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.