Memorable afternoon of song

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Songmakers Australia performs “Russian Lullaby”. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Russian Lullaby”, Songmakers Australia. At Wesley Music Centre, May 19. Reviewed by LEN POWER

“RUSSIAN Lullaby” was a program of Russian songs presented by members of Songmakers Australia – Andrea Katz, piano; Merlyn Quaife, soprano; Christina Wilson, mezzo-soprano and Andrew Goodwin, tenor.

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.

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