Sydney chamber group Omega Ensemble has announced an exciting 2019 season, which includes no fewer than four world premieres, a chamber-sized Mahler symphony arrangement, and a children’s piece for wind quintet by Luciano Berio. The ensemble’s season is divided between its two main venues, with the Master Series in the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room and the Virtuoso Series at City Recital Hall.
The Omega Ensemble. Photo © Keith Saunders
Omega’s 2019 kicks off in the Utzon Room in February with Beethoven’s Trio, which presents Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No 1 and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (in an arrangement for violin, cello and piano) with Beethoven’s Opus 38 Trio in E Flat Major. The Virtuoso Series takes Mozart as its jumping off point, with a program featuring the composer’s K.452 Piano Quintet, Gran Partita Serenade and Piano Sonata No 11 at City Recital Hall in April.
June will see the world premiere of a new work by Australian composer (now based in Los Angeles), music producer and video game orchestrator Nicole Brady, alongside music by George Palmer, Andrew Anderson and Brahms, in the Utzon Room. “Our friendship with Nicole Brady is an example of how a relationship can change in the most unexpected and exciting ways,” said Omega’s Co-Artistic Director Maria Raspopova. “David and I met Nicole separately, David when he was in high school, I when we were students at the Sydney Conservatorium.”
Omega Ensemble Co-Artistic Director and pianist Maria Raspopova. Photo © Keith Saunders
“Spending time with Nicole is always interesting, every time we catch up we talk about things like philosophy, science, fashion,” Raspopova said. “She is an incredibly talented musician and really curious about the world and it is nice to share other aspects of life and not just music. So when we perform her new work composed for David and I next year I know that her understanding and view of us as musicians will be influenced by how she knows us as people. “
July will see Omega tackle another world premiere – a new work for chamber orchestra by US composer Nico Muhly – at City Recital Hall on a program with Philip Glass, John Adams and more Muhly, with guests baritone Brett Brown and pianist Sally Whitwell joining OE.
Omega Ensemble Co-Artistic Director and clarinettist David Rowden. Photo © Keith Saunders
Omega’s other Co-Artistic Director David Rowden first met Nico Muhly as a student at London’s Royal Academy of Music, through a collaboration with the Juilliard School where Muhly was studying. “Since our student days, Nico has established himself as one of the most in-demand young composers. Last year Nico had his opera premiered with English National Opera and in October this year has the premiere of his latest opera Marnie at the New York Metropolitan Opera,” he said. “I am thrilled to be working with Nico again, and that Omega Ensemble has commissioned Nico for our 2019 season.”
The world premieres keep rolling in, with October featuring Australian composer Gordon Kerry’s new Clarinet Quintet. Kerry’s work will feature on a program at City Recital Hall that will see Omega perform a chamber versions of Mahler’s First Symphony and Chopin’s First Piano Concerto. More Chopin will follow in October, with Raspopova performing his piano Preludes and Ballades in an intimate recital in the Utzon Room.
Brisbane-based choir The Australian Voices joins Omega at City Recital Hall in November in a concert conducted by Gordon Hamilton. The concert will feature music by Fauré, Britten and Mozart, bookended by Fauré’s Requiem at the beginning and Hamilton’s reworking of Mozart’s Requiem as the finale.
Omega’s final concert for the year in December will see the ensemble perform the world premiere of a new work by Canadian-Russian composer Airat Ichmouratov. “The Ensemble is passionate and committed to performing new music for many reasons,” Rowden said. “Firstly it is essential for artistic growth to be able to work with and champion living composers. It is almost a duty for an Ensemble of the flexible size and nature of Omega to create opportunities for composers to be heard, and I hope Omega Ensemble continues to be the voice for composers for years to come.”
The Ichmouratov will be performed alongside works for wind quintet by Holst, Ligeti and Damase, as well as Berio’s delightful children’s play for wind quintet, Opus Number Zoo, which sees the musicians play their instruments as well as narrate – and take on the voices of the various animals.
Omega Ensemble oboist Celia Craig. Photo © Keith Saunders
The 2019 season will also see a new Principal musician join the Omega Ensemble, Adelaide-based oboist Celia Craig, currently the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Oboe, who will take up the position with Omega next year.