Thursday, 10 September 2009

Chamber Music Prom 19

To the Cadogan Hall on Monday for the final Chamber Music Prom. Counter-tenor Iestyn Davies and harpsichordist Richard Egarr aided and abetted by members of the Academy of Ancient Music presented a programme of music by, or dedicated to Purcell.

They opened with a sequence, Suite No. 1 for harpsichord, Tis nature's voice from Hail Bright Cecilia, A new ground for harpsichord, Music for a while, Suite No. 6 and finally Sweeter than Roses. I was disturbed somewhat by the way they made the pieces almost run into each other, this seemed to be deliberate as Egarr almost ran the Prelude from Suite No. 1 into the tuning up. Accompaniments in the songs were generally rather busy. This meant that for Music for a While and Sweeter than Roses, which were sublimely handled by Davies, I found the accompaniment a little to thick and longed for just a simple lute. Davies has an impressive voice, he manages to be at home in Italian opera but can still turn on the necessary tone and edge to make these Purcell pieces work. His is not the soft option, but a really keenly voiced, profoundly moving account.

The sequence was followed by Blow's Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell, where Davies was joined by tenor Simon Wall. I have heard the piece sung by tenors and by counter-tenors, but usually two of a kind. Here Wall had a couple of moments when he was tested by the extreme tessitura of his part, but he impressed by the way he managed to sing it so beautifully and freely, balancing Davies quite easily. The ode is a big work, lasting over 20 minutes and the performers gave it a strong performance. I just wished that the recorders sounded a little butcher and a little less weedy, but if they did they wouldn't be recorders I suppose.

Finally Davies gave us the Evening Hymn a haunting and beautiful way to sign off.

As ever the hall was packed for the Chamber Music Prom and I gather that this has been the case for the whole series, including the amazing bank holiday weekend with its plethora of concerts celebrating the New Generation Artists scheme. The Cadogan Hall and the BBC should look to extending this concert series next year as it provides a valuable side view on the Proms programme.

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