Mozart – Munro – Palmer. David Rowden, clarinet; Dimitri Ashkenazy, clarinet; Omega Ensemble. W.A. Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A Major, KV. 581; I. Munro: Songs from the Bush – Clarinet Quintet; G. Palmer: It Takes Two – Concerto for Two Clarinets. ABC Classics ABC 481 4667. Total Time: 71:08. Amazon.com and iTunes
Founded in 2005, Omega Ensemble is a Sydney-based chamber ensemble committed to concerts of new music incorporating a flexible orchestration, similar in implementation to the Vienna Octet or Melos Ensemble, with their largest configuration as a chamber orchestra. Their exploits have brought them notoriety across Australia, and this album is a reflection of Omega’s mission: mixing new works with old, small to large instrumentation, “providing the best performances of iconic chamber music.”
The excellent clarinetist David Rowden is featured on this collection, and his Mozart interpretation on basset clarinet is what one strives for: presenting a piece in a manner that makes the listener hear it in a fresh way. Here is a spontaneity that is not heard in many Mozart recordings. Rowden takes advantage of every second statement of a theme or sequence to do something distinctive with dynamics or ornamentation. It is tasteful and in the classical style, but may be a little much
for some traditionalists. The “Menuetto” and “Allegretto con variazioni” movements revel in the moments of silence, and the group is completely on the same page here. Releases are refined and delicate. is is a lovely Mozart that is beautifully executed.
Ian Munro’s 2008 clarinet quintet, Songs from the Bush, is a three-movement work that weaves together Australian and indigenous folk music seeking to create, according to the composer, “a link and a sympathy between the two cultures.” Rowden’s earnest phrasing and nuance elevate any music, especially these folk-inspired melodies. e second movement, “Camp Fire and Night Sky,” is reminiscent of mid-20th-century English folk tune-inspired quintets, particularly the Herbert Howells Rhapsodic Quintet.
The final movement, “Drover’s Lament,” is a lovely treatment of indigenous material. e players channel their inner wanderer with an e ective interplay. Munro’s composition is a worthy addition into the rich subgenre of the clarinet quintet.
e renowned clarinetist Dimitri Ashkenazy lends his star power for the three-movement double concerto It Takes Two by George Palmer, also from 2008. The programmatic aspects of this work revolve around relationships, friendships and separation. The soloists take turns playing to each other, circling around and eventually coming together in a fun romp of a piece. The first movement opens with a gentle, languid duet, followed by a back-and-forth technical display. The second movement portrays a couple in love separated by distance, a melancholy dance. The last movement is high energy, with many humorous moments.
Rowden and Ashkenazy are eerily similar in articulation and timbral beauty as they weave in and out of lines seamlessly, completely in sync with the various styles throughout. The instrumentation is a mixed wind/string configuration of nine instruments, but the recording quality makes the group seem much larger.
Overall, the recorded sound is excellent, vibrant and close. The balance is very good, especially in the double concerto. Omega’s musicians are top notch, with a mature sense of blend and cohesion. This album is excellent, highlighting the great work Omega has accomplished in a relatively short period of time.
– Osiris Molina
Omega Ensemble's debut recording on ABC Classics, surveying music for clarinet from across three centuries.
W.A. MOZART Clarinet Quintet in A major, KV581
IAN MUNRO Songs from the Bush – Clarinet Quintet
GEORGE PALMER It Takes Two – Concerto for Two Clarinets
Dimitri Ashkenazy & David Rowden, Clarinet