Chamber favourites and Australian premieres adorn a programme that features new collaborations and old friends.

The Omega Ensemble has announced its 2018 season, which will feature a slew of well-loved chamber works from Beethoven to Debussy as well as a series of Australian premieres and contemporary works. The ensemble will be joined by new guests and old friends across two main series – the Virtuoso series at City Recital Hall and the Master Series at the Utzon Room.

“Moving into our thirteenth season, Omega Ensemble has come of age and entered its teens! If childhood is about magic, the 2018 Concert Season introduces mystery, love, romance and passion,” said Co-Artistic Directors David Rowden and Maria Raspopova. “We are proud to continue to perform our Virtuoso Series in the stunning City Recital Hall, alongside our Master Series at the iconic Sydney Opera House.”

Omega EnsembleDavid Rowden, Alexandra Osborne, Maria Raspopova, Paul Stender. Photos © Keith Saunders.

The ensemble’s Virtuoso Series begins in April at City Recital Hall with a programme – Eternal Quartets – that pairs Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time with Schubert’s String Quartet No 14 Death and the Maiden. First up in this concert will be Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Op. 11. Famous in its arrangement for string orchestra, here it will appear in its original form for string quartet.

Love, in July, will see Omega Ensemble joined for the first time by clarinettist Lloyd Van’t Hoff, who won the ABC Young Performer of the Year in 2015. Adding to a programme that explores romance, weddings and friendship, Van’t Hoff will duet with Omega’s David Rowden, in a performance of Australian composer Gerard Brophy’s 2017 work We Two Boys Together.

Veronique Serret, violin. Photo: supplied.

The third concert in Omega’s Virtuoso Series will explore music of ‘new beginnings,’ featuring the rarely-heard Nonet in E Flat Major by French composer Louise Ferrenc. In her time, Ferrenc was the only female professor at the Paris Conservatoire. When her Nonet premiered in 1850, it was such a success that she demanded, and received, a wage equal to that of her male colleagues: a foretaste of the women’s movement kindled in the late 1800s. The programme opens with Schubert and Beethoven – the Violin Sonata No 5, with violinist Veronique Serret joining Raspopova on piano – and culminates in a rendition of Elena Kats-Chernin’s well-loved Russian Rag, arranged for the Omega Ensemble by the composer.

The Omega Ensemble’s November concert kicks off with yet another Australian premiere – British-American composer David Bruce’s Gumboots for clarinet quintet. Bruce’s quintet sits alongside Schubert’s String Quintet in C major – the “Cello Quintet” – and Mendelssohn’s Second String Quintet in a concert for which the ensemble will be joined by cellist Howard Penny.

OmegaSally Walker, flute. 

In the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room, the Omega Ensemble’s Master Series begins in February with Summer Winds, which will feature Sally Walker performing Debussy’s flute solo Syrinx, Taffanel’s Wind Quintet in G Minor, Beethoven’s Duo for Bassoon and Clarinet and Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, in an arrangement for woodwinds. The programme finishes with Malcolm Arnold’s Three Shanties for Wind Quintet.

Fairy Tales in June will see British composer-pianist Samuel Hogarth join the Omega Ensemble for the Australian premiere of his brand new Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, in a programme with Schumann’s Fairy Tales for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, Bruch’s Eight Pieces for the same combination and Borodin’s Second String Quartet.

Veteran Omega soprano Lee Abrahamsen will join the Ensemble for the fourth season in a row in 2018. Alongside songs by Poulenc and Rachmaninov, she will also deliver the Australian premiere of Ian Munro’s A Forest of Birds, which sets text by Judith Wright.

“I have been writing songs to words by the great Australian poet Judith Wright for almost as long as I have been writing music, so much have her words meant to me, with their innate lyricism yet deep, often troubling concerns, for the land and its life, the people, justice and love,” said Munro. “These songs, written for Omega, reflect a similar passion for Wright by their dedicatee and commissioner, Norma Hawkins.”

The final concert for the year will feature Omega Co-Artistic Director and pianist Maria Raspopova in recital at the Utzon Room, presenting a programme of Debussy, Chopin, Satie, Liszt, Rachmaninov and Bach.

Outside the main seasons, Omega Ensemble’s year begins at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in February with the Australian premiere of regular Omega collaborator Ben Hoadley’s one-act opera Miss Brill, based on a short story by Katherine Mansfield, with a libretto by Craig Brush and in March, the Ensemble will make a first-time appearance at the Four Winds Festival in Bermagui, NSW.

“Our 2018 Season is all about relationships,” said Omega’s Artistic Directors, “intimacy and connections, between our artists, our audience and the music itself.”

The Full Season