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THE SONG CIRCLE (article first published : 2003-08-21)

A small but enthusiastic audience attended an exceptional recital of song given for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Club by a highly accomplished team of performers on August 19.

The artists were Christian Immler, a German baritone now living in England; Angela Gilbert, soprano, from Cape Town; Mark Nixon, piano, also from Cape Town but now based in England; and Roderick Swanston, an English music lecturer who provided a most entertaining and informative commentary on the items performed.

Collectively they call themselves The Song Circle.

The theme for their recital, which is being presented in seven different South African cities and towns, is 2003 Anniversary Composers. The composers concerned are Hugo Wolf (died 1903), Hector Berlioz (born 1803) and Roger Quilter (died 1953) - an Austrian, a Frenchman and an Englishman.

This is a brave undertaking. Hugo Wolf is a major figure in musical history, but intensely serious songs sung in German are not to everybody’s taste. Nor for that matter are the quintessentially English lyrical songs of Roger Quilter.

However, the performances can hardly be faulted. Christian Immler has an impressive bass-baritone voice that is well projected and, unlike so many of its kind, is right on the note all the time. Likewise Angela Gilbert, who showed considerable dramatic flair and animation as well as a lovely voice. As for Mark Nixon, his virtuoso playing sometimes threatened to steal the show. As Roderick Swanston pointed out in his commentary, the piano is not an accompaniment in these songs, it is an equal partner with the voice.

Those who attended this recital were richly rewarded; they were given an expert introduction to some mainly unfamiliar but beautiful music. The Song Circle members deserve every success as they continue their South African itinerary, taking in Stellenbosch, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town. Sasolburg and Potchefstroom. - Michael Green




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