Sydney's 'chamber music all-stars' Omega Ensemble have announced an ambitious 2019 Concert Season filled with world premieres, international collaborators and new arrangements of musical favourites.
"Our 2019 season, our fourteenth, is a year defined by musical relationships," says Co-Artistic Director David Rowden. "In 2019 we see musicians and composers from USA, UK, Canada and from all over Australia join us on stage in Sydney."
A season highlight is the world premiere of a new work by in-demand American composer Nico Muhly, who this month premiered his opera Marnie at The Met Opera in New York. Muhly, who has worked as Philip Glass' compositional assistant, written for film and collaborated with artists such as Bjork and Sufjan Stevens, will premiere a new work for chamber orchestra and baritone to be premiered by Omega Ensemble in an all-American program at City Recital Hall on 2 July 2019.
"It's always such a thrill to be writing a new piece and planning it this far ahead," says Muhly. "But it's also a thrill for me as I met David [Rowden] in 2003 when we were both students, and its great to reconnect over a project."
Omega also invites a number of other collaborators in 2019, including Aria Award-winning pianist Sally Whitwell, Brisbane based vocal group The Australian Voices and conductor Gordon Hamilton, and UK/US based Australian Baritone Brett Brown, who will also feature in the Muhly project.
"Nico and I met in London last year to talk about the commission... and a week later I went to the premiere of his Opera Marnie with the English National Opera," says Brown. "And as I listened to his music, knowing I was going to come back and work with him and [Omega Ensemble] I was absolutely over the moon. I've wanted to work with [Omega Ensemble] for such a long time."
In addition to the Muhly commission, the Ensemble will also premiere a new Clarinet Quintet by Australian composer Gordon Kerry, as well as new works by Los Angeles based Australian composer Nicole Brady and Canadian based Russian composer Airat Ichmouratov.
The Ensemble also tackles a number of challenging symphonic arrangements, including a Quintet arrangement of Chopin's Piano Concerto No.1 (arranged by the composer himself) and a chamber arrangement of Mahler's titanic first symphony, performed by only 14 musicians and arrangemed by UK composer Iain Farrington.
"Simply by performing arrangements like these, it is like putting a magnifying glass over the orchestral score." explains Rowden. "The music is crystalised into its purest form, and ideas, emotions and the musicians are all exposed."
The 2019 season also sees the official launch of Omega's new recording label Omega Classics. Co-Artistic Director Maria Rapopova, who has recorded the premiere album of Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives says the independent label will focus on highlighting Australian artists as well as championing Australian music.
"Our vision is that the music should continue long after we leave the stage," explains Raspopova. "Omega Classics is our platform to leave a lasting legacy of recordings, live and in the studio, as well as ensuring the Ensemble connects with a generation of the audience having grown up in a digital-first world."
The Season also sees a number of familiar faces return, including violinist and concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, Alexandra Osborne, and Oboist Celia Craig, who this month announced her retirement from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra to accept the position of Principal Oboist with Omega Ensemble.
2019 Season Subscriptions are on sale now. Single tickets will be available from 1 November. Single tickets from $49.00.
Full season details available at omegaensemble.com.au/2019
Omega Ensemble are one of Australia’s foremost professional chamber music groups. Founded in 2005 by clarinettist David Rowden, the Ensemble have fast became a powerful musical force in Sydney, hailed as ‘first-rate musicians’ (the Daily Telegraph) and ’one of the best chamber music outfits in town’ (Sydney Morning Herald).
The Ensemble present some of Australia’s most outstanding talents, as well as international guest artists, in a powerful chamber music setting. In addition to their work with the Ensemble, many of Omega’s core musicians also hold principal roles in professional orchestras, including Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, USA.
The Ensemble’s artistic programs are diverse and provocative, presenting music from the late-Baroque to 20th Century, as well as frequent World and Australian premieres. Omega have to date commissioned over 40 works from leading composers, including Elena Kats-Chernin, Andrew Ford, Matthew Hindson, George Palmer and most recently American composer Nico Muhly.
Omega Ensemble perform regularly in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as frequent touring to regional areas and appearances at national music festivals. In addition to performances at home, Omega has also toured to China, with sellout performances and masterclasses at the Beijing Central Conservatory, Chang Chun’s JiLin College of Arts and Dalian University.
In addition to concert performances, Omega also maintains a growing On Demand catalogue of live concert videos, available online as well as broadcast on Australia’s national airline, Qantas, In-flight Entertainment. The Ensemble’s live performances regularly air on radio, including ABC Classic FM and the Ensemble’s debut studio album was released on ABC Classics in 2016. In 2018 the Ensemble launched the Omega Classics label for independent release of new studio recordings, and an expansive back catalogue of live recordings.