OMEGA ENSEMBLE – RE:CLASSICAL AT CITY RECITAL HALL

Above: Veronique Serret led a mesmerising performance as solo violinist in Max Richter’s ‘The Four Seasons Recomposed’ to end this concert event. Featured image: Omega Ensemble perform the work Omega Ensemble co-commissioned from US composer Jesse Montgomery, ‘Concerto Grosso’. Photos: Jay Patel.

A ticket to the award-winning Omega Ensemble’s Re:Classical concert is one of the hottest around at the moment. Its seamless excellence ticks all the boxes for what makes a current ‘classical’ performance from a local chamber music group a success in our modern climate.

This winning trifecta of boxes ticked via the impactful trilogy of chosen works led to an electric standing ovation from the entire audience following the final work.

Firstly, this programme presented key musical voices from Australia as well as other global locations. Also, works commissioned (Jesse Montgomery’s Concerto Grosso) or tailored and re-arranged  especially for Omega to play (Elena Kats-Chernin’s Ornamental Air) imbued the event with freshness and an extra level of excitement for the listeners.

Thirdly, we celebrated the accessible warmth, sheer talent and togetherness of Omega Ensemble soloists plus ripieno players through their charismatic, swagger-filled realisations of blockbuster recent works.

This was true of the concertino team of strings during Jesse Montgomery’s opening work as well as our chance to witness David Rowden put his capable stamp on Kats-Chernin’s progressive Ornamental Air  for basset clarinet, now skilfully adjusted to a perfect fit for chamber ensemble and basset soloist.

Above: David Rowden and Omega Ensemble members perform the new arrangement of ‘Ornamental Air’ by Elena Kats-Chernin.

Omega Ensemble’s virtuosic synergy of emotional, structural and pictorial delivery on stage reached its zenith during the last work within this well-devised, compact concept, with an uninterrupted ninety minutes of music.

The impact of online, recording and live performance success of Max Richter’s manipulation of Vivaldi’s Quattro Stagioni’s atmospheres, rhythms and textures has resulted in the hot phenomenon which has recently taken the world by storm.

Many listeners have (re)discovered ‘classical’ music with his ‘Summer 3’, the deep stillness of  ‘Winter 2’ , the ethereal flurries of spirituality inWinter 3‘.  These need to be securely nailed in live performance for this chic-chameleon Vivaldi version, The Four Seasons Recomposed, to work with penetrating effect.

And work it did. The 5-minute coda of ovations was proof that this will be a tour to remember, a recording-ready sequence of complementary works and a perfect, competitive entry if it were an album release in the online streaming competition to grab listeners’ attention.

It was a thrilling sequence of contrasted works from the group of local performers. Pianist Vatche Jamabzian made a svelte swith from grand piano to eloquently spaced harpsichord lines. Veronique Serret moved in a scintillating storytelling swoop.

She delivered effective solo playing of the chance music open options for extemporisation given by Jesse Montgomery in her Concerto Grosso. Serret morphed into a riveting reflective rockstar during her reinvention of  The Four Seasons Recomposed.

Her movement to lead colleagues in a sensitve shedding of light on this much-heard work was a refined piece of playing. It reflected her experience, history of communication within Omega’s ranks and ability to clearly create atmosphere.

Above: Veronique Serret and Omega Ensemble enjoy a long standing ovation at the end of this concert event. Photo credit: Jay Patel.

Serret’s ascent to lead Vivaldi’s classic in edgy modern renovation was a comfortable transition for Serret, supported by wise control of the ecstatic rhythmic frison, stunning restraint and a painting of the forces of nature through music yet not heard in realisations of Richter’s clever elongation of environment currently available.

It was a welcome part of this event to once again hear David Rowden soloing with the ensemble on basset clarinet, especially tracing the inimitable verve and melifluous filigree in Elena Kats-Chernin’s attractive work.

The distillation of Ornamental Air down from full orchestra to a band smaller than two dozen members was an orchestra significant achievement.

The collaboration between Rowden, Kats-Chernin and Omega Ensemble musicians to bring the individuality of this modern concerto type piece with leaping, innovative lines for the basset voice so vividly to life on a smaller scale than its original conception was programming gold glistening in the colourful event’s centre.

Rowden’s meditative exploration of his historic replica instrument and Kats-Chernin’s expansive lines in the middle movement was framed by exuberance, elite articulation, stamina and drive from the clarinettist and colleagues in the movements which framed it.

Above all, it was a welcome phenomenon that this concert could obliterate the stigma of so called ‘classical music’ concerts being less than gentle fireworks on an exquisitely constructed roller coaster.

This concert definitely re-designed some ideas of programming with its modern tessitura. The re-visiting of both modern and new classics re-ignited our esteem for Omega Ensemble and the unique compositional voices they always champion so exquisitely.

Re-Classical is currently touring. The next Sydney performance for this tour takes place on April 20 at Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith.