Chamber Prom 19, Davies/AAM/Egarr, Cadogan Hall, London
Tuesday 08 September 2009
In the select world of countertenors, there’s always one who sets the pace.
In the beginning, back in the Fifties, there was the ethereal Alfred Deller, who yielded to the vocally more robust James Bowman. Next up was Bowman’s German pupil Andreas Scholl, whose perfect timbre ravished everyone, but the lush sound of the American singer David Daniels proved to have more crowd-appeal. For the last few years the field has grown exponentially, with no outright leader. But on the evidence of the last 18 months, I suggest that in Iestyn Davies we have the new countertenor king-in-waiting.
Davies may be built like a whippet, but, as we’ve seen with his performances at English National Opera, he has that mysterious quality of always drawing the eye (and ear) when sharing the stage with others. When he has it to himself, he’s mesmerising, so it made good sense for the final Chamber Prom to be largely devoted to him, supported by tenor Simon Wall, and musicians of the Academy of Ancient Music led by Richard Egarr at the harpsichord. The programme was wall-to-wall Purcell, plus the long lament on Purcell’s early death by John Blow, who both gave Purcell his job, and took it sadly back again when Purcell passed on.
First Davies sang ‘Tis Nature’s Voice’ from ‘Hail Bright Cecilia’. His intimate and confidential manner seemed designed to set off the music’s highly-ornamented melismas; as he sang his voice in, his sound developed a compelling power, particularly in the lower register. Then came ‘Music for a while’, which might have evoked memories of Bowman, had the sound not been so utterly different. Perfectly paced, and phrased as befitting a poem which is just one single sustained thought, this was a piece of high vocal artistry, as was ‘Sweeter than roses’ which followed. There’s steel in his sound, and not a trace of the femininity you hear in Daniels’s; Davies has gravity, unaffected directness, and that rare ability to bring a note seemingly out of nowhere, and make it sing. But he still sounds boyish and vulnerable: it will be fascinating to see how he develops over the next few years.
The AAM musicians played beautifully, but Egarr’s pacing was wrong, keeping such a brisk momentum that no song was surrounded by the silence it needed in which to breathe.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Universities aren't working us hard enough, say undergraduates
- 2 Lego letter from the 1970s still offers a powerful message to parents 40 years later
- 3 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Strictly Come Dancing 2014 results: Steve Backshall and Ola Jordan sent home
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
British culture 'flatlining' as funds dwindle, says academic
Tom DeLonge compares streaming music to killing elephants
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage from Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services