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.