Y. Bintang Prakarsa, Contributor, Jakarta

Last year’s highly acclaimed Art Song Series is making a comeback through two concerts, which will both be held at the elegant Bentara Budaya in Jakarta.

A special program will be presented on Friday of 20th century English art songs from the war years, including Britten’s A Charm of Lullabies, sung by English contralto Katrine Roberts, with Avip Priatna on the piano.

Roberts has been a regular in Jakarta’s concert scene for some time now, though this will be the first time she has participated in the series. Her repertoire has mainly focused on opera, although her first collaboration with Avip and the Parahyangan Catholic University Choir back in 1999 saw her work with the music of Handel.

Now, following a serious illness, she finds meaning in intimate art songs, English rather than German or French, which the series’ devoted audience has become familiar with.

Roberts’ performance will include works from famous composers such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten, as well as lesser known musicians like Herbert Howells, renowned for his choral works, and Roger Quilter and Peter Warlock, who contributed much to the repertoire of English works of that time.

Avip is already a household name in Indonesia and was one of the main attractions during the last series. Last September, just hours after the announcement of a performance with his choir, the Batavia Madrigal Singers, tickets were sold out.

The event organizer, Yasmina Zulkarnain, then scheduled an unplanned second performance, which also sold out.

Avip’s role as pianist should surprise no one, for he has accompanied the Singers on several occasions. This time, however, he will only play and not conduct.

Having presented the first series at Erasmus Huis, Yasmina Zulkarnain and artistic director Iswargia R. Sudarno decided to collaborate with Bentara Budaya, the cultural foundation of Kompas daily.

They were taking a risk. Before the second series’ inaugural recital, featuring the delicate soprano Aning Katamsi Asmoro and brilliant young guitarist Sudirman Leman, the main hall of Bentara Budaya’s building had never been used for music performances.

The result was surprisingly beautiful. The acoustics proved perfect for chamber music, amplifying the sound while preserving its warmth and intimacy. This exquisite hall is part of a building constructed in 1986, which was designed by priest and architect Y.B. Mangunwijaya to complement a hundred-year-old wooden house relocated from Kudus, Central Java, to the site.

The series’ November performance will feature Binu D. Sukaman singing French chansons, accompanied by pianist Iswargia R. Sudarno and a string quartet.

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