‘Haunting Handel’ in Sydney

Handel, Vivaldi: Australian Brandenburg Orchestra with mezzo soprano Fiona Campbell. City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney, 14.5.2011 (ZT)

Vivaldi : Sinfonia in C Major, RV 711; Aria-Sorge L’irato nembo from RV 728; Aria-Sol per ti mio from Orlando Furioso; Concerto for Oboe RV 450.

Handel: Aria– Where Shall I fly from HWV 60; Overture to Julius Caesar; Aria- Mi Lusingo a dolce affetto from Alicina; Aria- Se bramate d’amar from Xerxes; Concerto Grosso Op 3 No 2, HWV 313; Aria-Lascia ch’io pianga from Rinaldo; Aria- Doppa notte from Ariodante

May 14 was the second concert in the current series entitled ‘Haunting Handel’ by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. This performance was to an almost capacity audience.

A number of the arias programmed were taken from the repertory of the castrati which makes the vocal range of Fiona Campbell particularly apposite. Australian mezzo soprano, Fiona Campbell is well regarded at home and internationally where she has performed with singers of high repute such as Jose Carreras. This is the first Australian Brandenburg Orchestra series in twenty-one years to be headlined by a mezzo soprano, which gives some perspective on the degree of esteem in which she is held.

Along with musical excellence, one learns to anticipate some theatrics and histrionics at Brandenburg Orchestra recitals, and this occasion was no exception. Fiona Campbell assumed the additional role of a quick-change artist with regular changing of costumes, including one especially for the encore! The all-white ‘tails’ were particularly dapper.

In an environment unadulterated by electronics, most conspicuous was the empathetic balance between orchestra and singer. The twenty-strong orchestra provided accompaniment that made one human voice sound louder than the combined force of musicians. Even in duets, accompanists may unconsciously dominate

A highlight of the evening was the performance of Handel’s Concerto Grosso, HMW 313 which is infrequently played. This outstanding work in five movements contains a particularly memorable cello solo, capably executed on this occasion. It would be remiss to not also mention the performance of Vivaldi’s Concerto for Oboe, RV 450 with superb soloist Kirsten Barry.

The media release for this series exhorted: Prepare to be spellbound by Fiona Campbell. And we were.

Zane Turner