Franz Schubert, the Austrian composer whom The Firm have been honouring in their 2013 concert season, died at the young age of thirty-one. Despite his short life he managed to produce 10 symphonies, around 600 lieder and many other pieces of music. Schubert’s music, written almost 200 years ago, still manages to stir images and feelings in many.
The 3rd concert in 2013, and 99th overall since The Firm was founded, featured the talented Robert MacFarlane (tenor) and the equally skilled Leigh Harrold on piano. The concert was also to feature Robert’s wife Kate MacFarlane but, due to illness, she was not able to perform. While it would have been great to hear Kate MacFarlane singing soprano alongside her husband, especially in the songs that thematically demanded two voices. Robert MacFarlane did a wonderful job however of performing both sides, ecstasy and agony, seamlessly swinging back and forth between serenity and passion.
Schubert’s work is described well by Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel, through comparisons to one of Schubert’s near contemporaries. ‘Beethoven composes like an architect, Schubert like a sleepwalker.’ Listening to MacFarlane and Harrold’s performance of The Wanderer Cycle I found it quite easy to agree. As the wanderer travels by the moon’s light, through forests and over mountains, you can’t help but feeling you’re in a quite lovely dream. Harrold’s agile yet delicate piano playing and MacFarlane’s expressive tenor only add to the feeling that you are being drawn into a beautiful, twilit world. It hardly mattered that the verses were sung in German, the language barrier was overcome through the emotion and intensity of the performance.
Harrold’s solo performance of Herbstklavier by The Firm founder Raymond Chapman Smith was particularly absorbing. The pianist created a solemn atmosphere that hushed the audience and reminded us of the classical talent still with us.
Elder Hall was a perfect venue for such a performance. The fine hall has seen countless musicians before, from amateur students to the professionals seen tonight. As a show that was advertised as free for music students of the university, I was surprised to see so few attend. Perhaps this indicates modern attitudes to classical music. The meditative, romantic styles of the past may dissuade a fair few from attending such events, but it is important to give it a chance. In all honesty I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy such a performance but, by the end of the performance, I was rapt.
Although it suffered from the loss of Kate MacFarlane’s voice, The Firm’s 3rd concert of 2013 was a wonderful event that transported you from your seat to a beautiful world of music.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Elder Hall, Elder Conservatorium of Music, The University of Adelaide
Season: 2 September
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Photo Credit: Stefan Bruneder