By Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide
The audience for this Omega Ensemble concert was treated to some very sophisticated Schubert. The performances of two substantial Schubert works displayed all the elegance we love from this master of melody. Schubert’s command of classic forms and a subtle but sure glance forward in history with sudden outbursts of Romantic drama albeit were rendered at all times with finesse within the works’ architecture.
This concert demonstrated Omega Ensemble’s ability across its annual concert series to cover a wide range of styles and repertoire. In the concert, the group illustrated its flexibility of instrumentation and ability to attract some Australia’s finest string and wind players into its ranks when needed.
Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A D.667 “The Trout” was tremendously well blended and balanced, with the piano nicely becoming a seamless part of the texture. Schubert’s ability to turn moments of calm on their head with sudden drama and expanded scope were well worth waiting for amidst the more refined moments from the talented quintet of chamber musicians.
Communication between players was paramount in this quintet, which took up the entire first half of the concert. Celebration of the lied many Australian students at school and in private theory classes have discovered for decades was controlled yet joyous. And it was refreshing to see the younger generation of high school students in attendance at this event.
The darting trout accompaniment motif as heard in Schubert’s lied was always played with energy and anticipation when hinted at until the song’s melodies and spirit was thoroughly and elegantly developed in the 4th movement’s Thema Mit Variationen. This performance was a fine celebration of Die Forelle the lied and Schubert’s ingenuity in incorporating elements of the song into a large scale chamber music work.
Omega Ensemble pianist and Co-Artistic Director Maria Raspopova successfully brought her piano part in line with the string quartet with regard to tone colour, blend and nuance. It was rewarding to see the piano operating at such a level of equality with the strings. Climaxes and sudden changes of mood or extra tension did show exciting moments of leadership and functional pianism from Raspopova above the otherwise egalitarian realisation of Schubert’s score.
Following interval, the entire second half consisted of Schubert’s more mature work, the Octet for Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon and Strings in F major D 803. This six-movement work was a concert listening task requiring considerable stamina, due to the departure from a programme format of two or more shorter works in each half.
The string and wind players assembled for Schubert’s octet communicated across the ensemble with a seamless sensitive sensitive response. Repetitions and development of fine Schubertean material were shared between the instrumental families very fluidly. The conversation and exchange of development material between clarinettist and Omega Ensemble’s Co-Artistic Director David Rowden and violinist Alexandra Osborne were especially pleasing to follow.
Rowden also carried the tune in the expansive Adagio second movement beautifully. Instrumentalists contributed to the variations in the fourth movement, rising above the tapestry of accompaniment to explore in turn the theme with new colours and voice.
This was a concert which presented us with major and well-known works from Schubert, from key moments in his short life and rich output. Audience members were not only supplied with elegantly interpretations of Schubert, but a fine advertisement for Omega Ensemble’s core talent and visiting artists. Omega Ensemble’s next concert event at City Recital Hall , ‘A Brahms Affair, takes place on September 7.