O Schöne Nacht - Songs of Love and Night

By Ditta Zizi (Canberra Times, Monday 26 May 2003)

Fresh voices in pleasant tribute to the night

Australian National University Choral Society, St Andrews Church, 17 May.

SONGS of Love and Night was the theme for a concert of 19th century German choral music presented by SCUNA.

Featuring songs or lieder from the major exponents of German vocal repertoire such as Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf and Franz Schubert, the common link was night and its many metaphors - tranquility, prayer, love and death.

Songs from this period were written for general consumption relying on creating immediate melodic interest coupled with a sympathetic response to the text. The selection of repertoire for this concert was skilfully selected for the group with plenty of musical interest for the audience.

SCUNA, or the Australian National University Choral Society, is a non-auditioned choir with members from the general community as well as students and staff of the ANU.

This large group of voices, directed by Jonathan Powles, produced a fresh sound imbued with a clear enjoyment of singing. In tag-team fashion Powles and assistant conductor Matthew Stuckings shared the conducting of the first half of the program.

In most instances SCUNA rose to the demands of the repertoire. The program was sung in German throughout and the mood of each song was clearly conveyed though thoughtful phrasing, dynamics and vocal colour. This was particularly evident in the bracket of four contrasting Brahms songs. They were delivered effectively, especially the beautiful O Schöne Nacht.

Also noteworthy were two lively pieces by Schubert, which concluded the first half of the program. The first was a polished performance of the majestic anthem to the sun,>An die Sonne followed by a lively rendition of the cheerful Lebenslust.

The second half of the program featured the Liebeslieder Walzer Opus 52 by Brahms. This delightful collection of 18 short songs, dealing with the various aspects of love, features a four-hand piano accompaniment. Under the enthusiastic and well-paced conducting of Powles, with excellent playing from Elizabeth Wilson and Adam Laslett, SCUNA delivered an energetic and enjoyable performance.

SCUNA produced a pleasant sound throughout the concert, however, the dominance of the soprano line in some instances detracted from the overall performance. This became noticeable in the louder passages to the detriment of the other parts.