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Numerous recitals were also part of the festival, among them that of countertenor and Handel-expert David Daniels on 28 July. The South Carolina-born, dynamic young singer began his career as a tenor and then changed to countertenor in 1992. Since, he has made a name for himself in countless recordings and on opera stages everywhere. In 1999 he won Musical America's Vocalist of the Year Award.

And while we are on the subject of birds: he is a nightingale. Although singing most of the time only mezzo forte, his pronunciation is good, his coloraturas flow weightlessly and his piano is clear and sure. Beginning with Sinfonia, Accompagnato and Aria of Bertrando from Handel's Rodelinda, he has his audience spellbound as audiences these days tend to be with countertenors. The sometimes too strong tremolo that comes with strange, jerky head movements vanishes after a while as his voice gains substance. But in an aria from Caesare in Egitto by Handel, Daniels apparently tries to support his voice by jerky head movements when singing the coloratura on Cacciator that is in fact difficult. But is not the nightingale, too, more famous for its acoustic than for its optical performance?

Conductor Ivor Bolton tries his best to moderate the power of the orchestra and make things easier on Daniels, voice-wise. Bolton, who studied at Cambridge University, the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio in London, has been Musical Director of Glyndebourne Touring Opera, then Chief Conductor of Scottish Chamber Orchestra. From 2004 onwards he is the Chief Conductor of the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg in Austria. Bolton shines when the orchestra has its solo: The overture of Saul. They play with much verve, in a very high tempo, and Bolton conducts smoothly. In the midst of the orchestra, the cembalo has been placed. In conjunction with the fast tempo this results in the funny effect that it often sounds more like a rhythm instrument, almost like a tin drum.

In Vivi tiranno also from Rodelinda, Daniels, who had been previously standing around stage somewhat stiffly, finally begins to act a little. He seems to absorb the self-confidence of the role, now standing straight and proudly, and is able to set good deep notes with convincing expression. No wonder that there is applause for Davis now and he faces the orchestra, applauding them in turn. A solo for the wonderful orchestra follows, especially outstanding for the horns. The Concerto a Due Cori in F, HWV 333 shows the creativity of Handel as much as the creativity of the orchestra.

In 1745, the London season for Handel was a catastrophe. So he tried to win back his public by implementing new ideas based on old techniques. The three Concerti a Due Cori relate to the technique of the cori spezzati that Handel had learned while he spent three years in Italy (from 1706 to 1709). His new invention was to adapt this kind of composition -- meant for vocal interpretation -- for the orchestra, using the vocal movements of his earlier oratorios as the basis for strictly orchestral performance. By using two choruses of winds that interact with a string orchestra, Handel achieves a spatial sound elucidating its own successful development.

David Daniels. Photo © 2004 Oliver Oppitz
David Daniels. Photo © 2004 Oliver Oppitz

Accompagnato and Aria of Tolomeo, Ré di Egitto, which follow, are good examples for Daniels' quality as a performer because he relates the story of Tolomeo so vividly that, even without understanding the exact text, the colours of his voice evoke imagination. Very interesting also was the idea to leave Handel aside for a moment when the orchestra performs Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Although using a multi-choral arrangement, Vaughan Williams concentrates on three string groups and one soloist string quartet. With the première of this work in 1910, Vaughan Williams finally established himself on the English music scene because his work was seen as bridge between tradition and presence. Regarding Thomas Tallis' English Hymnal, Vaughan Williams took the basic theme of the Fantasia out, while at the same time following up to the tradition of the Fancy, a style well liked in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that develops its structure out of only one main theme. The innovation Vaughan Williams brought to his audiences was a new utilization of the keys known from sacred music that led to a complete new tonal experience.

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Copyright © 22 August 2004 Sissy von Kotzebue, Munich, Germany


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