Nigel Rogers: 70th-Birthday Recital

O che felice giorno
La bella man vi stringo
Come sete importuni
Nò, nò mio core
Cara e dolce mia vita
Quella vermiglia rosa
Mentre che’l cor
Ti lascio anima mia
Oscure selve
Così mi disprezzate?
Cento Partite sopra Passacaglia [harpsichord solo]
Toccata in D minor [harpsichord solo]
Toccata; Passacaglia; Canario [theorbo solos]
Dice, Amor, che morirò
Mio ben, teco il tormento
Lasciate, Averno
Così, Amor mi fai languir

Nigel Rogers (tenor)

Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo)

Lina Zilinskyte (harpsichord)

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 3 May, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

This recital by tenor Nigel Rogers marked not only his 70th-birthday but also the 40th-anniversary of his first Wigmore Hall recital and was a homage to Giacomo Carissimi on the 400th-anniversary of his birth in 1605. The programme comprised a selection of songs, canzoni, arias and cantatas by (mostly) Italian composers of the late-16th and early-17th centuries. In addition to accompanying Rogers, Elizabeth Kenny and Lina Zilinskyte provided instrumental interludes of great charm.

Nigel Rogers, one of the leading exponents of the Baroque style of singing in the second half of the 20th-century – featuring a new approach to voice production and mastery of florid improvised embellishment – has, on the strength of this recital, much of his technique remarkably intact. The voice is light and beautiful (though now with the richness in the lower register that comes with age); there’s a lack of obtrusively wide vibrato; the flexibility is incredible (evinced by some astonishingly rich ornamentation throughout the evening); the overall range is diminished only at the extremes (the top sounding slightly forced). The worst that can be said is that there’s a general lack of energy, resulting in some breathlessness and a slightly ragged tone, again most noticeable in the upper register. But these quibbles were easily vanquished by the sheer artistry of the man, whether in the jaunty rhythms and lavish ornamentation of Carissimi’s “Nò, nò mio core”, the grace and eloquence of D’India’s “Quella vermiglia rosa” and “Mentre che’l cor” or the passacaglia form of Rossi’s lamento “Mio ben teco”.

The instrumental accompaniment was both well executed and used with much taste and care for the affective nature of the texts. While both harpsichord and theorbo were generally used together, one would alternate with the other in the strophic songs and where the sense demanded. Lina Zilinskyte’s playing was intelligent and sensitive though perhaps a touch prosaic (especially noticeable in the Froberger, where I could not help but compare with Richard Egarr’s performance of the same piece I heard last year). Elizabeth Kenny’s was more expressive; she extracted a lot of colour from her instrument and used the bass strings to great dramatic effect. But each musician complemented the other well, providing a varied timbral space for Rogers to move in.

Despite some slight monotony generated by an overabundance of ornamentation and much of the material being of a quasi-recitative nature, this was an enjoyable and interesting programme; a pity, then, that the hall wasn’t even a third full. But what the audience lacked in numbers, it made up for in enthusiasm.

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