WITH LOVE AND FURY
Whereas poetry is conceived of as complete in itself, lyrics and librettos conceptually leave the composer creative space. So for Katie Noonan to use 10 of Judith Wright’s almost mystical poems for a song cycle was risky: delicate lilies could easily have been gilded to the point of garishness. Instead you’d swear the poems have been miraculously stripped back and meanings laid bare.
Each poem has been scored for voice and string quartet by a different Australian composer, including Elena Kats-Chernin, Andrew Ford, Paul Grabowsky and Carl Vine. Some have taken minor liberties with the poems, such as repeating a line or, in the case of David Hirschfelder’s setting of To a Child, the ingenious device of making the first stanza a refrain. This piece is one of many highlights, with the purity of Noonan’s vibrato-less soprano and the composer’s unfussy use of the stunning Brodsky Quartet catching and emphasising the imagery’s starkness. A minor drawback is that mostly one must read the words to understand what is being sung. It’s worth it.