Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Susannah Lawergren, soprano
Bradley Gilchrist, piano
The Song Company
Wesley Music Centre 6 October

Reviewed by Len Power

Having only heard Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’ song cycle sung with the male voice, this performance by soprano, Susannah Lawergren, was approached with great interest and a little trepidation.

Composed originally for the tenor voice by Franz Schubert in 1827 to a setting of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller, it is the second of Schubert's two great song cycles on Müller's poems, the earlier being ‘Die schöne Müllerin’ from 1823.

Susannah Lawergren performs both as a specialist ensemble member and soloist bridging art song, opera, oratorio, early music and contemporary music.

Piano accompanist, Bradley Gilchrist, studied in Perth, Sydney and Madrid.  He has given solo and chamber music recitals across Australia and overseas.

The ‘Winterrreise’ song cycle details a man’s grief over a lost love, taking us on an emotional journey from anger and despair through the torment of false hopes and the path to resignation.  The words of the poem refer clearly to a man’s loss of the love of a woman.  The challenge for a female singer is to find a valid interpretation that an audience can accept and relate to.  Susannah Lawergren chose to sing of the loss of a child.

It is the emotional content of the work that makes it so powerful and, while the words in the poems are occasionally at odds with this interpretation, it resonated so strongly that it worked extremely well.  Singing the cycle entirely from memory – a major feat in itself – Susannah Lawergren added considerable depth to her performance with the well-thought out use of a scarf, a leafless tree branch and spare movement to create a believable character for this journey.

Her singing of the cycle was superb throughout.  Her beautifully clear soprano, accurate pronunciation of the German text and the emotional range and pace of her performance resulted in an extraordinarily moving and memorable experience of this great work.

The playing of the accompanying pianist is equally important to the success of any performance of this work.  Schubert’s challenging music ranges across the emotions of the traveller and surrounds them with the sounds of nature and location.  Bradley Gilchrist gave a brilliant performance of this cycle from start to finish.

These consummate performers gave the audience a musical experience that was exceptional.  The thunderous applause from the audience at the end of the concert was well-deserved.

Photos by Peter Hislop

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 7 October 2019

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.