Time Stood Still and Stillness Reigned: Andreas Scholl in Recital

20/12/2016

Third Shanghai Baroque Festival – Dowland, Handel, Folk Songs: Andreas Scholl (countertenor), Edin Karamazov (lute), Shanghai Symphony Hall-Chamber Hall, Shanghai, 18.12.2016. (RP)

scholl_2010_03_e_0005

Andreas Scholl © Decca/James McMillan

Dowland – ‘Behold a wonder here’; ‘My sweetest Lesbia’, ‘let us live and love’; ‘Come away, come sweet love’; ‘I saw my Lady weep’; ‘In darkness let me dwell’; ‘Time stands still’; ‘Can she excuse my wrongs’; ‘Say, love if ever thou didst find’; ‘Now, O now I needs must part’

Handel Nel dolce tempo HWV135

Folk songs – ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’; ‘I am a poor wayfaring stranger’; ‘O Waly’; ‘I will give my love an apple’; ‘The wife of Usher’s Well’; ‘Lord Rendall’

Master miniaturists are rare in any art form. Among singers, there are a select few who can etch songs with voices of crystalline purity, refined musicianship, and exquisite sensitivity to text. The German countertenor Andreas Scholl is such a singer. I am always loathe to make comparisons and revisit the past, but I will. Listening to Scholl brought back cherished memories of the legendary Dutch soprano Ely Ameling and her American contemporary Benita Valente, whose artistry can be summed up in a song that both sang, Hugo Wolf’s ‘Auch kleine Dinge’ (Even small things). One measure of these artists’ impact is the stillness they impart. Seldom will you encounter such quietude in a concert hall as there was during Scholl’s recital with his frequent performing partner, Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamazov, in Shanghai.

The songs of the English Renaissance composer John Dowland are core to the repertoire of countertenors and lutenists alike, their melancholy moods well-suited to Scholl’s own musical sensibilities. ’Come away, come sweet love’ may be Dowland’s best-known song. ‘To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die’ appears somewhat as a refrain throughout it with slightly different words. Each time that musical line reappeared, it was a spontaneous, yet a totally distinct expression of the lover’s fervor and frustration. Most profound was the final utterance of ‘In darkness let me dwell’ as both voice and lute faded into a bottomless well of despair.

Scholl has delved deep into the music of Handel to great acclaim, and his performance of the cantata Nel dolce tempo was evidence of his mastery of the style. Most likely composed while Handel was in Italy in 1708, the cantata is typical of the genre, scored for solo voice with the accompaniment performed by a single instrument. This was lighter fare, with four graceful airs expressing the sweet torments of love. Scholl’s sense of line, long, extended phrases that hung in midair, and quicksilver dynamic changes were simplicity incarnate; he sings as naturally as he draws breath.

Apparently Karamazov was not permitted to travel with two instruments, and so his guitar did not make the trip. The songs of Cuban composer Leo Brouwer (b.1939) listed in the program were not suited for lute accompaniment, so additional folk songs were substituted. Three of Brouwer’s folksong arrangements were performed as planned, each with a fascinating introduction that eased seamlessly into the melody. In announcing the change of program, Scholl said that the British/Appalachian folk song ’The wife of Usher’s Well’ was his favorite. This ballad tells of a mother who sends her three sons away, only to learn of their deaths shortly afterwards, and their return to her in bittersweet visions. Scholl sang it with searing intensity. Bravos rang out as its final notes sounded.

Karamazov performed three solo improvisations interspersed amongst the songs. The first was melodically and harmonically more adventuresome than the Dowland songs which came before and after, but unfortunately was relegated to mere background music as late comers took an inordinate of time to find their seats. (Few theaters have seats as clearly marked as these are.) The second had strains associated with New Age or World Music. The final one started with a Bach-like melody, and gave the best measure of his considerable skills as a solo performer. By any measure, he was Scholl’s musical peer.

There was one encore, Bach’s ‘Je­sus bleib­et meine Freude, mein­es Herz­ens Trost und Saft’ (Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring).

Rick Perdian

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Sergei Polunin and Friends at London Palladium 28 May – 1 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 Elgar Festival in Worcester from 30 May to 2 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder Announces 2019 Art-Song Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Longborough Festival Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces Winners of Emerging Dancer 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! YOUNG RUSSIAN PIANIST ALEXANDRA DOVGAN TALKS TO GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon on 30 June __________________________________
  • NEW! When Music is Indistinguishable from Drama by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month