by Steve Moffat, 13 July 2016, Daily Telegraph
With two full orchestral Beethoven symphony cycles having come through Sydney this year you might be entitled to ask why nine wind players and a timpanist would tackle the much-loved seventh.
But Italian oboist Pierluigi Destro’s arrangement of the masterpiece is more Klezmer than von Karajan, with clarinets and oboes sharing violin duties, and it made an interesting and enjoyable second half to the Omega Ensemble’s latest Virtuoso series concert as the City Recital Hall’s resident ensemble.
Led by artistic director and clarinetist David Rowden, the 10 musicians gave it their all and, despite some occasional indiscretions by the french horns, the overall effect was remarkable for such small forces.
Ben Hoadley’s bassoon sang as soulfully as a cello in the noble allegretto while Melissa Woodroffe’s contrabassoon did the work of four double basses in the dance-like finale with the ensemble injecting plenty of brio.
Rowden and John Lewis’s clarinets chirped in the scherzo over the burbling bassoons and the horns rang out their joyful calls in the last movement.
Earlier the French elan of Charles Gounod’s Petite Symphony charmed a good-sized audience. This all-wind piece is heard all too rarely in live performance and its four short movements create a perfect whole.
The slow movement is to die for and Lisa Osmialowski’s flute soared above the accompaniment before handing on the lovely singing tune to Alex Fontaine’s oboe and Michael Dixon’s horn. After a galloping scherzo, which Rowden kept on a tight rein, it all ended in a perky and precise finale.
The third work on the program, Louis Spohr’s Nonet in F major, pits a string quartet against a wind quintet with interesting effect, some of the time the two elements working in question-and-answer form and at others in tandem.
Violinist Ike See, a regular with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, was given plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his skills, backed by violist James Eccles, cellist Paul Stender and Sydney Symphony principal bassist Alex Henery.
Spohr, a friend of Beethoven, was a prolific composer keen on pushing the boundaries — he wrote four double string quartets — and the instrumentation he used in the Nonet remained unique in the repertoire for more than a century until 1924 when music students from Prague formed the Czech Nonet and championed new works.
There are now more than 300 pieces for this combination of instruments. Something Rowden and his colleagues can be thankful for.
Next up they take on Elgar’s cello concerto at the City Recital Hall Angel Place on Monday, September 5, at 7.30pm.