‘Come again, sweet love doth now invite’ – after last month’s Queen’s Command, we required no persuasion to obey this invitation, a packed theatre all set to enjoy the finest counter-tenor voice of our time in a delectable programme of music by Dowland and Campion, together with folk songs and readings from Shakespeare. Sounds a bit dull? Not at all, since the music was vibrant and immediate and the readings evoked laughter and sighs, as appropriate – all much enhanced by this tiny theatre, where the intimacy between performers and audience is so exceptional and the candle-lit ambience so ideal for the music of this period.
Andreas Scholl was not in his most perfect voice, a frog in the throat peskily trying to surface, but this barely affected the sheer beauty of his tone and the fluency and communicative power of his singing. The slightly naughty ‘I care not for these ladies’ – ‘Give me kind Amaryllis, the wanton country maid’ – was delivered from the front of the stage, making maximum use of innuendo and relishing the audience’s delight in it, whereas ‘Come again, sweet love’ had an appropriately bittersweet, muted delivery, with the closing phrases of each stanza such as “With thee again in sweetest sympathy” seeming to linger on the air.
The traditional Folk Songs ‘King Henry’ and ‘Lord Rendall’ were delivered with the true storyteller’s art, that is, directly and without affectation, so much so that many in the audience gasped at some of the lines. Edin Karamazov provided sympathetic support in his lute accompaniments, and moments of exquisite artistry during his improvisations. Philip Cumbus delivered some of Shakespeare’s greatest sonnets in a natural style, giving the feeling that they had just been penned. It’s likely that many people will now see ‘Shall I Compare Thee’ and ‘My Mistress’ Eyes’ in a new light, especially, perhaps, if they studied them at school.
Scholl’s programme notes gracefully credit Kathleen Ferrier as the inspiration for the style of the concert, in which poetry and music are combined, and he expresses the hope that this would be “an effortless evening amongst friends” and that was indeed the result – as he says, “…the audience and their reactions are so visible to us as performers, and we in turn respond to them.”
An hour and a quarter of glorious music and poetry in a perfect venue – who could ask for more, unless it be further concerts in the series? There are many more to savour, highlights being Handel’s Garden on July 6 and 7, featuring Lucy Crowe and Trevor Pinnock, and a concert featuring members of The Sixteen and focusing on the music of Thomas Tallis, with performances on July 27-28 and August 2, 4, 9 and 10.