Friday, 29 October 2010

Alice Coote and the English Concert

Alice Coote's recital the the Wigmore Hall, on Wednesday 27th, with the English Concert directed by Harry Bicket, was a slightly uneasy mixture of vocal items. It was one of those programmes which seemed to have been constructed on the basis of 'things I'd like to sing' rather than a coherent narrative. So that Coote started with Monteverdi's Lamento di Arianna and then went on to sing a pair of Dowland songs before finishing with Handel's cantata La Lucrezia. In between these items the English Concert offered us Vivaldi's Sonata La Folia, Vivaldi's violin Concerts Il Grosso Mogul and a Vivaldi Cello concerto.

Now Coote is one of those singers who has managed to hang on to her period performance strand whilst still running an impressive career singing Strauss, Elgar and co. And when she performs it is never less than interesting, never. Her way with Monteverdi's Lament was mesmerising, detailed and large scale. She was accompanied by a substantial continuo group which included two fretted instruments, a harp, cello, double bass plus keyboard. The result was thrilling and vivid, but perhaps a little big boned.

Coote's way with the music was in fact so vivid, that you can't imagine her sustaining such a level of detail throughout an entire opera. And there is a case her for 'less is more'. This was definitely the case with the Dowland, where Coote seemed in danger of overshadowing her accompanist, William Carter. But it was in Handel's cantata that her approach brought immense dividends, actually using the music to drive the drama you almost felt that Coote was in danger of committing suicide herself. This was a coruscating performance. Can't someone persuade a record company to record this singer in Handel cantata's before her voice gets too big for the repertoire.

Before the concert started Coote was announced as having only recently recovered from 'flu but there seemed happily no sign of this in her singing.

The English Concert opened with the Vivaldi sonata in a thrilling performance led by Rachel Podger. And Podger shone even more in the cascades of notes which Vivaldi provides in his violin concerto, her performed with the surviving cadenzas so that we had an even closer idea of what it might be like to hear Vivaldi himself playing.
Jonathan Manson was the elegant soloist in the Vivaldi cello concerto.

After all the tumult of Handel's cantata had died down, the English Concert sent us home, toes tapping, with a delightful account of Pachelbel's Canon

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