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Reviewed by Sam Carswell

Jenny Wollerman & Michael Houstoun: Between Darkness and Light

Reviewed by Sam Carswell

Jenny Wollerman & Michael Houstoun: Between Darkness and Light

Pianist Michael Houstoun and soprano Jenny Wollerman first performed this recital at the Wanaka Festival of Colour in 2013. The format was to be, as Wollerman details in the liner notes of another beautifully constructed Rattle CD casing, “a semi-staged song recital with solo piano interludes,” which explored the idea of movement between the darkness and light. While Tony Rabbit’s visuals at the live performance of the programme would have been a great watch, the grainy and distorted renderings of them that litter the booklet set the mood for private listening far better than any light show could. Wollerman and Houstoun sound relaxed. The piano playing seems effortless and the vocals come across clearly and naturally. As the tracklist moves thematically from romantic to philosophical, it remains meditative and reflective – always deep in thought. It’s as if you can feel the pair contemplating the confounding theme through their playing. As the music broods, the listener is drawn into thought along with it and while concurrent thoughts begin, develop and fade – just as the theme dictates – the album manages to fly through 20 tracks. In timbre, Wollerman’s bright soprano is contrasted by a piano sound erring to the darker side, allowing the voice and piano to play off each other and move through sections light and dark – full then sparse. This excellent sequencing of pieces, combined with Steve Garden’s recording in a way that contributes to the focus of the album, allows the listener to feel the effects of the concept, even if they understand nothing about the music being played. And as such, the album is a success.

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