Colleen Rae-Gerrard, Piano
Art Song Canberra
Wesley Music Center, Forrest 21 October
Reviewed by Len Power
In Art Song Canberra’s latest concert, soprano, Sarahlouise Owens, with Colleen Rae-Gerrard on piano, delved into songs and cabaret music from the Weimar Republic era in Germany as well as other music from around that time and later by French, English, American and Russian composers. There was even a song by an Australian composer.
The Weimar Republic was the unofficial historical designation for the German state from 1918 to 1933 and, in spite of post-war inflation and political turmoil, it was a time of great creativity in theatre, film, fashion, music and the cabaret scene. Sexual freedoms and experimentation flourished. It all ended when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933. Many artists, especially Jewish artists, were considered ‘degenerate’ and forced to flee the country.
The concert commenced with the cabaret songs of the still living American composer, Dominick Argento. ‘You Are A Love Song’ was especially well sung by Owens, giving great feeling to the romantic theme of the song. Moving on to songs by Francis Poulenc, her languid performance of ‘Hôtel’ from Poulenc’s ‘Banalités’ was amusing as well as nicely sung with a finely sensitive accompaniment by Colleen Rae-Gerrard.
Good performances of songs by the German composers, Max Reger and Hanns Eisler followed. The Eisler song, ‘Mutter Beimlein’ was of particular interest as the text was written by Bertolt Brecht. The first half of the concert finished with two songs by Erik Satie. Owens sang ‘Je te veux’ very well and had a lot of fun with ‘Diva Of the Empire’, coquettishly sporting a large hat for the occasion.
The sexual freedom of the Weimar republic was represented by Mischa Spoliansky’s ‘Masculine and Feminine’ song and the cheeky, tongue-twisting song by Canberra composer, Peter J. Casey, ‘I Am Sick to Death of Hearing About the Weimer Republic’ was well-chosen. The highlights of the concert were two works by Reynaldo Hahn – ‘Chanson d’Automne’ and ‘Nocturne’, sung with great feeling by Owens with especially fine piano accompaniment by Rae-Gerard.
The concert finished with two spirited works by Kurt Weill – ‘Berlin In Lights’ and ‘Buddy On the Nightshift’. With these songs, Owens demonstrated that she is a highly skilled performer of Weill’s characteristic music.
This was a wide ranging and thoughtful set of songs performed very well by Sarahlouise Owens and her pianist, Colleen Rae-Gerard.
Photos by Peter Hislop
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.