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About the Repertoire - 2021 Concert Season

with guest artists:

Margaret Connolly – violin

Wayne Brennan – violin

Nicholas Tomkin – viola

Daniel Curro - cello


This program continues our ensemble’s exploration of vocal chamber music with repertoire that includes both strings and piano. These rarely heard works are full of ravishing textures and atmospheric touches that bring added poignancy to some fine English and French poetry. Vaughan Williams’ embodiment of the English landscape and rural culture is nowhere more evident than in his ‘On Wenlock Edge’, which was composed after his studies with Ravel in 1908. The newly honed clarity that emerged in this work was already evident in composers such as Chausson from around the turn of the century. The French school of the fin de siècle also inspired composers across the Atlantic.


Amy Beach was the first major American composer whose training did not include a European sojourn, but her works demonstrate that she was fully conversant with contemporary idioms. Her songs show deep insights and imagination in the combination of solo strings with piano and voice, including some settings of French poetry. Similarly, Samuel Barber was fully a product of his homeland, but his outlook was equally cosmopolitan.  When Vaughan Williams heard ‘Dover Beach’ in 1932 before its public première the following year, he generously pronounced that the younger composer had ‘really got it’ in his setting of the early Victorian poem. This program is framed by vocal ensemble works by Georges Hüe, a contemporary of Chausson and Ravel, and ‘Under the willow tree’ from Barber’s opera ‘Vanessa’.        




Ralph Vaughan Williams                On Wenlock Edge (1909)

    Song cycle for tenor, string quartet and piano on texts from Housman’s ‘A Shropshire lad’


Maurice Ravel                                   Chanson ecossaise (1909)

    Setting of a Scottish folksong for voice and piano


Georges Hüe                                     L’Éternelle sérénade (1906)

    For vocal quartet and piano


Ernest Chausson                              Chanson perpétuelle (1898) Op.37

    Mélodie for soprano, string quartet and piano on a text by Charles Cros


Amy Beach                                         Selected songs including Chanson d’amour (1899) Op.21 No.1


Samuel Barber                                  Dover Beach (1931) Op.3

    Setting of Matthew Arnold’s poem for baritone and string quartet


Barber                                                 ‘Under the willow tree’ from the opera ‘Vanessa’

    Arranged by the composer for vocal ensemble and piano

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This varied program celebrates the musical heritage of South Brisbane and its public venues. Until the formation of the Greater Brisbane City Council in 1925, South Brisbane had the status of an independent municipality, as signified by its Municipal Chambers. Similarly, the nearby South Brisbane Technical College, which later functioned as a library and auditorium, hosted many civic and social events and performances. The Chambers was built in the early 1890s, but it only became a concert hall when the Queensland Conservatorium opened there in 1957. Situated just one mile away near the Victoria Bridge was the Cremorne Theatre, which after opening in 1911 became a hugely popular venue for vaudeville and other entertainments. Local churches such as St Andrew’s Anglican Church also had a fine musical tradition.


Our program features music once heard in each of these venues, from Victorian and Edwardian salon songs to music by local composers. Popular numbers by Billy Maloney, one of Brisbane’s most successful entertainers, epitomise the ‘roaring 20s’. We also present vocal selections from a 1933 concert by alumni of the Brisbane High School for Girls, renamed at the time of its relocation to South Brisbane as Somerville House. In recognition of the wartime presence of the American armed forces, which commandeered the school campus and The Chambers, we feature some songs by Johnny Nauer, a young GI who was posted here. Finally, we honour the Queensland Conservatorium’s founding with a work by its first director William Lovelock, and other piano and vocal music performed in the late 1950s by distinguished staff and students.


In all, a celebration of the rich musical and architectural heritage of South Brisbane, presented with the support of Somerville House in the elegant setting of The Chambers - a building with a fascinating history.



