You probably won’t find the phrase “Ecstatic Dance” in a list of classical music terms. It’s not a popular style that composers far and wide have had a swing at. It’s a bit of a local phenomenon, in fact: it was made up right here in Australia.

Sydney-born Ross Edwards wrote his first Ecstatic Dances back in 1978 as part of a garland of miniatures by Australian composers in celebration of Tasmanian Peter Sculthorpe’s 50th birthday. It’s a style that evolved from his use of the mediaeval European polyphonic device known as “hocketing”, which produces an interplay of “hypnotic insect” sound patterns, and eventually typified Edwards’ iconic and radiant music.

From one milestone birthday to another, Edwards’ latest Ecstatic Dance premiered 20 June at Sydney’s City Recital Hall, as part of a touring program that marks his 80th year. The fantastic Omega Ensemble, a tight-knit chamber group based in Sydney, performed his new Clarinet Concert No.2 between kindred works of two eminent U.S. contemporaries, Jessie Montgomery and Philip Glass.

Omega Ensemble Ross Edwards’ Clarinet Concerto No.2. Photo © Jay Patel

The evening began with Montgomery’s Strum, an all-strings affair, with plucked and...