20 August 2012
REVIEW: Madeleine Pierard and Terence Dennis, Chamber Music New Zealand, Nelson School of Music, Saturday August 18. Reviewed by Margot Hannigan.
Madeleine Pierard has returned from Covent Garden Opera in London to tour New Zealand for the first time. She has chosen a challenging programme that demands all of her energy, yet proves her extraordinary range and vocal strength.
Her voice was stunningly powerful in the splendid acoustic of the Nelson School of Music. But it was more than the strength of her voice that captured the audience. It was her dramatic projection of self into many different roles, her imagination, her emotional understanding, her tall stage presence - her humanity.
She began with five songs from Canteloube's Songs From the Auvergne. She was in turn playful and flirtatious, passionate, sad, seductive then dismissing. Her mobile face and tender voice evoked the image of a shepherdess alone in the mountains. Strong stuff, and the pianist Terence Dennis was like a subtle orchestra behind her. I heard many in the audience making comparisons with the golden tone of Kiri Te Kanawa.
This was followed by three melodies from Oliver Messiaen, hauntingly beautiful prayers for peace and lost love.
Pierard then sang in German - Seven Early Songs by Alban Berg. These were full of angst and sombre dark themes. There was spontaneous applause from the audience at the end of powerful climactic passages. Once again, it was more than the strength of Pierard's voice that was exciting. But I feel a lighter, happier piece would have been preferable at this stage of the evening.
After interval came Songs for Beatrice, written by Ross Harris for his former pupil Madeleine Pierard and set to poems by Vincent O'Sullivan. A most successful collaboration that explored the mind and motivation of astronomer Beatrice Tinsley. So clear was Pierard's diction that the poetry was projected perfectly.
The programme finished in Italian with three passionate love songs from Bellini and finally some very operatic Rossini canzonettas sung with rich, resonant tone.
The audience's enthusiasm was rewarded with an encore from Bellini's opera La Sonnambula. Pierard's dramatic humour and Dennis' wonderful musicality ended a most successful concert.