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2019 reviews

‘Impressive’ singing on love and life

Love and Life
Rebecca Ryan, soprano, and Anthony Smith, piano, for Art Song Canberra
Sunday 31 March, 3pm. Wesley Music Centre

In “Love and Life”, Art Song Canberra’s latest concert, soprano Rebecca Ryan and pianist Anthony Smith performed a thoughtfully prepared set of songs by Schumann, Duparc, Fauré, Berlioz and Richard Strauss. Rebecca Ryan is a graduate of Otago University in New Zealand and London’s Royal Academy of Music. She came to prominence singing the UK premiere of the newly discovered “Gloria” by Handel. She has appeared in concert performances world-wide and has sung a wide variety of operatic roles.

Anthony Smith is a Canberra-based composer and musicologist. He graduated from the ANU School of Music in 1999 and has performed in many countries around the world. He has worked as an accompanist for the ANU School Of Music for many years and is the repetiteur of three major Canberra choirs. The concert commenced with “A Woman’s Love and Life” by Robert Schumann. Rebecca Ryan’s fine soprano brought out all the colour and emotion of this eight part work. She was particularly impressive in the quiet and reflective “Sweet friend, you gaze” and the moving finale “Now you have caused me pain for the first time”. Anthony Smith’s accompaniment for this verse was especially fine. This was followed by two romantic songs by Henri Duparc. The highlight of these two works was “Chanson Triste”, which was beautifully sung and played, as was Fauré’s dream-like “Autumn” and “Au bord de l’eau”.

After interval, Rebecca Ryan sang two songs by Berlioz. The quiet emotion of “Absence” was nicely contrasted with the brightness of “Villanelle” and both were sung and accompanied very well. The final work presented in the concert was “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss. Rebecca Ryan displayed the full power and richness of her voice with an excellent performance of all four songs. Her singing of “September” was especially moving and Anthony Smith’s accompaniment for all four songs was sublime.

Len Power
CityNews, May 19, 2019

Memorable afternoon of song

Russian Lullaby
Songmakers Australia with Andrea Katz, piano, Merlyn Quaife, soprano, Christina Wilson, mezzo-soprano and Andrew Goodwin, tenor, for Art Song Canberra
Sunday 31 March, 3pm. Wesley Music Centre

The first half was comprised of lullabies, some amusing and some that were darker in tone by composers Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Kabalevsky and Mussorgsky. “Cradle Song” by Glinka, a beautiful duet for soprano and tenor, was an excellent opening number, displaying the richness and fine blend of the voices of Quaife and Goodwin. Tchaikovsky’s “Winter Evening” was sung with great accuracy and feeling by Goodwin. Katz’s piano accompaniment for this song was exceptional. Wilson followed with an amusing “There Was an Old Woman” by Kabalevsky. Sung very well, her playing of this old woman also had real depth of character. Andrew Goodwin and Christina Wilson then gave us another finely sung duet with “The Lark” by Glinka.

After interval, artistic director and piano accompanist, Andrea Katz, set the scene for “From Jewish Poetry”, a song cycle by Shostakovitch. Composed in 1948 after the composer’s denunciation in 1947, the composer’s situation and the official anti-Semitism of the time made a public premiere impossible until 1955. The cycle is one of many works by Shostakovich to incorporate elements of Jewish music. The 11 songs of the cycle were all memorably sung. The opening song, “Lament over the death of a small child” was a chillingly beautiful work sung superbly by Quaife and Wilson.

Other highlights included “The dramatic father” sung by Wilson and Goodwin, “Zima” sung by all three performers, “Song of the girl” sung by Quaife and the finale, “Happiness”, again sung by all three artists. This was a nicely balanced concert with generally lighter works in the first half and a more sombre and dramatic tone for the second. Well sung by the three singers with fine accompaniment by Katz on piano, this was a memorable afternoon of song from Art Song Canberra.

Len Power
CityNews, May 20, 2019

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