Surrounds in harmony with excellent recitals

Olveston at Six, Olveston, October 16, 18 & 20

The old-world ambience of Olveston was invaded this week by lovers of classical music attending four excellent early-evening Arts Festival recitals, presented by a variety of mainly local professional musicians.

The "Olveston at Six" venue was ideal, taking the audience back in time, matching the era of much of the music.

Robert Tucker’s programme of lost love, war and exile included songs from A Shropshire Lad (Butterworth), Korngold and Eisler, and selections from Hollywood Songbook, but his strong rich baritone, facial interpretations and artistry really excelled in Schramm’s comedic German art songs.

This was a brilliant performance of unique German humour in tandem with pianist Tom McGrath.

"Oboe Quartets" featured Nick Cornish with three string colleagues in rarely heard chamber combinations, by J.C. Bach, Mozart, Britten and Elgar.

The oboe dictated with astute consideration at all times, maintaining clarity, precision and articulation. Britten’s Fantasy Quartet, a strongly rhythmic work of extremes highlighted the oboe, over string textures.

J.C. Bach’s Oboe Quartet was predictably classical and stunningly delivered. Oboe Quartet K370 (Mozart) drew a virtuosic performance from Cornish throughout, but particularly in the cheeky tuneful final Rondo Allegro.

Australian soprano Emma Pearson (Wellington-based) and Dunedin’s Terence Dennis presented a programme of Romantic and contemporary song, inspired by Puerto Rican proverb: "Love is deed, not fine phrases."

Their Sechs Lieder by Clara Schumann was superb. The blend of delectable text, lovingly portrayed in music by the famed 19th century female composer, flowed with intense sincerity from Pearson’s warm-toned soprano and impassioned countenance, partnered by an inspired accompanist of international eminence.

Songs by Brahms, Mahler, Turina, Britten and Peggy Glanville-Hicks completed a recital of beautiful song. Mezzo-soprano Claire Barton with pianist John van Buskirk and three string colleagues explored the huge contrasts and changing moods of Dvorak’s music.

Opening with Zigeunerlieder Op.55, Barton negotiated the shifting forces of "love, song and dance", wending her way confidently through the cycle, marking sombre dark text with depth of tone, and breaking out joyously for fast forward-moving text. Piano Quartet in A Major Op.81 was a celebration of Dvorak’s unstinting lyricism, opening with a beautiful cello statement, launching four movements of complex harmonies and rhythms.

String players performing in this excellent series of one-hour recitals were Tessa Peterson, Frances Christian Farrow, Rachel Barton, Ben Pinkney and Helene du Plessis.