Clas­si­cal

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Vin­cent Plush

Chiaroscuro Jane Sheldon and Zu­bin Kanga Phos­phor Records Within sec­onds an at­mos­phere of calm en­velops the lis­tener to the sublime per­for­mances on this al­bum. In her long as­so­ci­a­tion with many en­sem­bles in Syd­ney, so­prano Jane Sheldon be­came the lead­ing ex­po­nent of con­tem­po­rary vo­cal mu­sic, much of it writ­ten for her. Now based in New York, Sheldon’s world view has ex­panded, plac­ing two Aus­tralian pieces in a global con­text. For Sheldon, Syd­ney-based com­poser Ros­alind Page has ar­ranged her be­guil­ing set­tings of sev­eral po­ems by Fed­erico Gar­cia Lorca for voice and pi­ano. Daniel Ro­jas’s tango-in­fused Sonata (2010) re­vis­its the magic re­al­ism of his com­pa­triot Pablo Neruda. Both works re­ward re­peated and in­tent lis­ten­ing. Nei­ther re­quires any qual­i­fi­ca­tion or de­pic­tion as Aus­tralian mu­sic.

Given a kind of Latin Amer­i­can patina to this record­ing, it is per­haps odd that Sheldon chose to record mu­sic by Amer­i­can com­poser Ge­orge Crumb that does not re­flect his life­long fas­ci­na­tion with Lorca. In­stead, she gives a mes­meris­ing per­for­mance of Crumb’s Ap­pari­tion (1979) with texts by Walt Whit­man. Sheldon’s voice, crys­tal-clear and de­void of blem­ish­ing vi­brato, re­calls that of the early Jan DeGae­tani, for whom Crumb wrote most of his vo­cal mu­sic some decades ago. Sheldon is blessed in hav­ing Aus­tralian-born Zu­bin Kanga, presently based in Lon­don, as her ac­com­pa­nist. Un­der­stated and el­e­gant, Kanga’s pi­anism shows an im­pec­ca­ble ap­proach to­wards the veiled and sub­dued na­ture of this mu­sic, drawn to­gether un­der the apt ti­tle Chiaroscuro. In­deed, the mu­sic and per­for­mances in­habit that shad­owy world of light and shade to per­fec­tion. Two beau­ti­ful short pieces by Fin­nish com­poser Kaija Saari­aho and sev­eral num­bers from Arnold Schoen­berg’s The Book of the Hang­ing Gar­dens round out a deeply sat­is­fy­ing hour of lis­ten­ing.

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