Iestyn Davies, Ensemble Matheus, Spinosi, Wigmore Hall, London
Wednesday 28 November 2012
‘A singularity of voice’ is the title of Iestyn Davies’s current Wigmore residency, which is being supported by the Iestyn Davies Syndicate.
This week, even without such grandiloquent backing he would still have filled the hall twice over, because his unique sound – coupled with his refined artistry – has made him the countertenor of choice for everyone from Baroque specialists to Thomas Ades.
The first of his two evenings was devoted to countertenor and castrato arias by Handel, interspersed with instrumental music by Handel and his German coeval Georg Philipp Telemann.
The first aria was a setting of words by Ambrose Philips (charmingly known as Namby-Pamby thanks to his children’s verses) which Davies despatched with languid grace, to be answered antiphonally by Neil Brough’s flawless performance on the valveless trumpet.
Here was Davies’s trademark vibrato-free expressiveness, and his evenness of tone from top to bottom of the register; Jean-Christophe Spinosi and the strings of the Ensemble Matheus made a fitting accompaniment.
The first half bowled sweetly along, but the stringing-together of the arias wasn’t skilful enough to generate dramatic momentum, while the virtuoso cantata with which Davies opened the second half had moments of uncharacteristically wonky intonation. Was this a vocal off-day?
We got our answer after flautist Jean-Marc Goujon and recorder-player Alexis Kossenko had played – in a lovely blend of timbres - a double concerto by Telemann, when Davies launched into three arias from Handel’s ‘Partenope’.
This bawdy mockery of an opera seria has a plot worthy of a Feydeau farce: the denouement is a duel where one of the contestants is a girl dressed as a man, whose opponent rumbles her disguise by demanding that they fight bare-chested.
Davies’s arias were originally sung by Bernacchi and Senesino, the most famous castrato virtuosi of the day, and here at last he could let rip and prove he was indeed at the top of his form. ‘Sento amor’ had a chaste, sustained beauty, and ‘Ch’io parta’ (‘Must I depart?’) was exquisitely paced; the tempestuous rage of ‘Furibondo spira il vento’ allowed him go out in a coloratura blaze; no surprise that he should be hauled back for an encore from ‘Rodelinda’.
The programme notes for this concert, by countertenor Rick Jones, were imbued with a singer’s insights; the concert itself will be available on BBC iPlayer until next Tuesday.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
- 5 Watch Richard Dawkins read his own hatemail: 'I hope you do get sodomised by satanic monkeys in hell'
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after Wembley Stadium rant
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Emma Watson to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now