Friday, October 20, 2017


Art Song Canberra
Jill Sullivan, mezzo-soprano
Robert Harris, viola
Alan Hicks, piano
Wesley Music Centre 15 October

Reviewed by Len Power

Jill Sullivan has performed throughout Australia and has an extensive concert, chamber and recital repertoire.  This concert was her first appearance for Art Song Canberra.

She sang songs with a Night theme that showed the full range of her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice and she was accompanied on piano by frequent Art Song performer, Alan Hicks.  They were joined for certain pieces by violist, Robert Harris.

Sullivan sang songs by a wide range of composers including Handel, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Debussy and Respighi.  She gave particularly interesting introductions to each of the groups of songs.

The concert commenced with Handel’s ‘O sleep’ from ‘Semelee’ which she sang with great sensitivity.  She followed this with two songs by Franz Schubert, ‘Night and Dreams’ and ‘The Wanderer’s Night Song’, giving both a hauntingly beautiful quality.

Next on the program were two songs for contralto and viola with piano by Johannes Brahms.  Sullivan gave a deeply reflective and moving performance of these songs and the viola accompaniment by Robert Harris was superb.  The combination of piano, voice and viola made the second song, ‘Sacred Lullaby’, one of the highlights of the concert.

Left to Right: Robert Harris, Alan Hicks, Jill Sullivan (photo by Peter Hislop)
Other highlights included ‘At Midnight’ by Hugo Wolf, a highly atmospheric piece that was sung by Sullivan with great feeling, Debussy’s ‘Beautiful Evening’, ‘Dearest Night’ by Bachalet and the delightful final song of the program, ‘Where Flamingoes Fly’ by Spoliansky.

Robert Harris and Alan Hicks played two sets of songs for viola and piano only, starting with two songs from Shubert’s ‘Die Winterreise’, transcribed for viola by Roger Benedict.  In the second half of the concert they played two songs from ‘Five Popular Argentinian songs’ by Alberto Ginastera which had a restrained passionate edge that was quite thrilling.  Both sets of songs were played extremely well.

Although all of the songs presented had a Night theme, it was a concert of great variety that was stimulating and musically satisfying and enjoyable.

This review was first published in Canberra City News digital edition of 16 October.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s new ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.