An all-Purcell programme from the countertenor Andreas Scholl seemed a lovely idea to introduce Birmingham Town Hall’s series of concerts involving the music of one of England’s greatest composers.
But it didn’t quite work. The ground bass (a recurring cyclical pattern underpinning whatever is going on above) was over-present in these offerings, and it came as a welcome relief when Stefano Montanari’s excellent Accademia Bizantina, in their final purely instrumental contribution, turned to the fugal textures of Purcell’s Sonata in G major.
This is an excellent band, rasping and virile, continuo textures colourfully differentiated between harpsichord, lute and chamber organ.
But their penchant for showing-off at long-delayed final cadences irritated.
As for Scholl himself, the packed audience couldn’t have had more value for their money (once they’d got there despite Birmingham’s farcical car-parking provision).
His honeyed tones, ringing but never grating, coloured and expressive, his diction as clear as speech – all of this added up to a joyously communicative experience in a variety of songs and operatic excerpts, from the droll humour of King Arthur’s “Cold Song” to the pathos of Dido’s When I am laid in earth.
And in his engaging introduction to that mini-masterpiece Scholl convincingly dealt with the male/female voice controversy.
“Women sing arias for male characters, why shouldn’t a man do the reverse? There is a human message here, not specifically masculine or feminine.” his poignant delivery clinched the argument.
Rating * * * *