Rare, agile voice – Andreas Scholl in the West Australian

Andreas Scholl (countertenor) and friends
The West Australian, 17 March 2011
Neville Cohn

As the horrific practice of castrating boy sopranos to preserve the beauty of their prepubescent voices has long been banned, this type of vocal sound is now only heard in naturally occurring voices and that occurs only very rarely.

Andreas Scholl is one of that select little band of singers and on Tuesday at the Concert Hall, we heard him in superb form. His voice has a suppleness that enables him to perform near-miracles of agility. And the pure and perfectly pitched stream of sound he produces borders on the miraculous. Add to this an engagingly laid-back platform presence and you have a musical
phenomenon of the age.

In a program devoted to the music of Purcell and Handel, Scholl demonstrated artistry which often bordered on the sublime as in a faultless account of Purcell’s Music for a While. And in Handel’s cantata Vedendo Amor, we experienced vocal art at its
highest.

There was a departure from this excellence in Dido’s Lament, one of Purcell’s most-loved arias but here the heartbreaking poignancy that lies behind the printed note was only fitfully apparent.

When Scholl talks to the audience, he does so in a pleasant baritone voice and at one point, he sang, briefly, in that register. There was also a delightful moment when Scholl persuaded many in the audience to sing along in part of a Handel cantata.

Scholl shared the stage with three masterly instrumentalists. At the harpsichord, we heard Tamar Halperin. I particularly admired her account of a Handel suite, memorable for some exquisite ornamentation, as well as Purcell’s Round O, the theme used by Benjamin Britten in his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

Tommie Andersson, too, came up trumps on the long-necked theorbo as well as a very early guitar. Yet more period authenticity was provided by Daniel Yeadon’s exceptional artistry on baroque cello and viola da gamba.

This program bore the stamp of distinction that augurs well for Musica Viva’s 2011 concert series.

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