Suite in G
Hail, Bright Cecilia – Tis nature’s voice
Oedipus – A New Ground
Music for a while
Suite in D
Pausanius – Sweeter than roses
Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell
An Evening Hymn
Iestyn Davies (countertenor) & Simon Wall (tenor)
Members of Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr (harpsichord)
Reviewed by: Melanie Eskenazi
Reviewed: 7 September, 2009
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London
The best had been saved for last, a Proms Chamber Music hour of sublime music-making to celebrate Purcell in his 350th-anniversary year. If there is a cavil, it is that Richard Egarr’s harpsichord and Reiko Ichise’s viola da gamba were a little too soft in tone to achieve the ideal balance with Iestyn Davies’s quite beefy countertenor, but otherwise their playing, and that of William Carter on theorbo, was ideally supportive.
Purcell’s Suite in G and other delicate keyboard pieces were interspersed with vocal music familiar and obscure, beginning with “Tis Nature’s Voice”, commandingly sung by Davies, with a full array of elaborate decorations, always in the service of the words and music. Davies’s tone is not as sweet as that of Scholl, nor is his technique as yet so prodigious, but he has an astringency in the timbre which is most affecting in this music, and ideal for the interpretation of such phrases as “To court the ear or strike the Heart”, and the sensuous quality of his enunciation at the word “charms” is most engaging.
“Sweeter than roses” is very familiar but I’m sure most of us have only rarely heard it sung as it was here, with the ideal blend of sensuality at “the dear kiss” and youthful exuberance at “What magic has victorious love!” Davies was joined by the tenor Simon Wall for a powerfully moving performance of John Blow’s “Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell” and the concert ended with “An Evening Hymn”, mellifluously sung by the countertenor to complete an hour of bliss for lovers of Purcell’s music.