It’s no easy task to select music for a compilation CD. The list needs to include signature works or styles of the performer, listener favourites, a smattering of less popular but respected works or composers, and finally, works that take the performer into the future.
With her new CD “Seraphim”, soprano Sara Macliver achieves this easily and the release is justifiably a “portrait” collection. Sara Macliver is one of Australia’s most eminent performers with a trans-continental career, specialising in Baroque and early classical styles. It is reassuring therefore to hear her opening bracket which includes Handel’s “Let the Bright Seraphim” (Samson HWV 57) and J S Bach’s “Mein glaubiges Herze” ( Cantata BWV 68).
Separating these are arias by Arne (“The glitt’ring Sun” from Canata V The Morning) and Giacomelli arr Vivaldi, (Sposa son disprettata” from Bajazet) before Macliver lights up the way through more Baroque (J S Bach, Handel and Purcell) to the classical era with Giordano (Caro mio ben) Mozart (“Laudate Dominum” from Vesperae solennes de confessore KV 339 and Ruhe Zanft from Zaide KV 344 ) and Haydn.
After visiting the early Romantics Faure (Pie Jesu from Requiem opus 68) , Ravel, and Canteloube, Macliver pushes into music theatre with Bernstein’s Somewhere from West Side Story and a song from contemporary Australian composer Calvin Bowman (Crossing the bar). The final song, Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now sums up what the collection hoped to achieve.
When SoundsLikeSydney spoke to Sara Macliver about Seraphim, she acknowledged that “as a performer, it is the ultimate to be able to do a portrait disc with the ability to represent an array of styles, to show versatility and sing different genres”.
This is especially interesting as her last CD was an anothology of arias solely by Mozart. Asked whether the repertoire on Seraphim represents a maturing and development of her voice, Macliver says ” Being able to sing Mozart really well is the ultimate test of a fine singer. There is a sense of musicality required, and there are nuances and tonal colours which are challenging. In this recording, I sing music I’ver never performed before, like Somewhere and Both Sides Now. On the few occasions I’ve had the oportunity to sing jazz and blues with a big band, there’s a freedom and spontaneity that I’ve really enjoyed”.
As for the performance – it sways from glittering colaratura (Handel, Purcell, J S Bach) through the sheer beauty of unerringly even melodic line (Mozart, Ravel) and pure innocence senza vibrato (Giordano), to a more contemporary sound (Bernstein). In these performances Macliver is beautifully supported by various Ausralian orchestras, conductors and instrumental soloists on period instruments.
The time line is one way of looking at this portrait CD. From a different perspective it offers music from various sacred forms, opera, Italian Aria Antiche, recital reeprtoire, and theatre.
Having had a taste of music theatre is there likely to be more from this genre? Macliver says “I’d love to sing more Sondheim”. From Seraphim to Sondheim – something to look forward to.
ABC Classics 476 4362
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Featured track: Maurice Ravel Chanson des cuelleuses de lentiques (Song of the Pistachio Harvesters) from Cinq melodies populaires grecques (Five Popular Greek Melodies). Sara Macliver soprano, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Northey, Conductor.