Songs by local composers:

                Australian anthem – Richard Thomas Jefferies

                The fisher boy – William Arthur Caflisch

                The absent-minded beggar – Esther Lewin


Salon songs from the Victorian and Edwardian eras:

                A summer night – Arthur Goring Thomas

                Let me love thee – Luigi Arditi

                Beloved, it is morn – Florence Aylward

                The swallows – Frederic Hymen Cowen


Opera excerpts, Lieder and artsong:

                Flühlingsgefühl (Spring feelings) – Anton Rubinstein

                One spring morning - Ethelbert Nevin 

                Il faut partir (I must depart) from La fille du regiment – Gaetano Donizetti

                The Starling – Liza Lehmann


Music hall songs heard at the original Cremorne Theatre:

                When the Prince of Wales arrives in town – Billy Maloney

                Calling Cooee – an Australian fox-trot by Harold Middleton

                In-doo-roo-pilly – a tongue-twisting waltz-song by Billy Maloney


American songs from World War Two:

                The Aussies and the Yanks are here – Johnny Nauer

                Say a prayer - Nauer

                I found a Princess in Queensland – Nauer


Songs and partsongs performed during the Queensland Conservatorium’s early years:

                The blackbird – partsong by William Lovelock

                Gruss (Greeting) – duet by Felix Mendelssohn

                To the evening star – Nigel Butterley

                Go not, happy day – Frank Bridge

                Selections from Eight new nursery rhymes – Henry Walford Davies

*Map of The Chambers Location*


Friday 16th April & Sunday 18th April 2021 - ‘Songs of Nature, Love and Mystery' at Old Government House 

This program of French and German vocal music is imbued with vivid nature imagery as well as themes of romance and mystery. For his third and final song-drama ‘Minnespiel’, Robert Schumann chose some of the finest poetry by his great contemporary, Friedrich Rückert, in which the loose romantic narrative is shared between the solo voices, duets and quartets. Carl Loewe’s songs are not often performed, but his atmospheric settings of some well-known poetry are without equal. Both ‘Erlkönig’and ‘Tom der Reimer’ depict a journey on horseback by a human protagonist who falls victim to dangerously alluring figures from the spirit-world, while the ‘Gesang der Geister’ is an uplifting setting in which the soul of man is likened to water which rises to and falls from the heavens.

French musicians were similarly inspired by natural world of lakes, fields, streams, flowers and birds, as seen the bracket of vocal duets by a distinguished group of composers from the fin de siècle. Saint-Saëns, Gounod and Massenet are better known for their operas, Chausson and Duparc are renowned for their chansons, but all of them produced fine vocal ensembles as well. An interesting addition to this list is Jean-Baptiste Fauré, who was one of the leading operatic baritones of the day. Some of these settings also use the imagery of night as a backdrop for romance, while more explicit allusions to springtime feature in the partsong cyle by Massenet. The ‘Chansons de Bois d’Amaranthe’ is a beautifully varied set of duets, trios and quartets with a brilliant finale, ‘Chantez!’ With some familiar composers and others who are lesser known, this program continues our exploration of the rich treasure of nineteenth-century vocal music with piano.




Minnespiel (Love drama) Op.101 – Robert Schumann

Song-drama for four voices and piano to poems by Friedrich Rückert


Vocal duets by the French romantics:

  • Pastorale – Camille Saint-Saëns

  • Sur le lac d’argent (On the silver lake) – Jean-Baptiste Fauré

  • La siesta – Charles Gounod

  • Réveil (Awakening) -  Ernest Chausson

  • Les fleurs (Flowers) – Jules Massenet

  • La fuite (The escape) – Henri Duparc


Idylle from ‘Pièces pittoresques’ for solo piano – Emmanuel Chabrier


Ballads and a quartet by Carl Loewe:

  • Gesang der Geister (Song of the spirits) Op.88

  • Erlkönig (The erl-king) Op.1 No.3

  • Tom der Reimer (Thomas the rhymer) Op.135

Chansons des Bois d’Amaranthe (Songs of the Aramanth woods) – Jules Massenet

Partsong cycle for four voices and piano to poems by Marc Legrand

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