Music / “By Royal Favour”, Sarahlouise Owens and Natalia Tkachenko. Art Song Canberra, Wesley Music Centre, November 22. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.
ROYALTY from across the world have always supported composers and musicians, and in this concert, soprano Sarahlouise Owens and pianist Natalia Tkachenko presented much-loved music by the royals of the 19th century.
Sounding particularly imperial, the concert opened with a serenade from Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha – that’s Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Owens, with her distinct flair and animation sang the part of a serenader with aplomb. Then another song by the Prince, “To a Messenger”, a short, smooth song performed delightfully by Tkachenko on piano.
Felix Mendelssohn’s song “First Loss” had a greater air of seriousness and musicality. This song of lost happiness flowed seamlessly from both soprano and pianist.
Then another work by the Prince. This one with the quirky title of “Mourning Song”, which rolled up and down the keyboard, and from Owens, a delightful, held-back refinement of well-placed vocal articulations.
Moving on to the other Mendelssohn, Fanny, her song “Italy” describes this country as “this land of poetry”. This jumpy, happy tune bounced with bright colours.
Tchaikovsky’s Romances two, three and four, of the six songs in his cycle covered a lot of musical and emotional territory. From sweet, sinuous sounds to the impassioned expressions of a “First Date” experience, these works had Owens expressing her considerable talent throughout the emotional wrath of the three songs.
“My Dream Shone in Them!”, by a composer this reviewer had never heard of, Samuel Maykapar from Russia, who was also a pianist, showed how great a composer he was. The strength of this song lay in the variety of styles it contained. It was a completely moving piece.
Two songs by another great Russian composer and orchestrator, Rimsky-Korsakov, portrayed the growing unrest before the Bolshevik Revolution. These art songs were filled with edgy singing and the second song “Not the Wind” was the most passionate tune performed in the concert.
Two songs by the Russian composer Arseny Koreschenko followed. Then Rachmaninov with the final songs on the program “Prayer” and “Don’t Sing, My Beauty”, performed with expert control by Owens. Both showed off the range and flawlessness of her voice.
To honour the English operatic soprano Anna Bishop, whose husband Henry Bishop wrote “Home Sweet Home”, Owens encored with a delightful, soul-filled rendition of this song that sings of the pleasure of returning to one’s home. Perhaps this was a simile for coming out of the uncertain times that surround us.