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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 4. March 27, 1952

Music — Donald Munro and Frederick Page


Donald Munro and Frederick Page

Musical, activities at the University began early this year with a recital of French and German songs by the Dunedin baritone Donald Munro, accompanied by Frederick Page. The songs, all sung in the original language, were mostly unfamiliar to the majority of the audience, a welcome change from the hackneyed programmer of many lieder-recitals.

Two scenes from early French opera, by Rameau and Lully, opened the programme. These, while expressive and full of musical interest, especially that by Rameau, suffered from the lack of an orchestral accompaniment. The piano always seems an anachronism in music of this period. The classical purity of these pieces contrasted well with the highly-charged emotion of the songs of Wolf and Duparc, which followed. The four Wolf songs showed a wide range of mood, from the devotional restraint of "Aus ein altes bild" to the defiance of "Prometheus." This last song was a late addition to the programme, and tended to overbalance the group, besides being less well performed than the others.

Duparc is rarely heard in New Zealand concert halls, although of the fourteen songs which comprise almost his entire musical output, at least ten are of the highest quality, including the three sung in this recital. He was considerably influenced by Wagner, but only in his harmony, not, as was Wolf, in his whole conception of a song. For Duparc the words were merely a starting point for a superbly moulded melodic line of great power, supported by a rich ana full accompaniment. This conception was brought out [unclear: if] Mr. Munro's interpretation, in which the declamation, though good, was not allowed to [unclear: inhibit] the magnificent sweep of the music.

In a different way, the Schubert songs which came after the interval were quite as enjoyable. Of the seven included in this programme, only one, "Liebesbotschaft" was at all well known, and "Waldesnacht" was sung for the first time in public in New Zealand, as far as I am aware. Schubert suffers more than most other song composers in being represented at concerts by a small portion only of his vast output and we are therefore all the more grateful to the artist for showing us new facets of the inexhaustible variety of Schubert the song writer. Among the best of this group were "Waldesnacht," and "Die Ziigenglocklein."

Donald Munro possesses a rich baritone voice of considerable range, and his interpretations, on the whole, left little to be desired. He was most effective in the more restrained songs. A word of praise is due to Frederick Page for his excellent performance of the piano part. Except in "Prometheus," where his playing almost overwhelmed the singer, the right balance between singer and pianist was achieved. Too often the pianist is relegated to an entirely subsidiary role, but such a performance would have done less than justice to all the songs in the programme. Mr. Munro may be returning to Wellington later in the year; if so, we shall be looking forward to another recital as interesting and satisfying as this one.