Review / Lovely concert of ‘night’ music

Music / “Night Songs”, Jill Sullivan, mezzo-soprano; Robert Harris, viola; Alan Hicks, piano; Wesley Music Centre, October 16. Reviewed by LEN POWER

“Night Songs”… from left, Robert Harris viola, Alan Hicks, piano and Jill Sullivan, mezzo-soprano.

JILL Sullivan has performed throughout Australia and has an extensive concert, chamber and recital repertoire. This concert was her first appearance for Art Song Canberra.

She sang songs with a night theme that showed the full range of her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice and she was accompanied on piano by frequent Art Song performer, Alan Hicks. They were joined for certain pieces by violist, Robert Harris.

Sullivan sang songs by a wide range of composers including Handel, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Debussy and Respighi. She gave particularly interesting introductions to each of the groups of songs.

The concert commenced with Handel’s “O sleep” from “Semelee”, which she sang with great sensitivity. She followed this with two songs by Franz Schubert, “Night and Dreams” and “The Wanderer’s Night Song”, giving both a hauntingly beautiful quality.

Next on the program were two songs for contralto and viola with piano by Johannes Brahms. Sullivan gave a deeply reflective and moving performance of these songs and the viola accompaniment by Robert Harris was superb.

The combination of piano, voice and viola made the second song, “Sacred Lullaby”, one of the highlights of the concert.

Other highlights included “At Midnight” by Hugo Wolf, a highly atmospheric piece that was sung by Sullivan with great feeling, Debussy’s “Beautiful Evening”, “Dearest Night” by Bachalet and the delightful final song of the program, “Where Flamingoes Fly” by Spoliansky.

Robert Harris and Alan Hicks played two sets of music for viola and piano only, starting with two pieces from Shubert’s “Die Winterreise”, transcribed for viola by Roger Benedict. In the second half of the concert they played two songs from “Five Popular Argentinian Songs” by Alberto Ginastera, which had a restrained passionate edge that was quite thrilling. Both sets of songs were played extremely well.

Although all of the songs presented had a night theme, it was a concert of great variety that was stimulating and musically satisfying and enjoyable.

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