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Welcome as the Dawn: Music from Handel's Solomon and Poro, Lucy Crowe (soprano) Iestyn Davies (countertenor) London Handel Orchestra, Laurence Cummings (conductor) St, George's, Hanover Square, 24.10.2006 (SL)

 

 

 

 

London Handel Society’s fund-raising concert to benefit the ever-insecure annual Handel Festival for 2007 was held at St. Georges, Hanover Square on Monday night featuring a selection of music mainly from “Solomon” and aptly entitled “Welcome as the Dawn”.   As such things go, it delivered the goods on two counts:  it was both full of promise for the coming year’s festivities and it confirmed the established standards of performance we’ve come to expect from this event.  If it also raised some questions about next year’s concert performance of the "Solomon", then that can only be of benefit too.

 

This year, the Society depended on the services of two very up-and-coming young British singers to bring in the punters. Soprano Lucy Crowe and countertenor Iestyn Davies - both well known to attendees at the London Handel Singing Competition where both have performed with merit - were accompanied as usual here by the London Handel Orchestra under Laurence Cummings.  They sang a selection of solo arias and duets from “Solomon” that sat pleasantly on the ear even when divorced from the context of Mr. Handel’s somewhat sycophantic oratorio - which basically seems to bang the message home relentlessly that his sovereign King George was a jolly good chap, displaying the merits of piety, wisdom and splendour so genially represented here in three Acts. If we lacked anything approaching dramatic involvement between the singers - both being locked into their scores and hardly seeming aware of the other body next to them - then at least we could enjoy the excellent technique and Handelian style on display in their vocal performances.  Iestyn Davies is slated to sing the title role in concert here next year, so one hopes that by then he will be also be able to offer more than just his clear, elegant, powerful and accomplished voice.  At this stage of his burgeoning career, it would be good to see how he develops.

 

Less happy was the accompaniment: in the rather resonant, boomy acoustic of St.George’s, even though sitting right at the rear of the building,  I felt once again that the dynamics were often unbalanced, with strings overwhelming both voices despite excellent volume and diction from each of them  The same phenomenon occurred at John Mark Ainsley’s recent concert here with the same orchestra and was remarked on by several concert goers at the time.  The tempi were also remarkably brisk in some arias; during “How green our fertile pastures look” I began to wonder if the evening’s later entertainment, a dinner at a well known London hotel, was exerting rather more influence than it should.  The best moment instrumentally was undoubtedly when the band gave us Handel’s Concerto Grosso opus 6, no.7,  (HWV 325). Here we could hear a group well-rehearsed and totally comfortable with its music-making. 

 

The evening ended in a minor key, literally, with a beautiful, if strangely downbeat piece: a duet from an entirely different Handel work, his rarely performed opera “Poro”, also featured at next year’s festival. Here, both voices worked together enticingly around a melody line that recalled the more famous duet “Io t’abbracio” from “Rodelinda” written some years earlier but which left this writer with a “is that all there is?” feeling at the end.   Another quick dash through “Welcome as the Dawn” completed the proceedings by a slightly breathless eight thirty p.m.

 

 

 

Sue Loder

 

 


 



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)