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Laurence Cummings [Photo courtesy and copyright Sheila Rock]
03 Nov 2010

Overture to London’s Handel Festival 2011

The small but perfectly formed Grosvenor Chapel in London’s exclusive Mayfair was the venue last Monday night for a programme of Handel vocal and instrumental music of considerable quality — if minimal quantity.

Overture to London’s Handel Festival 2011

Above: Laurence Cummings [Photo courtesy and © Sheila Rock]


The hour-long concert, catchily entitled “Castrati to Countertenors”, preceded the now-annual benefit Dinner which helps fund the following year’s London Handel Festival. As hors d’oeuvres, it must have been ideal — piquant orchestral playing combined with some fuller vocal flavours courtesy of the excellent London Handel Players (is there a finer small baroque band in this city?) and young countertenor Christopher Lowrey who deservedly won the Festival’s Michael Oliver Prize in 2010.

The programme consisted of the overtures to and well-known airs and arias from Saul and Rodelinda: “O Lord, whose mercies numberless”, “Impious wretch”, “Dove Sei, amato bene”, and “Vivi, tiranno!”, together with a scintillating performance of the meatier Concerto Grosso, Op. 3 No. 5 in D Minor (HWV 316), which showed off this small band’s command of colour, dynamic and pinpoint accents. The Players were led with real joie de vivre and musicality by their Musical Director Laurence Cummings from the harpsichord/keyboard. Young Lowrey, we were warned, was suffering from a chest infection but there was little sign of this (apart perhaps from some short-breathed lines and restrained ornamentation) in his performance as he offered some real drama combined with concise, accurate coloratura. He seemed most at home with the material from Rodelinda and this confirmed the promise he showed in 2009 at the Festival/Britten International Opera School production of Alessandro. He is an undoubted talent in the ever-increasing pool of excellent young countertenors graduating now.

The concert series continues this Autumn with the traditional Christmas-time Messiah on the 2nd December at St. George’s Hanover Square and in 2011 we can look forward to performances of Rodelinda (fully staged), Saul, the St Matthew Passion, Comus, the Magnificat and many other concerts and recitals — not forgetting the increasingly important Singing Competition Final in April. Full details can be found at the LHF’s web site.

Sue Loder © 2010

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