Tall Poppies


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 TP (1-901)



Music for Voice and Guitar
Rebecca MacCallion, soprano • Bradley Kunda, guitar

$23   (Australian dollars)


buy at: AMC - Buywell

Soprano Rebecca MacCallion joins Guitar Trek’s Bradley Kunda to celebrate the combined beauty of the voice and the guitar. The two made their ensemble debut in ABC Classic FM’s Sunday Live series, and have since been invited to share their unique programs with audiences across Australia, Spain, Montenegro and Italy. Together, they are rejuvenating the repertoire for guitar and voice with significant new arrangements and compositions.

Their debut CD includes arrangements of two song cycles by Rodrigo and Ravel, alongside two classic favourites: Schubert’s Standchen “Leise flehen meine Leider”, and the Irish folksong Down by the salley gardens. A major feature on this CD is a new song cycle Bradley was commissioned to write using the poetry of Henry Lawson. Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Lawson’s birth, this work is a significant addition to the repertoire for voice and guitar, and is set in the Romantic musical style of Lawson’s time.

The CD will be launched in the Art Gallery of New South Wales' pre-eminent Resonate series on 16 April 2017.

Joaquin Rodrigo, arr. Bradley KundaCuatro madrigales amatorios
Irish trad., arr. Herbert Hughes/Bradley KundaDown by the Salley Gardens
Maurice Ravel, arr. Bradley KundaCinq mélodies populaires grecques
Franz Schubert, arr. Napoleon CosteStändchen: “Leise flehen meine Lieder”from Schwanengesang
Bradley Kunda; Poetry by Henry LawsonLove, the Rover


This recording, from musicians Rebecca MacCallion and Bradley Kunda, brings together an assortment of repertoire that, at first glance, might seem disparate. Closer scrutiny of the programme reveals clever thematic elements however, with folksongs predominating. Those that aren’t officially folk, strongly enough resemble such, in melodic character, or poetry, to enable a cohesive collection.

Scholar, educator and Guitar Trekkie Kunda is responsible for craftily rearranging, or, in the case of Love, the Rover, composing all but one track here. His pairing with MacCallion is comfortable, with a keen sense of interplay, blend and understanding between them. I was fascinated to note that she is also a speech pathologist, an unusual parallel career.

The CD opens with Rodrigo’s Cuatro madrigales amatorios (1947). The reworking of these four songs for guitar, rather than the original piano accompaniment, intensifies the Spanish flavour. Some of the folk quality is lost though, with high key settings at times contradicting the relaxed speech quality ideal for these songs.

Irish composer Herbert Hughes’ setting of the County Sligo songDown by the Salley Gardens is delicious, even within his prolific output. It’s a standout arrangement of this melody, in comparison to others by Britten, Rebecca Clarke, Corigliano and Ivor Gurney. I wonder whether MacCallion included this song due to a possible Irish heritage? She sings it with sincerity and attractive vocal quality.

Maurice Ravel composed his Cinq mélodies populaires grecquesin 1904, to support a lecture given by a friend of Greek heritage. The songs were collected late in the 19thC, via phonograph recordings made on the Greek island of Chios. Ravel’s atmospheric arrangements are staple recital repertoire, and the reworkings here for guitar are terrific. If there is some loss of piano sonority, it’s replaced by enhanced articulations and plucked energy. MacCallion’s singing is not as comfortable as the playing of Kunda, with her intonation and line sometimes tested, and the character of these songs requiring more definition.

Napoleon Coste’s arrangement of Schubert’s Ständchen(Schwanengesang) is a charming addition, bearing in mind its simple folk-like melody. Perhaps attributing simplicity to this great Lied is downplaying the genius of the composer, but it’s Schubert’s most uncomplicated melodies that are often his most brilliant, and many lend themselves marvellously to guitar accompaniment, demonstrated by substantial publication of such.

Kunda’s own cycle, Love, the Rover, presents seven poems of Henry Lawson, and is an interesting addition to Australian repertoire. The CD notes state ‘Images of the Australian bush, and the enduring force of “Mother Bush” wind their way through these songs, illuminating in their wake the hopeless melancholy of life in the distant colony, and the bitter sadness that thwarted Lawson throughout his life’. I wonder whether the cycle might benefit from reduction to perhaps four songs for best performance impact, as the often recitativo vocal writing would withstand more melodic solidity. Well done to Kunda however, for his impressive playing, and exploration of this rich vein of Australian poetry.

This CD is a mixed bag, with generally fascinating guitar writing, but some vocal inconsistencies. The disc has a lovely moody cover photo, which can’t harm the marketing. It’s an interesting debut from this pair of musicians, and there is much other repertoire awaiting the Kunda inventiveness I hope.
Jane Edwards October 2017-10-02

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 TP (1-901)



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