CHRISTOPHER SMITH Snape Maltings
> Snape Maltings
A capacity audience hailed the outstanding voice and polished artistry of Andreas Scholl with unbridled enthusiasm.
After Meurig Bowen's excellent illustrated lecture on high male-voice singing, the Britten-Pears Baroque Orchestra, directed from the harpsichord by Christian Rieger, set the scene with a crisp account of a Vivaldi concerto. Then the celebrated counter-tenor appeared, young, tall and energetic, yet relaxed and not afraid to add a dramatic dimension with gesture and body language.
To display his exceptional gifts and well-honed technique he selected music by Vivaldi and Handel in the florid Italian manner that set the standard for all Europe in the early 18th century. The texts dwelt on the pangs of love in extravagant terms, offering every opportunity for recitatives and arias in the most elaborate style.
The soloist reached to astonishing heights, only to surprise us with some remarkably effective baritone notes. From the outset he demonstrated his control of dynamics - scales, arpeggios and more complex patterns seemed to roll out of his throat without effort.
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Scholl also showed an art that is especially tricky for counter-tenors, varying his vocal colour to capture different emotions. He was, it is true, most impressive when trumpet-tongued, but quieter passages offered attractive contrasts.
In one cantata, Per Gross accompanied the singer on the recorder. In the large hall his instrument did not carry, and a flute or oboe would have been a wiser choice.