Beethoven was an artistic genius who illuminated every musical form he approached, including the German lied. His song cycle An die ferne Geliebte, Op 98 (To the distant beloved) was a pioneer work in this form, and its beauty and power of expression was fully displayed when it was the centrepiece of the program presented by Art Song Canberra in Wesley Music Centre last Sunday afternoon.
On this occasion it received an exceedingly fine vocal and expressive realisation from visiting Austrian baritone Thomas Weinhappel and his accompanist, Sydney pianist Stephen Delaney.
It was a suitably positive approach from both artists, and throughout their performance the expressive details of this lovely work were touched in with confidence and beauty.
From the haunting initial song Auf dem Hugel sitz' ich (I sit on the lonely hill-top), to its thematic return as the postlude to the cycle, it was a performance from the singer that had an engaging freshness and ardour.
Supported by the pianist's keenly imaginative playing of Beethovan's distinctive accompaniments, it was a performance to savour.
To start the program, there had been a bracket of five fine Schubert songs, opening with the charming Liebesbotschaft (Love's Message) in which the voice displayed some dryness of tone.
But this was only an initial impression, and had disappeared by the Beethoven song cycle.
Following that there was a delightful Schumann group. The gems of that group were the lyrical Meine Rose and, in distinct contrast, the boisterous Der Contrabandiste (The Smuggler) which gave the singer the opportunity for a lively characterisation.
The fourth and final group of this excellently balanced and throughfully assembled program was devoted to the music of Richard Strauss.
First there was his Allerseelen (All Souls' Day), surely one of the loveliest songs ever written, and receiving a performance that had a haunting beauty.
And the concert concluded with the ecstatic love song Cacille, given a suitably passionate realisation to make a stirring finish to the program.
It was indeed a recital which had lived up to its promise of being a feast of German song.