Christina Wilson, mezzo-soprano
Alan Hicks, piano
Art Song Canberra
Wesley Music Centre, Forrest, Sunday 2 April
Reviewed by Len Power
To a nearly full house, the popular mezzo-soprano, Christina Wilson, and her piano accompanist, Alan Hicks, gave a fine recital focussing on music set to the words of William Shakespeare.
‘Under the greenwood tree’ from the play, ‘As You Like It’, with music by Thomas Arne from the 18th century, was a bright and appealing song that was immediately engaging. Wilson’s, clear diction, beautiful voice and joyous interpretation, as well as Alan Hicks’ masterful accompaniment with its bird-like melodies, made this the perfect start.
In the first half of the program, there were also works by Percy Grainger, John Wilson, Camille Saint-Saёns, Johannes Brahms, Roger Quilter and Michael Head, ranging from the 16th to 20th centuries.
In Grainger’s 20th Century ‘The Willow Song’ from ‘Othello’, Wilson captured the troubled character of Desdemona in a beautiful, melancholic and sincere interpretation. ‘The Death Of Ophelia’, from ‘Hamlet’ by Saint-Saёns, was one of the highlights of the concert, superbly sung by Wilson. The accompaniment by Alan Hicks was especially notable.
Five songs of Ophelia by Brahms followed and the changing emotions in the songs were well-captured. Wilson’s interpretation of the fourth song was especially moving. The Roger Quilter songs followed, with ‘Fear No More The Heat of the Sun’ from ‘Cymbeline’, a haunting, reflective highlight of this group.
The second part of the concert commenced with another version of ‘Under the greenwood tree’ by Ivor Gurney. It was interesting to hear another composer’s take on this song and how the same words produced different emotions in the singing.
A fine song by Eric Korngold, ‘Blow blow blow, thou winter wind’, from ‘As You Like It’, then three of Shakespeare’s sonnets were heard with music by Claude Duboscq. The third sonnet ‘No longer mourn for me when I am dead’ was the highlight of this group with Wilson’s dramatic interpretation and Hicks’ great accompaniment.
The final bracket of songs were mostly by Australian composers including Margaret Sutherland, Peter Sculthorpe, Henry Handel Richardson and Mirrie Hill. All were of great interest, musically, and the various moods and emotions of the songs were nicely captured by Wilson.
The final work was the sonnet, ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ by the Australian Frederick Septimus Kelly, who died in World War One. The words are beautiful on their own but Kelly’s music gives them an emotional lift which Wilson and Hicks sang and played perfectly. It was a memorable end to another fine Art Song Canberra concert.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.