Elgar's cello concerto hits right romantic note for Omega Ensemble

Elgar's cello concerto hits right romantic note for Omega Ensemble

by Steve Moffat, 6 September 2016, Daily Telegraph

ELGAR’S much loved tune from the opening movement of his cello concerto came to him when he woke from anaesthetic for an operation on his tonsils.

The story has it that he called for pen and paper and jotted down the elegiac theme inspired by the Malvern Hills of his Worcestershire home.

The concerto, which looks back on an age unsullied by the recently ended World War I, never fails to move the heart and mind of its listeners and it formed the keystone of the latest concert by the City Recital Hall’s resident Omega Ensemble under its artistic director David Rowden.

Even with 14 musicians backing soloist Teije Hylkema in British composer Iain Farrington’s arrangement of the concerto the romantic sweep and sense of nostalgia shone through, thanks to the Dutch-born cellist’s lush, full-bodied tone and first-class reading, along with some superb playing by his colleagues.

Earlier the concert opened with Mozart’s Fantasia in F minor, one of the last works he wrote and which he composed for a clockwork organ as part of a Viennese art gallery show.

Mozart’s “machine” music needed a little WD40 with some early tuning problems but soon got smoothly under way, with its non-stop multiple movements providing plenty of solo moments for the group.

Adelaide Mark Grandison is bit of a musical bowerbird and his 2011 work Riffraction used funky riffs, first on piano then later in plucked lower strings, while Rowden’s clarinet wove sinuous lines.

Grandison describes it as a scherzo, its name a pun based on the riffs and how they become distorted, like refracted light.

French composer Guillaume Connesson is also a bowerbird, drawing on diverse genres such as techno, the Viennese masters and, in the slow movement of his sextet, the sound worlds of Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc. With a pulse driven by Alex Henery’s double bass, the work’s dynamic start dissolved into a rainy night-time scene with dripping piano and soulful clarinet and plangent oboe before the rhythm returned for a playful ending.

Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonietta is a freakishly accomplished work for an 18-year-old music student which was dedicated to his teacher and older composer Frank Bridge. All instrumentalists get a solo but perhaps the most magical moment is the solo violin duo.

This section featured former Australian String Quartet lead Natsuko Yashimoto making a welcome return to Sydney joined by Airena Nakamura.