6 August 2012
This was a slightly unusual programme – vocal rather than instrumental which is the norm for chamber music concerts – featuring two very talented Napier singers – sisters Anna and Madeleine Pierard, together with pianist Terence Dennis.
Each of the sisters is a skilled artist while Terence Dennis has earned a reputation well beyond New Zealand for his skill and empathy in supporting international singers.
On paper the programme seemed a slightly strange combination of of items but in reality it was a delightful mix of solos and duets, which completely captivated the large audience.
Of prime interest was the world premiere of the CMNZ commissioned piece Songs for Beatrice by Wellington composer Ross Harris, a setting of five poems by Vincent O’Sullivan commemorating the astonishing achievements of Beatrice Tinsley. She was a New Zealand astronomer and Professor at Yale University at the time of her premature death at the age of just 40 years.
This was a stunning performance by Madeleine Pierard in which she completely captured the character of each of the distinctive and sometimes amusing verses. Polished and very expressive singing with exemplary diction all enhanced by the elegant accompaniment from Dennis. This music will last.
The first part of the programme was devoted to lieder, a kaleidoscope of the genre with music by Schumann – sparkling duets in the Three Spanish Songs to open the programme, rich quality of tone in the two Brahms’ songs including the well-known May Night, from Anna Pierard and a performance of character and feeling in the Seven Early Songs by Alban Berg from Madeleine Pierard – all with the admirable support of Dennis in a style of accompaniment in which he excels.
The final part of the programme was devoted to a delightful mix of solo and duet excerpts from opera by Mozart, Rossini and Bellini. This music in which both singers excel, backed by playing of brilliant clarity in the accompaniment - a sparkling performance with apt characterisation of the duet Prenderò quell brunetto from Cosi fan tutti, contemplative expression shown in the tender farewell of Parto, parto from La Clemenza fi Tito and brilliant clarity in the coloratura passages of Madeleine Pierard’s rendition of Non mi dir from Don Giovanni.
The contrasts depicted in the final Bellini duet Mira o Norma and a gentle encore from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel made a fitting close to the programme.
It’s not the easiest task to sing the first concert in a series for a hometown audience so there was the occasional sense of nervousness which should not be evident in later concerts.