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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.
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