David Rowden, Artistic Director of Omega Ensemble first met Dimitri Ashkenazy in 2007 when he was giving a masterclass at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
‘Dimitri and I have stayed great friends since, and have worked together on many other performances over the years. Dimitri performed the Mozart “Gran Partita” and the Dvorak Wind Serenade with Omega Ensemble at the AGNSW one year. In 2014 Dimitri and his wife Ada Meinich performed with the Ensemble (Ada with her Faust Quartet), at City Recital Hall to critical acclaim’. David reminisced.
George Palmer AM QC, is an Australian classical music composer and a former Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. It is an extraordinary achievement on both fronts and rightfully recognised in 2010 as Palmer was made a Member of the Order of Australia “for service to the law as a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and to music as a composer and through leadership roles with a range of cultural bodies.”
One of those cultural bodies was Omega Ensemble, who were fortunate enough to have George Palmer on their board for several years. His support and guidance was invaluable to the Ensemble. A strong friendship also stemmed from this and George composed a wonderful Clarinet and Piano sonata “Black, White and a little Blue” for David and his wife, pianist Maria Raspopova as an engagement present.
Palmer’s most recent work, Cloudstreet, an opera adapted by Palmer from Tim Winton’s classic novel was premiered on 12 May 2016 by State Opera of South Australia with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Timothy Sexton the artistic director of SOSA and directed by Gale Edwards. The opera was hailed as “a resounding triumph” (The Australian) and received standing ovations from capacity audiences.
Omega Ensemble is excited about the prospect of recording George Palmer’s ‘It Takes Two – a Double Clarinet Concerto’ for what will be their debut album. The work was originally commissioned by Fr Arthur Bridge (Ars Musica Australis) for Dimitri Ashkenazy and Omega Ensemble.
George Palmber writes ‘The Concerto is dedicated to Scott Walker and his wife Susie, and was premiered by Dimitri Ashkenazy and Omega Ensemble in November 2008. The opening movement of this work is about the affection of good friends. It begins with a short adagio for the two clarinets, a conversation in which each is relaxed and at ease with the other. But the first clarinet soon throws out a challenge, with a brisk semi-quaver motif which the second takes up and returns. The exchanges become more rapid, like thrust and parry, each trying to outdo the other until they have to stop for breath. The first clarinet challenges again with a new motif, angular and agile, but the second poses a variation rather than an imitation. They call a halt to the contest and, in an andante cantabile, reflect again on the opening theme. The first clarinet cannot resist another bout and they are off again with the first motif, neither giving quarter till the end.'
In keeping with Omega Ensemble’s philosophy, their debut album will include two Australian works – George Palmer’s ‘It Takes Two’ as well as Ian Munro’s ‘Songs from the Bush’ the beautiful Clarinet Quintet.
Composer Ian Munro writes ’ My clarinet quintet Songs from the Bush was inspired by folk melodies from both sides of the Australian colonial frontier, and is meant as a personal evocation of historical musical elements that formed part of Australia’s past, as well as its present. The three movements — ‘Country Dance’, ‘Campfire & Night Sky’ and ‘Drover’s Lament’ — draw material from three sources. My aging but treasured copy of John Meredith’s Folk Songs of Australia, with its rambling, incomplete survey of folk tunes collected in New South Wales during the 1950s and 60s, provided such gems as ‘The Wild Rover’, ‘Shores of Botany Bay’ (both heard in highly modified form in the first movement); and the lonesome immigrant’s lament ‘Sixteen Thousand Miles’ (heard at the opening of the third movement). One of the most prolific of Meredith’s contributors was the gifted amateur violinist Sally Sloane, who lived not far from us at Teralba on Lake Macquarie. It is her rendition of an unnamed Irish jig that suggested the central dance section of ‘Country Dance’. She and the other old-timers, lovingly and patiently recorded over more than a decade, formed a living link to the colonial era of their grandparents, who had passed down the folk traditions of their homelands. Opening and closing the piece pays homage to the indigenous people who shared the colonial world of the folk singers’ ancestors. A melody freely developed from a Walmajarri children’s song collected by Alice Moyle at La Grange in 1964 bears an interesting, if coincidental, resemblance to ‘Sixteen Thousand Miles’, and serves to show a link and a sympathy between the two cultures in ways that words can struggle to, and history might tend to deny.'
Omega Ensemble’s vision is to enrich lives through a deeper understanding of music and this project is will certainly help them achieve this vision. It is an ambitious project with time constraints and they have set themselves a massive challenge to fund and record this album.
The album already has the support of ABC Classics, who are covering the studio and recording costs, plus Omega is extremely fortunate to have some wonderful Patron’s and sponsors who support their work on an ongoing basis. This project also has the support of Buffet-Crampon Paris. David Rowden is a Buffet-Crampon artist and plays on the Divine Clarinets. However, this project will need further funds to become a reality, and Omega Ensemble have set up a Pozible campaign to raise the funds for this exciting project.
The Pozible campaign offers rewards to those who contribute, including an exciting opportunity to be there for the sound check for the recording at the ABC's Eugene Goossens Hall in Ultimo. There is also several signed copies of the CD and tickets to see Omega Ensemble perform at the City Recital Hall in November. So why not support this ambitious project and score yourself a musical reward at the same time.