Though born of necessity – the two previously booked singers for Dolgellau Music Club having withdrawn late on – the formula of solo song/piano solo/solo song in each half worked very well, in the shared recital given in Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor on Friday, 3 November by Ukrainian soprano Khrystyna Makar and north Wales pianist Iwan Owen.
The pair chose a programme mostly comprised of well-known repertoire, with some surprises – a mix that delighted the audience.
In its first set the duo gave vivid renderings of three baroque favourites, Purcell’s Music for a While, Handel’s Piangerò la sorte mia and his wonderful Ombra mai fù.
Iwan then played Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major Op. 78, a good choice being not too long (just two movements) and charged with its composer’s feelings for the piece’s dedicatee Countess Therese Brunswick, one of the many ladies Beethoven loved and lost.
The lyricism of the first movement and edgy wit of the second were beautifully captured by Iwan.
Khrystyna then gave highly sympathetic readings of Roger Quilter’s lovely set of Seven Elizabethan Songs Op. 12, culminating in the glorious Fair House of Joy.
In the second half Khrystyna came fully into her own with impassioned delivery of a set of six songs from her native Ukraine.
She grew up and trained in its cultural capital Lviv, coming to Wales last year to provide security for her two sons’ education.
The second and last of these, Oriental Melody and Nothing, Simply Nothing, were settings by Mykola Lysenko (1842–1912), often referred to as ‘the Ukrainian Tchaikovsky’. They made a strong impression – as indeed did the whole set.
Iwan’s performance of Chopin’s Nocturne in B major Op. 62 No. 1 & Barcarolle in F sharp major Op. 60 was, according to one audience member, ‘alone worth the trip and ticket price’: they made a perfect foil for the vocal items.
These were crowned with a splendid trio of operatic ‘hits’, Khrystyna authentic in the sometimes sentimental O Mio Babbino Caro (Puccini), fervent in Rusalka’s Song to the Moon by Dvořák – one could picture her playing the part in the whole opera – and suitably flirtatious in Lehár’s Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß. Another deeply felt Ukrainian song by way of encore brought to a close a distinctive and highly accomplished recital.