Friday, 7 April 2017

Canzoni Italiane: Italian elegance and Handelian earthiness at the Foundling Hospital

Foundling Museum picture gallery (Photo Foundling Museum)
Foundling Museum picture gallery (Photo Foundling Museum)
Luzzaschi, Monteverdi, Carissimi, Frescobaldi, Handel; William Wallace, Galina Averina, Shaked Bar, Pavla Flámová, Marie Lys, Katherine Sharman, Elizabeth Kenny, Laurence Cummings; London Handel Festival at the Foundling Museum
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford on Mar 29 2017
Star rating: 3.5

A resourceful programme showcasing Handel Singing Competition's 2016 finalists

This concert, presented by the London Handel Festival at the Foundling Museum on 29 March 2017, was a chance to hear again the finalists from last year’s Handel Singing Competition, just ahead of this year’s final (reviewed by Robert here). Laurence Cummings rose to, and more than met, the challenge of devising a programme that featured four sopranos and the prize-winner, tenor William Wallace. Cummings took us back to the late Renaissance in Ferrara and the talented and mould-breaking concerto delle donne, featuring music that was written for them by Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Carissimi and Monteverdi. This provided ample opportunity for our four finalist sopranos (Galina Averina, Shaked Bar, Pavla Flamova, Marie Lys), in various permutations, to display their virtuosic technique in a mixture of sacred and secular works.

Luzzasco had charge of the conterto di donne from 1570 until he was laid off when the music-loving Duke Alfonso of Ferrara died without an heir in 1597. His work cleverly shows off each individual voice in an ensemble, as the richly textured opening number ‘O dolcissime amarissime d’Amore’ – telling of the bitterness and sweetness of love – demonstrated. We heard a similar combination of ‘earthly pleasure and heavenly immortality’ (as described by Corrina Connor in her excellent programme notes) in the Carissimi pieces.

Ferrara’s singing ladies were also proficient on the harp, lute and viol; we had the earthly support of Elizabeth Kenny on theorbo and Katharine Sharman on cello, who provided a muscular – though sometimes slightly overpowering – bassline. Cummings alternated between harpsichord – including a toccata by Luzzasco’s protégé, Frescobaldi – and organ, and provided some concise and thought-provoking introductions to each group.
William Wallace fared less well in his solos: he showed his vocal agility in the fast-moving parts but his line was unsteady and his idiosyncratic vowels – ‘soorge’ instead of ‘sorge’ – pulled the pitch down. This was also my first sighting of a singer in performance reading the score from an iPad. I’m no luddite but I can’t say it put me at my ease.

After the interval we had Italian Handel proper: two duets, two cantatas and a gorgeous aria in English from Athalia. Reading the notes in the programme booklet, clearly there were some very complicated politics behind Handel’s work at the time, much of it lost on today’s audiences, I am sure. But this gave us the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the music in this wonderful space with the view over Coram’s Fields; it is a part of London that still feels as though Handel might recognise it.

The encore was an arrangement by Peter Jones of ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ for four sopranos, two tenors (the ever-resourceful and versatile Cummings being one of these) and continuo.
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford

Canzoni Italiane: Handel Singing Competition Showcase, 29th March 2017 at the Foundling Museum
William Wallace (tenor)
Galina Averina (soprano)
Shaked Bar (soprano)
Pavla Flámová (soprano)

Katherine Sharman (cello)
Elizaeth Kenny (theorbo)
Laurnece Cummings (harpsichord/organ)

LUZZASCHI O dolcezze amarissime d’Amore
MONTEVERDI Nigra sum (from Verspro della Beata Virgine)
CARISSIMI Cum reverteretur David
MONTEVERDI Begl’occhi a l’armi a l’armi (from Quel sguardo sdegnosetto)
FRESCOBALDI Toccata Quarta (from Toccate e partite d’intavolatura di cembalo)
MONTEVERDI Salve, o Regina S326
CARISSIMI Onmes gentes gaudete cum victore
LUZZASCHI T’amo, mia vita!
HANDEL Duet: Caro autor di mia doglia HWV 182b (SS)
HANDEL Cantata: Ditemi, o piante HWV 107
HANDEL Gentle airs, melodious strains (from Athalia) HWV 52
HANDEL Cantata: Manca pur quanto sai HWV 129
HANDEL Duet: Caro autor di mia doglia HWV 182a (ST)

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