Australia’s versatile vocalist has a story to share – the Australian story – and she’s not afraid to tell it as it is.

The humble art song might not immediately spring to mind as an important historical yardstick, but they have long been insightful cultural barometers, taking the temperature of their respective musical and social climates. Whether it’s the verdant modality of Vaughan Williams and Britten, the rugged drama of Schubert and Schumann’s great Lieder cycles or the sweeping plains and touching poignancy of Copland and Barber, the art song has repeatedly shown an acuity for capturing a moment of artistic history. Like the laminated layers of some weathered limestone cliff face, this tradition of music and poetry offers a preserved record of the shifting topography of a particular culture’s ideals, aspirations and philosophies.

Australia too has a rich vein of art song to mine, most notably the vocal settings of Peggy Glanville-Hicks and the folksong arrangements of Percy Grainger. These compositions are highly accomplished works, communicating with a deft skill an emotional and musical richness. But arguably, they lack some of the illustrative potency of other collections that vividly conjure the atmosphere and...