There can be no greater delight for any music festival audience than the experience of a perfect lieder recital presented by the outstanding partnership of soprano Jacqueline Porter and pianist Daniel de Borah. Programming a large number of short, well-known Romantic lieder takes sensitivity and skill, and this selection, order and emotional flow of the repertoire was immensely comforting.
Always safe and successful, an opening set of eight popular Schubert songs guarantees sentimental appeal and enjoyment, and Heiden Roslein engaged the audience immediately with sweetness, bright light and youthful charm. The poetic evergreen Standchen (the universally loved Serenade) touched every listener’s heart with Porter’s purity and evenness of tone in this plaintive, popular song with its imploring, yearning phrases and sweet charm. Totally engaging was the perfect delivery of Die Forelle and Gretchen am Spinnrade as both artists showed their admirable technique, warm connection with the audience, eloquence and complementary tonal colours. De Borah’s piano accompaniment was so beautifully subordinate, responding to the flow of the text, atmospheric yet refined in clear sonority and musical partnership. Auf dem Wasser zu singen opened up a sense of anxiety and agitation with crystal clear repeated notes and enhanced emotional expression. Possibly Schubert’s most famous song Du Bist die Ruh (You are repose and gentle peace) is certainly not his easiest to sing. Porter’s performance was fabulous. Her outstanding diction and evenness in rhythm and tone produced a powerful gentleness. This was musical poetry at its very best. An die Musik was also a timely choice as we shared Schubert’s inspired melody which gives thanks to the divine art of music, and was most relevant in Bendigo as we celebrated the return of live music. Nacht und Traume with its calming, repetitive pianissimo accompaniment was a fitting end to this set, a meditation on night and dreams, where poetry and melody touched our souls.
The romantic flow continued with Mendelssohn’s Auf Flugeln des Gesanges (On Wings of Song) but it was this composer’s Neue Liebe with its poetic visual imagery that allowed Porter to show more robust colours, bright timbres and rhythmic excitement. With much charm and a hint of operatic flair and seductiveness, this lively colourful piece was a crowd pleaser.
Grieg’s music continued this Romantic menu as Daniel de Borah played three familiar selections from Lyric Pieces Op 12: Arietta, Waltz and Watchman’s Song. As always, de Borah gave us a textbook solo performance, his sensitivity, detailed colour and beauty enhancing these smaller pieces, smoothing the pathway for Porter’s return to the stage for Grieg’s Sechs Lieder Op 48.
These pieces added a greater range of dynamics and harmonic interest, enhanced tonal colours and emotional projection. Gruss (Greeting) was a bright, exuberant and youthful introduction – a song of Spring with Porter finding freedom of expression in soaring octave leaps against a growing syncopated piano accompaniment. Truly wonderful was the Schumannesque Dereinst, Gedancke mein (Once upon a time) whose poetry was highly affective: “Some day my thoughts shall be at rest, though love’s ardour gives you no peace”. Almost funereal, touching and full of sorrow, pianissimo throughout, we felt the sorrow and sentimentality without self-pity. Lauf der Welt (Run of the world) was more akin to Schubert’s robust style of writing, delivered with fitting energy, personality and playfulness. Colourful and lighter in style, Die verschwiegene Nachtigall (The secretive nightingale) exuded clarity and breezy motion, with voice and piano echoing bird-like snatches between the lyrical verses. As the rose faded in Zur Rosenzeit (At the time of roses), Porter effectively portrayed sorrow and grief through the strengthened colours of Grieg’s dramatic tonal shifts, and dramatically contrasting harmonies and modulations. An exultant Ein Traum (A dream) closed the recital offering a perfect synthesis to the program. From its sensitive, floating opening bars, the beautiful dream became an exultant reality as an increase in tempo and a grand crescendo from the piano drove the music to a clamorous and resounding conclusion.
With admiration and respect for this finely delivered program, the audience responded with a standing ovation.
Later in the Festival, Porter delivered a crystal clear performance of Schubert’s classic lied The Shepherd on the Rock. Celebrated on both the operatic stage and the recital hall platform, she shone like a diamond in her exemplary and popular performances in this wonderful and successful Bendigo Chamber Music Festival.
Julie McErlain reviewed the recital performed by Jacqueline Porter and Daniel de Borah as part of the Bendigo Chamber Music Festival Morning Recital Series live-streamed by Melbourne Digital Concert Hall from the Capital Theatre on February 6, 2021.