Andreas Scholl, Concerto di Viole, Julian Behr (lute) - Wigmore Hall, 23 June 2007
Songs and music by John Dowland, John Ward, R Johnson, William Byrd, John Bennet, Patrick Mando, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Richard Mico
Some of the lesser played corners of the repertoire were explored tonight in this programme of late 16th and early 17th century English music. Considering his seminal status, John Dowland's music is surprisingly rarely heard in London, and it's slightly embarrassing that it took a German and his Swiss friends to rescue it from the clutches of Sting and give it the airing it deserves.
We were asked at the start to excuse the omission of the odd verse from some of the songs - apparently the musicians had performed the full programme only twice and it still needed work. In the event, it was hard to tell they hadn't been playing everything for years. Andreas Scholl's English accent was near-impeccable too, though his phrasing was sometimes idiosyncratic.
Variety was provided by differing arrangements and interspersing the songs with instrumental pieces, and the less familiar repertoire was wisely leavened with several better known works. Scholl took the songs straight from the page and omitted the ornamentation which is sometimes added.
A lot of this music was designed for playing in the home (OK, palace), and some of it seemed to require more intimacy than even the Wigmore Hall could provide. Scholl looked surprised to receive unscheduled applause for Byrd's Though Amarillis dance in green, but this was perhaps because it was one of the few expansive and upbeat pieces and really seemed to fit the space. It was also the first of only two occasions Scholl stood up to perform. Why did he stay seated for most of the night? Although it brought him down visually to the level of his colleagues, he looks so much more comfortable planted on the floor, singing up through his feet. He did seem to be carrying the remains of a cold, so maybe this had something to do with it.
John Bennet's Venus' birds whose mournful tunes, with tricky whistled sections for Scholl, was a jewel of exquisite simplicity which went down so well with the audience that it was reprised as the encore. Other standouts were a Julian Behr lute solo, Dowland's A Fancy, with its extraordinary chromatic finale, and Scholl's performance of O Death, rock me asleep.
Scholl is going to bring out a CD of this material - it will be interesting to see how his conservatory approach compares in the marketplace with Sting's success.