney©

Luke is a choral tenor, clarinetist and writer, and earns a crust working in Arts Management with UNSW’s Music Performance Unit. He enjoys the music of Schubert, Howells, Dylan and Hetfield.

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