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Scholl started his next group with David's Oh Lord, whose mercies numberless from Handel's Saul, in fact the only item in the evening actually written for the counter-tenor voice. In the aria David is soothing Saul's anger with the power of music: this is the theme of Handel's setting. Given the quality of Scholl's performance, this came over very well. Scholl's English is understandable but there is an uncomfortable quality to it, plus some of the vowels come over a little distorted.

Scholl followed with Cum dederit from Vivaldi's Nisi Dominus and Erbarme dich from Bach's St Matthew Passion. Quite how much difference the language made was emphasised by hearing him sing Erbarme dich. This had just as much control and intelligent musicality as the other items but Scholl seemed somehow to be more comfortable, more expressive in German. Alison Bury played the violin obbligato and the two duetted in a well balanced way.

After the interval Scholl sang another Bach aria, this time from the cantata Herkules auf dem Scheidewege, though the aria is better known in its incarnation as Bereite dich Zion from the Christmas Oratorio. Again I was struck at how differently Scholl sang German and how communicative he was.

Finally a sparkling account of the Overture from Radamisto was followed by the brilliant aria Vivi, tiranno. Added by Handel to give Senesino a bravura aria in the opera, this piece calls for the sort of brilliant trumpet tones of which castrati were capable. This is something which counter tenors find trickier as their voices tend to be rather softer grained, but in this instance Scholl made up for what he might lack in the trumpet department with superb virtuosity. Singing the aria at an alarmingly brisk speed he dashed off roulades of notes with enviable evenness and accuracy. He was matched by the superb oboe playing of Anthony Robson.

Scholl followed this well filled programme with a generous two encores. The first was an arrangement of a traditional American folk song/spiritual Wayfaring Stranger. Sparingly scored, it showed off Scholl's beauty of tone and his fine line. This was followed by a treat indeed as Scholl was joined by James Bowman to give a lively and felicitous account of Purcell's duet Sound the Trumpet. A brilliant end to a well planned and finely executed concert.

Copyright © 16 June 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK




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