The Omega Ensemble kicked off its 2020 season in Sydney – after its first performance for the year at Melbourne Recital Centre – with an intimate concert of folk-infused trios in the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room.

Omega Enesmble Anna Da Silva Chen, Clemens Leske and David Rowden. Photo supplied

The Ensemble’s Artistic Director and clarinettist David Rowden opened proceedings with smooth lines and even technique in Poulenc’s Sonata Clarinet and Piano – commissioned by Benny Goodman and premiered by Goodman and none other than Leonard Bernstein in 1963 – with his soft moments in the first and second movements particularly enchanting. Pianist Clemens Leske imbued the Romanzawith tender lyricism and while the diverse characters of the first movement felt slightly restrained, Rowden more than made up for it in the mad dash of the finale, the movement brimming with personality.

Benny Goodman was also behind the composition of Béla Bartók’s 1938 trio Contrasts, for which Rowden and Leske were joined by violinist Anna Da Silva Chen. The rhythmic stomp of Leske’s piano drove the first movement’s Verbunkos(a Hungarian dance originally used for recruiting) before he punctuated the uneasy swaying melodies of violin and...