Arias for Senesino
As well as being a sweetie, who I may have mentioned I have a crush on, Andreas Scholl is a wise performer; at the outset of his recital career he realized that people could find an entire concert of countertenor arias a bit much. So he has teamed up with various musical ensembles to present a varied vocal and instrumental programme.
It was apparent on Saturday morning that his relationship with Accademia Bizantina is a happy one. There was obvious enjoyment and at times playful interaction between him, director Ottavio Dantone and first violinist Stefano Montanari. And the programme allowed Scholl, Montanari and the ensemble to display their individual and joint talents. And I now have another crush - Montanari can tune my fiddle any time!
As the title suggests the vocal music was arias written for the celebrated castrato Senesino by Handel, Albinoni, Porpora, Geminiani and Lotti. I've always preferred Scholl when he sings the more lyrical arias and this concert was no different - two of the Handel pieces Caro Sposa and Dove Sei are part of his usual repertoire and he delivered them with a gentle simplicity that pulled at the heart strings. In the more showy pieces he doesn’t have the power or range of a David Daniels but the sound is never less than beautiful. In Lotti's Discordi pensieri, a piece new to me, it was often difficult to tell where Montanari’s violin ended and Scholl's voice began. And as a sidebar he was utterly sweet and sexy at the CD signing session afterwards - he knew how to charm the 100 or so fans who crowded around taking pictures and gushing. I wasn't like them though, I didn't take a picture!
And here's a bit of what we heard - Dove Sei from the 1998 producton of Handel's Rodelinda at Glyndebourne with William Chrisite conducting. Bertarido laments his seperation from his wife Rodelinda.
The three instrumental pieces – two by Vivaldi, the third a variation on La Follia by Geminiani – had a brilliance and spark that it often seems to me only Italian musicians can bring to this type of music.
Neapolitan Church Music
It was that spark that was missing in that evening’s concert. Thomas Hengelbrock and his Balthasar-Neumann Chor and Ensemble are well know for their eclectic repertoire ranging from early music to 20th century pieces so it was no surprise that they were scheduled at this year’s festival. Their programme was made up of three choral pieces – including a beautiful but seldom heard Stabat Mater by Emanuele d’Astorgo – and one Scarlatti church concerto grosso.
I recall remarking to Laurent once, after a performance of the Monteverdi Vespers by a German group at the Frari in Venice, that though the music making was lovely there was something missing. To my mind Italian church music – even a Miserere - has a certain dance like quality to it that Northern Ensembles often just can’t quite catch. This concert was an example of that – beautifully sung but there was a certain fire missing. And when they gave an exquisite performance of a Bach chorale as an encore it only reinforced that belief. It had a style and sense of musicality that the rest of the programme lacked.
17 maggio - San Pascal Bayon