The Firm 2010 Season, Concert 1

GretaPresented by The Firm
Reviewed Mon 31st May 2010

Venue: Pilgrim Church, 12 Flinders Street, Adelaide
Season: 8PM Mon 31st May
Tickets: $12/Conc $7, series subscription (6 concerts) $45/conc $25
Bookings: tickets available via the web site or at the door

For their fist concert of the year The Firm presented soprano, Greta Bradman, and pianist, Leigh Harrold, accompanying her in an evening of vocal works. These are two multi-award winning and critically acclaimed performers and so it was no surprise that this was a concert of extremely high standard.

Although he wrote mainly for solo piano, Frédéric François Chopin (1810-1849) did write a number of songs during his life and these were grouped together posthumously as Op. 74. The 17 Polish Songs, written between 1829 and 1847, were not collected in chronological order and another two were added later. The concert opened with three of these, No. 2 Spring (Wiosna) (1838) in G minor, text by Stefan Witwicki, No. 8 Handsome lad (Śliczny chłopiec) (1841) in D Major, text by Bohdan Zaleski, and No. 17 Leaves are Falling, Hymn from the Tomb (Śpiew z mogiłki) (1836) in E flat minor, text by Wincenty Pol.

From a gentle ¾ to a more robust ¾ and finally generating a sombre feel to the third song there is a great deal of contrast between these three songs, with each having an atmosphere that perfectly complements the subject matter. It seems a shame that Chopin left so few songs. The duo explore the nuances of these three pieces in a most moving performance and a hope that we hear more of these rarely performed works in future concerts.

Next came Raymond Chapman Smith’s neo-Romantic composition, Im Grase/In the Long Grass (2003), to a text by Annette von Droste-Hulshoff, which he wrote especially for Emma Horwood, who was artist in residence for The Firm in 2005. Its flowing lines and light, airy feel evoke clearly the impression of a gentle breeze running across a meadow, rippling the grass, like waves on an ocean. One can almost smell the fragrances of flowers and wild herbs, hear the stream trickling past and the birds twittering overhead. Bradman’s crystal clear voice is well-suited to this piece and Harrold’s sensitive accompaniment gives an extra delicate feel to the work.

This was followed by Quentin Grant’s In the Park, a collection of five songs: The Park, Dusk, Someone, Raindrop and Warm Arms, based on texts by Moira Morris (1925-1962). Grant often uses small rhythmic/melodic motifs as the basis for creating several of these pieces, a device that he sometimes uses in his work, and he also pushes the vocal line into the soprano’s lower register in two of the songs for greater variation. This presents challenges for both performers and adds interest for the listener. Bradman and Harrold bring out the sadness, longing and loneliness in these works with remarkable insight.

Christina’s Lullaby by Australian composer, Ross Edwards (1943-), closed the first part of the concert. Originally written for orchestra and soprano (1983) he recently arranged it for piano and voice (2009) as an art song especially for Greta Bradman. This very accessible lullaby has something of a folk music feel to it and is a nice contrast to the previous work, with its depth and complexity. The duo gave the lullaby a feeling of loving and great care.

The second half of the concert was taken up with Vier Latze Lieder/Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss (1864-1949): No. 1. Spring, No. 2. September, No. 3. While Going to Sleep and No. 4. At Evening, the first three with texts by Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) and the last by Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857). Written shortly before his death they are seen as his reflections on that approaching moment. There are reminiscences, new understanding and acceptance in evidence as death grows quickly closer. Bradman immerses herself in the lyrics in a striking performance, with Harrold providing a strongly emotional accompaniment.

This was a wonderful start to The Firm’s season for this year with two magnificent young performers  working together as one in a concert full of emotion, passion and poignancy.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.

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