Cherry Ripe

William Dart
New Zealand Herald 'Weekend' (NZ)
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'Delightful and rewarding stroll down memory lane'

Verdict: Our Australian cousins give us a lesson in taking our heritage seriously.

The redoubtable Dame Nellie Melba may have lent her name to a peach dessert and very, very crisp toast, but I would imagine she would be much prouder to be associated with the sterling work of the Melba Foundation. This is an organisation which, with the welcome leg-up of a $5 million ($6.3 million) government grant, is catching the best of Australia’s singers and other musicians on CD.

Two recent and handsomely packaged Melba releases show that faith and funding have been amply rewarded…

Deborah Riedel passed away early this year after a decade battling cancer. She was just 50 and one of Australia’s finest sopranos, at her peak as Sieglinde in Adelaide’s 2004 Ring.

Her album, Cherry Ripe, describes itself as ‘Vocal Treasures of the 18th and 19 Centuries’ and so they are. It is a collection of 21 light, airy ballads and arias, lovingly delivered … The masterly Richard Bonynge presides over the stylish Arcadia Lane Orchestra.

The title song is a perky daiquiri to get you in the mood, but the operatically inclined will cherish the many little-known arias by composers like the German Peter von Winter, including a dashing Polish specimen by the splendidly named Marco Antonio da Fonesca Portugallo—no prizes for guessing the nationality there.

Not all is frivolous and frou frou; an Ingemisco from a requiem by Mayr is particularly moving and Deborah de Graaf’s clarinet obbligato in Generali’s ‘Per Pieta’ is just one instance of the exemplary contributions from the band.