Accademia Bizantina/Dantone/Scholl, Barbican, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

"Scholl quickly demonstrated his natural ease... a limpid sound, beautifully phrased, with vibrato used sparingly. Here is a musician of obvious intelligence whose voice, in someone so young, is marvellously developed, pure and full, reminiscent of the young Alfred Deller." I wrote these words for this paper 10 years ago at Andreas Scholl's debut recital at London's Purcell Room. The promise has been abundantly fulfilled.

Nowadays, Scholl fills concert halls - as his most recent affair at the Barbican showed. Scholl, I suspect, was suffering from a cold - but then half the audience at the Barbican seemed similarly affected.

Scholl was with the crack Accademia Bizantina, with whom he performed last year in a concert of arias written for the sensational castrato Senesino. This time, JS Bach dominated with two solo cantatas: the renowned D minor double violin concerto and one of Handel's delightful organ concertos.

Ottavio Dantone was both organist and director in Handel's Op 4 No 4. Taking a pace almost too fast for the acoustic, his chamber organ sparkled to the rustic sound of gut strings, adding its own mechanical sounds to the second movement registration.

Bach's solo cantata BWV 35 "Geist und Seele wird verwirret" also features the organ but has three baroque oboes, magnificently played here, adding a burnished, coppery sound. For the voice it lies high; indeed, it embraces a particularly wide range. Scholl, singing from a cold start, seemed initially constrained. Unusually, he used a score for the arias though not for the recitatives. This was his way in Bach's "Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust" BWV 170, too, but, lying lower, Scholl seemed more at ease.

The urgency of the delivery of the recitatives - Scholl is a consummate communicator - contrasted tellingly with the heart-stopping beauty of the arias, in particular "Wie jammern mich doch die verkehrten Herzen", where Scholl was totally captivating in one of Bach's most profoundly moving moments.

Accademia Bizantina tucked into Bach's double concerto using Stefano Montanari and Fiorenza De Donatis, their own principals, in one of the liveliest "I-can-do-anything- better-than-you" romps through this piece. An uplifting occasion all round.