Soprano Lisa Harper-Brown and pianist David Wickham, both English but now based in Perth, have released a sequel to The Poet Sings (2012), their first volume devoted to neglected 20th-century Australian art song, and particularly by female composers.
The Red of a Woman’s Heart features three collections by Margaret Sutherland, including a cycle of William Blake poetry and six settings of Judith Wright, which for Wickham “are the best of the genre in Australia.” Many composers were still looking to England for lyrical material, so the Wright cycle is particularly significant, as are Raymond Hanson’s two settings of poems by the extraordinary Australian radical socialist poet Mary Gilmore. Other highlights include two sets by Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Profiles from China and Thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird.
There is a lightness of touch about this recording, with a great sense of presence and space that makes it an excellent complement to the selections recorded by Ian Munro and Elizabeth Campbell nearly a decade ago. The interplay between Harper-Brown and Wickham is seamless, as though the music is being produced by a single entity. Harper-Brown is completely at home with the demands of this excitingly varied material, from the dance rhythms of Sutherland’s Blake songs, to the melancholy of two Jewish songs by Linda Phillips.