In the majestic setting of the Freemasons’ Hall in Trondheim, David Hansen and TSO Tidlig, the Early Music Section of the Trondheim Symfoniorkester, brought the music of the Baroque alive, in a concert that was one of the highlights of the Barokkfest Early Music Festival.
The arias performed by David Hansen were taken from his critically acclaimed debut solo album, Rivals: Arias for Farinelli & Co., and centred on the work of the composer Leonardo Vinci, while the orchestral movements came exclusively from Handel.
This concert marked the first time I had heard Hansen perform live. It was immediately apparent that his excellent vocal technique, remarkable high register, and rich mid-range were no mere creation of the recording studio. Hansen's voice is a remarkable instrument, capable of amazing flexibility, tenderness, and power in equal measure.
In “Taci o di morte” from Il medo, Hansen impressed with his superb breath control, taking the tension of the music right through the line and continuing into the following phrase. At the end of the B section, Hansen sang in a warm Baritone during an ornament which took him almost an octave below the staff.
From the opening blasts of the horns, the fireworks of “Risveglia do sdegno” from Alessandro had the audience in awe. Hansen’s voice coruscated across the mighty range of the aria, displaying remarkable strength during the coloratura passages in the lower-middle area of his voice.
In contrast, the opening phrase from “Sento due fiamme in petto” from Il Medo gipped the audience with its haunting simplicity. When Hansen returned to the phrase in the da capo, he rose gently, tenderly up the octave, tantalisingly leaning on the leading note, before concluding with a beautiful pianissimo which floated across the audience.
All the musicians came out on stage for the stunning “In bracco a mille furie” from Semiramide riconosciuta. One of the most impressive things about Hansen is his ability to throw out a floating high-soprano note in the middle of a coloratura run, which he did throughout the aria. In fact the ease with which he performs the plethora of A5’s and B5’s is staggering.
The encore came in the form of Leonardo Leo’s “Talor che irato è il vento” from Andromaca. The bravura aria was the perfect way to finish, allowing Hansen to revel in the huge leaps and athletic runs which are trademark Leo. The B5 at the end of the aria was magnificent: full and strong, without being shrill.
The orchestral offerings began with the Overture and Minuet from Handel’s Concerto Grosso op 6 no 5. Walter Reiter led TSO Tidlig in a majestic performance of the Overture, full of the requisite pomp and ceremony. The Air in D minor was both enchanting and melancholy, but it was the Concerto Grosso op 6 no 4 which for really blew me away.
Reiter’s interpretation of the 1st movement drew out the tenderness of Handel’s composition, while the Allegro was dynamic and exciting. Special mention must go to Jaroslav Havel on ‘cello for managing Handel’s difficult part-writing, where the cello doubles the Viola and the Continuo in quick succession, and to Nils Bergaust who produced a potent and vigorous sound on the Double Bass.
This marvellous and exciting concert is one of the offerings in the Trondheim Barokkfest, a yearly occurrence which seeks to bring Early music to the area. This concert series will, hopefully, become a fixture on the Early Music circuit, and draw many other stars like Hansen to this fantastic city.
Franco Fagioli and Il Pomo d’Oro took the Salle Gaveau by storm with a program based on their award winning album Arias for Caffarelli (Naïve).
Fagioli’s first offering was “Passaggier che sulla sponda” from Porpora’s Semiramide riconosciuta. Moving effortlessly between soprano-tessitura falsetto and the modal voice, the Argentinian countertenor immediately impressed with scope of his range, and the willingness to bring out the lower passages by audaciously yet tastefully employing the full chest voice.
Fagioli’s excellent, well supported, and soaring legato was evident in Hasse’s “Ebbi da te la vita” from Siroe rè di Persia. In “Misero pargoletto” from Leo’s Demofoonte, Fagioli built and sustained the tension of the piece using understated dynamics and excellent breath control. In this, more than any other aria, the similarity with Bartoli was most evident.
The first half of the concert ended as it began with Semiramide riconosciuta, this time Vinci’s version. “In braccio a mille furie” is a sensational tour de force for both singer and orchestra: fast, furious, and relentless. Fagioli relished the demands of the piece, discharging A5’s and B5’s with unnerving ease. Herbert Walser and Andreas Lakner were superb in the brass accompaniment, and Riccardo Coelati on Double Bass did a fantastic job of impersonating the missing Timpani.
It always astounds me that one can recognise the power and intensity of Pergolesi from just the first few bars of an aria. Fagioli was mesmerising in the nearly 12-minute-long “Lieto così talvolta” from Pergolesi’s Adriano in Siria. The interaction with Riccardo Minasi on the violin (standing in for the Oboe) was sumptuous and seductive.
“Fra l’orror della tempesta” from Hasse’s Siroe rè di Persia is possibly one of the most stunning Baroque arias ever written. The piece is a virtuosic fanfare of vocal fireworks. Fagioli’s superior technique shines through with several exposed notes above the stave, drops into the modal voice, and many phrases running across the lower-middle falsetto voice all perfectly executed.
Fagioli ended the concert with the electric “Odo il suono di traomba guerriera” from Manna’s Lucio Papirio dittatore. Just one note away from a full three octaves, Fagioli pushes his range to the limit! His fully supported dive into the baritone register with a wonderful E3, his almost endless trill, and a blistering D6 all came together to earn him a rapturous applause.
As encores, Fagioli gave “Sperai vicino il lido” from Leonardo Leo’s Demofoonte, and “Un cor che ben ama” by Sarro. In the former, Fagioli alternates between languid phases and coruscating coloratura. The latter contains some fiendish writing for the trumpet. Fagioli sprinted through the sea of semiquavers with complete security, astounding given all he had already sung that evening. Between the two, it was announced that the CD Arias for Caffarelli (Naïve) had been awarded a 'Choc de l'Année' from Classica magazine!
The accompaniment from Il Pomo d’Oro was excellent, as I have come to expect. We were treated to theSinfonia from Sarro’s Demofoonte, Avitrano’s Sonata in D major, the Sonata in G min by Ragazzi, and the Introduzione from Il Ciro riconosciuto. Special mention must go to Riccardo Minasi for his excellent direction and fabulous violin playing.
© James Edward Hughes 2013