Andreas Scholl’s powers at their peak with Purcell – the Australian
10 March 2011
ALL music pivots on the communication of ideas and emotions. For singers, the task is complicated by the intersection of musical and spoken languages, and by the absence of an instrument as barrier, conduit or prop.
Returning to Australia for his third national tour with Musica Viva, distinguished German countertenor Andreas Scholl is the embodiment of the singer’s art. Affable, unaffected and with a remarkable vocal gift, Scholl is an intelligent and stunningly effective communicator. Technique is subservient to insightful and personalised realisations of text, melody, sentiment and inflection.
For this tour, Scholl returns to a golden age of the repertoire, offering a baroque sampler from the diverse works of Purcell and Handel. Alongside vocal items drawn from incidental music, semi-opera, opera, sacred song and cantata, a considerable proportion of the program is purely instrumental, showcasing the talents of harpsichordist Tamar Halperin and Australian-based early music specialists Daniel Yeadon (viola da gamba, baroque cello) and Tommie Andersson (theorbo, baroque guitar).
Vocally, Scholl demonstrates strength and clarity of tone across his range, agile and considered phrasing, and unfailingly smooth delivery.
One of the curious delights of Scholl’s sound is the balance of steely support and silky expressive pliability: that seemingly improbable blend of earthly and ethereal qualities that has characterised the greatest exponents of this music.
Nevertheless, it is his storytelling ability that most captures the imagination, his interpretation of the English and Italian lyrics revealing an intricate appreciation of poetic metre, imagery and emotion.
The Purcell repertoire provides a blend of wistful, heroic and mystical elements, and Scholl summoned an air of intimacy and meditative calm. He introduced a lighter tone with a singalong version of Purcell’s somewhat ribald Man is for the Woman Made, making a transition to the pastoral landscapes and amorous characters of Handel’s Italian cantatas.
While the instrumental interludes were well executed and the cantatas charmingly characterised, the haunting Purcell melodies lingered in the mind. A mesmerising encore performance of Ombra mai fu from Handel’s Serse left an ecstatic audience in a state of slightly dazed tranquillity.