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Catriona Morison & Malcolm Martineau – 20th October 2023

For the second very successful concert of their 75th Anniversary Season, Perth Chamber Music had invited Cardiff Singer of the World mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison to give a song recital, with the famed Malcolm Martineau as her inspired accompanist.

The first half was German Lieder beginning with Richard Strauss’ early Op.15 songs. From acceptance of misery, through storms Catriona moved to warmth and a finely floated end, with its telling postlude. Wittily, engagingly and briefly, Malcolm Martineau outlined the  programme: What to do after Wagner? Berg’s Four Songs Op.2 were a dreamlike searching, Mahler’s Songs: three Wunderhorn settings, two by Rückert were  more crowd-pleasing, especially as sung this evening. In Rhine Legend Catriona showed charm and, calling an appreciative hum from the audience, talent in story-telling. The first Rückert song was a purely beautiful line. Urlicht embodied devotional emotion, next the paradox of why to love, finally “Who made up this song” with a smile and delightful delivery.   

20231020 Catriona Morison and Malcolm Martineau
Malcolm Martineau and Catriona Morison

Three songs from Berlioz’ Nuits d’Été revealed a different side: clarity, a subtle lightness and impishness in Villanelle and L’île inconnue, perfectly pitched feeling and, what a voice!, in Le spectre de la rose.

Kornogold’s Five Songs ranged freely and finely through warmth, anticipation, worry, regret, a call for Glory and Queen Elizabeth, to an odd final support of love in a Shakespeare sonnet. These last two sung in English, as was the final grouping. Ivor Gurney’s Elizabethan Songs received a fine, sensitive melodic flow. In the two Gibbs songs, the first, though not much as poetry, was a beautiful song and the second, Five Eyes. was an engagingly well-acted scherzo.

The arrangements were a final highpoint: simplicity, set out in a beautiful voice in Claire Liddell’s Ye banks and braes, a lilting lullaby and gentleness in Britten’s O can you sew cushions, turned in Ca the yowes both to idyll and sonorous strong feeling. Finally, pertly and with the best of comic timing, Francis George Scott’s The Discreet Hint, where a would-be lover is dismissed: Tak tent, she says, the way to me is through the kirk, not just because my mother is out!

A finely sung and tellingly accompanied evening, much appreciated by the large audience who had braved horrible weather to hear the finest of voices bloom in the St John’s Kirk acoustic.   

Ian Stuart-Hunter