This is the latest in a series of excellent CDs by Australian singers I have reviewed recently in these columns, the others being by Damian Whiteley, Yvonne Kenny and Deborah Riedel. As all Australian music lovers now know, Emma Matthews has a beautiful voice and a secure technique and, like many Australian singers from Melba onwards, an instinctive feeling for the right style in any music she sings.
Here, she is completely successful in all she undertakes – from Proch’s music box Variations (without obliterating memories of Miliza Korjus’s remarkable record) to songs by Leonard Bernstein and Australian composers. Like many singers, her Italian is better than her French. It was a real pleasure to hear a song by the Australian composer Calvin Bowman (b. 1972) who has what is all too rare today – a genuine melodic gift. I enjoyed particularly the long excerpt from Thomas’s Hamlet, rarely heard now.
The recording itself is not completely successful. As on many CDs today, both orchestra and singer lack proper ambience; the performance seems to be taking place in some never-never land and the orchestra is frequently blatant. Emma Matthews’ voice has an occasional shrillness which I don’t recall hearing in the Sydney Opera House and Catherine Carby’s (in a duet from I Capuleti e I Montecchi) has a roughness which I certainly did not hear. As this recording was made by Deutsche Grammophon it is to be hoped that it will be given the international circulation that it deserves.