Scotland’s most famous queen has a particular hold on the imagination. Her combination of power and vulnerability inspired fury and fascination in her own time – and ever since.
Louise Macdonald and Ingrid Sawers present a musical evocation of this beguiling woman through settings of her own words by Robert Schumann and three contemporary composers. The result is an engaging and moving picture of a multi-faceted, tragic monarch and a concert of beautifully modulated singing and playing, spiced with Sawers’ urbane, wry introductions to each section.
The performance opens with Schumann’s Maria Stuart Lieder, four songs on widely differing topics – from the young widow’s farewell to France to the stillness and warmth of her poem on the birth of her son and to the extremity of her words written before her execution. Macdonald’s undemonstrative yet deeply communicative delivery is perfectly suited to her subject. She slips from a moving delicacy in the upper registers to a warm-toned depth that captures the combination of fragility and strength that Mary embodied.
Eddie McGuire’s Three Songs give Sawers an opportunity to shine with their impressionistic piano writing, by turn choppy and flowing, profound and scintillating. Judith Bingham’s scena is the dramatic heart of the performance and both women fling themselves into the dark story of the murder of David Rizzio with flamboyance and aplomb. The final three songs by Dee Isaacs offer a sense of gentle closure to a woman’s life controlled and cut short yet well lived.