Review / Tragic work of war’s lost composers

 “Three Treasures”. A Flowers Of War concert directed by Christopher Latham. At the High Court of Australia, October 21. Reviewed by Len Power

“FLOWERS of War” is a four-year project directed by Christopher Latham dedicated to recovering and performing the lost music of mostly unknown composers who were killed, injured or badly affected by the Great War. 

The “Three Treasures” concert at the High Court of Australia concentrated on the rediscovered work of three composers – France’s Claude Duboscq, Germany’s Botho Sigwart zu Eulenburg and Australia’s Frederick Septimus Kelly.

The music was performed by Louise Page, soprano, Christina Wilson, mezzo, Tamara-Anna Cislowska and Alan Hicks, piano. Latham played violin.

From the melancholy tone of the works of Duboscq, to the more lyrical sound of Sigwart and the delicacy and emotion of Kelly, the concert was a fine showcase for the unknown works by these tragic composers.

The senselessness of war and the loss it causes in human tragedy became more apparent as the concert progressed and one beautiful work after another was played and sung.

Duboscq’s “The Cracked Bell” was sung to perfection by Louise Page.  “Mary’s Annunciation”, by Sigwart was sung with great feeling by Christina Wilson and Sigwart’s “Sleep, Baby Jesus” was sung with haunting clarity by Page.  Kelly’s “Music, when soft voices die” was another sensitively sung highlight from Louise Page as was Wilson’s movingly optimistic singing of Kelly’s composition to Shakespeare’s sonnet “Shall I Compare Thee?”

The singers were accompanied by the fine piano playing of Alan Hicks.  Tamara-Anna Cislowska performed solo piano works of all three composers with great feeling and assurance.

Christopher Latham on violin joined each of the pianists for two works by Kelly, one of which, “Elegy For Rupert Brooke” was another highlight of the concert.

The finale with Christina Wilson unseen but heard ghost-like from high above the audience singing “Has Anyone Here Seen Kelly?” was electrifying.

All photos courtesy of Peter Hislop