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The Best of Andreas Scholl
George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
1. Serse: Ombra mai fu [3:03];
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714–1787)
2. Orfeo ed Euridice: Che faro senza Euridice? [3:44];
Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
3. Salve Regina, RV 616: Ad te clamamus [1:32];
George Frideric HANDEL
4. Rodelinda: Dove sei, amato bene? [5:02];
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710–1736)
5. Stabat Mater: Stabat Mater dolorosa [4:11];
6. Nisi Dominus, RV 608: Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum [5:09];
Francesco GASPARINI (1661–1727)
7. Destati, Lidia mia: Lidia, il sonno sai cos’è?[3:23];
George Frideric HANDEL
8. Rinaldo: Cara sposa, amante cara [9:23];
Trad. Scottish (arr. Leon)
9. Blow the wing southerly [1:41];
Trad. English (arr. Leon)
10. Down by the salley garden [4:01];
Trad. Korean (arr. Lee, Slany, Na)
11. Ar ri rang [2:35];
Jocelyn POOK (b. 1960)
12. The Merchant of Venice: How sweet the moonlight [4:19];
John DOWLAND (1591–1641)
13. A Musical Banquet: In darkness let me dwell [4:17];
Giulio CACCINI (1551–1618)
14. Amarilli mia bella [2:45];
15. Ecco, che alfin ritorno: La pieta che ancor non trova [4:51];
Nicola PORPORA (1686–1768)
16. Il trionfo di Camilla: Va per le vene il sangue [8:00];
George Frideric HANDEL
17. Giulio Cesare: Aure, deh, per pietà [5:34]; 18. Al lampo dell’armi [2:55];
Andreas Scholl (counter-tenor)
Barbara Bonney (soprano) (5); Edin Karamazov (lute) (9, 13), (archlute) (14); Stacey Shames (harp) (9, 10); Hyun-Sun Na (harp) (11); Siobhán Armstrong (harp) (12); Harvey Brough (psaltery) (12); Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo) (12); Baroque String Quartet (12); Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (9, 10); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Sir Roger Norrington (1, 2); Australian Brandenburg Orchestra/Paul Dyer (3, 6); Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone (4, 7, 8, 15 – 18); Les Talents Lyriques/Christophe Rousset (5)
rec. various locations 1998–2004
DECCA 475 7667 [77:26]

Among my acquaintances there are some music lovers who are more or less allergic to counter-tenors. To some extent I can understand this, bearing in mind that many of this breed sport a thin, vibrato-less, whitish and androgynous voice that in larger doses can be quite tiring to listen to. Among the latest generation, however, there have appeared singers with a quite different voice, fuller of tone, stronger and actually more beautiful. Jochen Kowalski was possibly the first of this school when he boarded the stage some fifteen years ago; playing him to the doubters gave positive reactions.
Andreas Scholl has brought the position a step further. His appearance at Last Night of the Proms, televised world-wide last year, made him a household name even beyond the traditional classical listeners. Since 1998 he has been under an exclusive recording contract with Decca and they have now, to ride on the wave of interest in this new super-star, compiled a “Best of” disc with the pick of Scholl’s Decca recordings. The result is admirable.
I cannot detect a single flaw in his vocal equipment. It is a large voice which can deliver real heft in the fortissimos while at the other end of the dynamic scale he can thin it out in marvellous pianissimos and he does this with no loss of tonal quality. His is a voice of great beauty with a warm vibrato that he controls at will and can compress or enlarge as justified by the requirements of the music. His technique allows him to sing whatever decorations and coloratura he chooses and he has fabulous breath control. The choice of items for this compilation is discriminatingly done and gives the listener plentiful opportunities to hear and admire all these features. Add to this that he is also an actor, able to express with vocal means alone the varied feelings in the texts and the music, and it seems that this not yet forty-year-old singer, born in Kiedrich im Rheingau in Germany, is among the best endowed artists, irrespective of voice category, now before the public.
Check the heading above and you will see that there are several well-known titbits – Handel’s Largo, Gluck’s  Che faro, Caccini’s Amarilli to name three. There’s also a number of items you probably haven’t heard before. There isn’t a dull number on the disc and several of the ‘unknown’ ones may well become friends for life once heard in Scholl’s readings. He is also partnered by musicians on the same exalted level. The quality of the recordings is out of Decca’s top drawer. We even get full texts and translations, which can’t be taken for granted on compilations. Well done, Decca!
Listing all the goodies would make this a very long review indeed, but here are a handful: In Ombra mai fu (tr. 1), without the preceding recitative, he demonstrates his marvellous pianissimo. Che faro (tr. 2) is well characterised: there is real despair in Oh dio, rispondi and in the reprise of “Che faro” his vibrato reveals even stronger Orfeo’s sorrow.
The lively Ad te clamanus from Vivaldi’s Salve Regina (tr. 3) is sung with darker tone and perfect coloratura. The Rodelinda aria (tr. 4) shows his remarkable voice control. In Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (tr. 5) he is joined by Barbara Bonney, whose brighter tones contrast well with Scholl’s more rounded ones. The aria from Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus (tr. 6) with its drone accompaniment is a strangely gripping piece, where Scholl displays his fabulous breath control in long unbroken phrases of immense beauty and with exquisite dynamic shading. His dramatic potential and superb technique is demonstrated in the nervously tense Gasparini aria (tr. 7). The long Cara sposa from the first act of Handel’s first London success Rinaldo (tr. 8) is mainly elegiac but with an intensely dramatic outbreak in the middle.
Temporarily abandoning the baroque field and the Latin/Italian speech-area, he enters Kathleen Ferrier territory. Blow the wind southerly (tr. 9) begins a cappella and is sung with a lightness and rhythmic lilt that makes Ferrier’s reading feel stately and heavy. In The salley gardens (tr. 10) there are some surprisingly dramatic orchestral interludes. He also sings a beautiful Korean folksong, according to the booklet accompanied by only a harp, but I definitely also hear strings.
Jocelyn Pook’s music to The Merchant of Venice (tr. 12) evokes the Elizabethan style of, say, Dowland. It’s a lovely piece and towards the end he even duets with himself. This is followed by ‘real’ Dowland, not John however, but his son Robert. It is a gloomy piece where the text expresses the darkest death wishes. Scholl sings it with the utmost sensitivity, discreetly accompanied by Edin Karamazov’s lute (tr. 13).
Caccini’s Amarilli (tr. 14) is given an unusually intense reading and then comes an aria by Gasparini (tr. 15), where the orchestral introduction, and indeed the whole aria, has such weight in the bass that my first thought was that this might be popped-up baroque. But it isn’t! There is obviously nothing new under the sun. It is a lovely piece of music that has already become a favourite and Scholl sings it with a romantic glow. The same feeling of ‘modern’ is also prevalent in the Porpora aria (tr. 16).
The concluding two arias from Handel’s operatic masterpiece Giulio Cesare show again Scholl’s dramatic potential, his ability to live the part. The first (tr. 17) is mainly elegiac and he ends it on an ethereal high pianissimo, while the martial second is furious, fast, with virtuoso coloratura and it is done with such flair that one sits flabbergasted.
I’m afraid the promised handful became a complete run through of all eighteen numbers, but I couldn’t resist the temptation. I was completely enthralled from beginning to end and the only negative consequences I can foresee if recommending the disc is that a purchase will probably lead to a wish to buy all the discs this one is culled from. Take that risk!
Göran Forsling


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