Music and Vision homepage All Risks Musical - an irreverent guide to the music profession by Alice McVeigh


<<  -- 3 --  Roderic Dunnett    A COUNTERTENOR VIRTUOSO


Performing full-blooded Handel opera onstage, Blaze is, he admits, more willing to risk using his full baritone voice at certain key moments, because ' we're looking for the cutting edge of drama -- so why not make artistic use of the low gearchange, rather than hide it? If I was doing that in concert, or in sacred music, I perhaps wouldn't; but there's a couple of moments -- the fifth syllable "Vivi, tiranno" or the start of "confusa si mirin..." on just on that first note, for the dramatic colour -- where it works well.'

What about where the opposite is required -- a more fluted colouring? 'Countertenors like James Bowman or Michael Chance have the gift of bringing a completely different technique to chamber and more intimate sacred music from their dramatic approach. James has this astonishing ability to dovetail the lower register of his falsetto, his countenor, into his baritone : he never goes into a baritone that is gulpy, guttural, raspy -- instead he goes into a baritone that's a mixed funny tenor-like sound on the top bits, so it never just, you know, collapses into a different voice. The countertenor voice has, I feel, to sound like a natural voice -- not as if you're not hearing someone singing in a falsetto; you've got to feel that's the sound they should be making. It's a confidence thing; relaxation plays a huge part in that.'

In England, he points out, recordings are often dependent on very limited rehearsal time. 'You have a rehearsal, then rehearsing on the day, and the recording. Hence what you tend to get in a performance is what the performer brings to the rehearsal, his or her individual qualities. What Robert King (music director of The King's Consort, with whom both Blaze and Bowman regularly perform and record) is amazing at is allowing his performers to do something idiosyncratic, as well as providing them with a platform, a really polished background, for doing so. It's thanks partly to him that James has had such a glorious renaissance.'

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Copyright © 26 December 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Worcestershire, UK







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