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Canberra Today 1°/5° | Sunday, August 7, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Songs of love and life in four languages

Soprano Piera Dennerstein. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Music / “Love and other Traps”, Art Song Canberra, Wesley Music Centre, July 18. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

ROMANTIC music fills the history of art song. This concert explored the throes of love and life in four languages, over four centuries through standards to love’s philosophy.

Piera Dennerstein, soprano, and Lucus Allerton, piano, began the concert with a light and playful tune, “Se Florindo è Fedele” by Alessandro Scarlatti. Dennerstein sang brightly and bounced off Allerton’s playing in a joyful and light-hearted manner, which created a welcoming opening.

Then on to a staple of the art song style, a piece about unrequited love, “Caro Mio Ben”, by Tommaso Giordani. In an expressive and sensitive recital, Dennerstein let the emotion of the lyrics work on her performance, her voice and the audience.

Eduardo di Capua’s most famous work, “O Sole Mio”, made even more famous by Luciano Pavarotti, which – Dennerstein says her family call her Pavarotti because she is a singer and Italian – she sang with fitting exuberance in a strong and dynamic performance.

Lucus Allerton and Piera Dennerstein. Photo: Peter Hislop

Two very different works followed, Debussy’s “En Sourdine” and “Pierrot”. The sensuality of “En Sourdine”, in that drifting and suspension filled style that Debussy owns, was made serene by both performers.

Dennerstein is quite enthusiastic. Once or twice, maybe a bit too much. When attacking some high notes, she occasionally cut through excessively. This was evident in Faure’s “Fleur Jetée”.

After a brief interval, perhaps the most well-known song of all time, Schubert’s “Ave Maria”. Such a popular tune sits forefront in most people’s minds. While this was not a great rendition and sounded unbalanced, I’m sure it will become a presentation that does Dennerstein proud because her talent is clearly there.

Songs by Mendelssohn and Hugo Wolf followed. The sound of the German lyrics fitted Dennerstein’s voice perfectly. The intonation of the pronunciations seemed to suit her tone better than the other languages; her voice sounded more natural in these two works.

Allerton introduced several of the songs and did a wonderful job of relating the stories of the lyrics and technical aspects of the musicality of the scores. And he did it all with a devilish wit.

Two songs by Benjamin Britten came next. “Death Be Not Proud”, after a text by the poet John Donne, and a crazy tune that as Dennerstein said, sounded like an ad for a telecommunications company, titled “When You’re Feeling Like Expressing Your Affection”.

The dramatic and complex musical poem “Death Be Not Proud”, created the highlight of the concert for this reviewer. Sung in English, Dennerstein captured this song perfectly. This dark and gravely slow work allowed the audience to hear what a fine, sensitive and commanding voice this soprano has.

The final song, “Love’s Philosophy”, after Shelley’s poem, was a rapid work that sort of chased itself. It flowed like running water and capped off a fine performance from this singer and the pianist.

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