Sunday, March 5, 2023


Time Is A River

Omega Ensemble

Ainslie Arts Centre, 4 March


Reviewed by Len Power


Described as a restless flow of time and memory, “Time Is A River” was the Omega Ensemble’s concert of four works in which four composers deal with personal memories.  It was performed in the Ainslie Arts Centre.

Performing in the Ainslie Arts Centre, the Omega Ensemble from Sydney consisted of David Rowden, clarinet, Peter Clark, violin, Neil Thompson, viola, Paul Stender, cello and Vatche Jambazian, piano. Jessica Oddie was an additional guest violinist for this concert

“Mozart Adagio” by Finland’s Arvo Pärt was composed in 1992. It was written in memory of Oleg Kagan, a leading Russian violinist and friend of Pärt, whose sudden death affected the composer greatly. “Mozart Adagio” is neither an arrangement nor a collage. Fragments of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in F Major are balanced with Pärt’s idiomatic “Tintinnabuli” style. The resulting work is sombre and reflective and was played with great feeling by cello, piano and clarinet, creating the mood for the rest of this concert.

The Omega Ensemble

The well-known “Death and the Maiden”, String Quartet No. 14 in D minor of Franz Schubert, was next. Composed in 1824 in a period of serious illness that would ultimately result in his early death, Schubert based his work on a 1774 poem about death by Matthias Claudius. The entire ensemble gave this work a superb performance with particularly sensitive playing of the second movement.

The ensemble has a mission to champion new Australian work and commissioned the next work of the concert by composer, jazz saxophonist and Yuin woman, Brenda Gifford. “Ancestors” is a call to ancestors and country, remembering all of those people from the past and their link to country. It is a colourful, memory-laden work of great beauty where people and country are enchantingly intertwined. It was played with a moving delicacy by the whole ensemble. Gifford attended the concert and took a well-deserved bow with the players.

The final work, “Time Is A River”, a 2010 work by Australia’s Graeme Koehne, was composed in memory of his mother. Performed in a new arrangement for the Omega Ensemble, it was a work full of nostalgia and warmth as well as passion and calm. The Ensemble brought out the sense of loss and nostalgia in this work so clearly, bringing this memorable concert to a close.


Performance photo by Peter Hislop

This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 5 March.

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at