Brouwer, Campion, Dowland and Handel; folksongs and improvisations
Andreas Scholl (countertenor) & Edin Karamazov (lute & guitar)
Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran
Reviewed: 30 June, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Andreas Scholl has been thrilling audiences with the purity of his tone for over two decades and for this Wigmore Hall recital he joined forces with Edin Karamazov. Their collaboration dates back to 2001 and Karamazov has since collaborated with Sting on his recording of John Dowland songs.
The first half of the concert was devoted to English song, mainly Dowland. It took Scholl some time to warm his voice. The opener, ‘Behold a wonder here’, sounded disappointingly tinny and emotionally unengaged. Karamazov’s improvisatory approach to the accompaniment was fussy and distracting. The songs were interspersed with extensive lute improvisations, which displayed Karamazov’s adherence to techniques used more commonly in Classical and Spanish guitar. During ‘Come again sweet love doth now invite’, Scholl found himself unaccompanied. It was preferable. His voice gradually regained its characteristic golden, floating penetration culminating in a dramatic and effective rendition of ‘In darkness let me dwell’.
The second half reflected Scholl’s eclectic musical tastes: an early Handel cantata rubbed shoulders with folksongs and settings of Lorca from Leo Brouwer. Scholl was in his element, Handel’s Cantata, Nel dolce tempo, in the sweet time, could describe his delivery. The aria to the shepherdess, ‘Pastorella il bel lumi’, was touching with its melting legato, and the restrained ornamentation was sensitive and effective. The lute introduction to the Handel bewilderingly appeared to combine Bach and Segovia.
The Handel was followed by the leather-clad Karamazov’s improvisations on J. S. Bach’s D-major Cello Suite (BWV1007). He did not entirely convince. Scholl, however, excelled in the folk melodies; their simple lyricism allowing him full rein to float those crystalline tones. Just occasionally the Teutonic consonants intruded into his English pronunciation and jarred.
Karamazov switched to the guitar for the Brouwer, and the recital went from strength to strength. Scholl delighted with his with two encores: ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ (sung in German) and Robert Johnson’s ‘Have you seen the bright lily grow’, a song with lute that closed the evening with perfect simplicity.