Review: Omega Ensemble Does The Nutcracker

The title ‘Serenade’ carries connotations of light evening music and amorous entreaty. Carl Nielson’s ‘Serenata in Vano’, which opened the Omega Ensemble’s final concert for 2016, ticks both of those boxes. Described by the composer as a “humorous trifle”, this ‘Serenade in Vain’ depicts a comic, unsuccessful wooing. The players brag and beseech, alternating solo lines and sometimes speaking over each other, but ultimately they give up and, in the composer’s words, “since they have played in vain, they don’t care a straw and shuffle off home to the strains of the little final march, which they play for their own amusement”. The ensemble’s performance was sweet and touchingly earnest, then brightly nonchalant: the players visibly enjoying the wry cheerfulness of the finale.

In contrast, Mozart’s Wind Serenade in C minor, K.388, is darker: the ominous minor key opening belies the lightness implied by the title. Here the Omega Ensemble’s musical cohesion was on display, biting accents and impeccably detailed gestures were marvellously synchronised, and sighing motifs intensified with plaintive melancholy. The oboe is almost a solo instrument in this work, and Celia Craig’s crooning lines were a pleasure, as was her dainty cadenza into the lively coda of the final movement.