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2005: Andreas Scholl conducts
Britten-Pears Baroque Orchestra and Young Artists,
Snape, Suffolk

Scholl's new shoes

Stephen Pritchard, The Observer

28 August, 2005

World-renowned counter-tenor Andreas Scholl made his conducting debut last week much in the manner of one of his own recitals - all finely honed, beautifully judged and utterly devoid of fanfare, fuss and flummery.

This most modest of superstars chose to direct an evening of Bach, not with a major orchestra and international singers, but with the Britten-Pears Baroque Orchestra and a choir of young professionals, such is his desire to pass on his love for the repertoire in which he so effortlessly excels.

Their Snape Maltings Prom marked the culmination of 10 days of Scholl masterclasses which had obviously been inspirational.

Scholl conducts with jaunty, dance-like gestures, driving the music along with precise direction and a mesmeric personality. This is not a repertoire that requires big gestures from a baton-wielding firebrand.

It's all about rhythm, lightness of touch and refined sensibility, something that Scholl the singer has in abundance and to which Scholl the conductor adds warmth, passion and sheer delight in the music in front of him.

After some wonderful legato lines from the choir in cantata No 105,
Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht, counter-tenor Josť Lemos had the unenviable task of singing the first recitative for the master, which he accomplished with great composure, producing an exciting colour in his voice.

Equally exciting was Canadian mezzo Jennifer Enns Modolo in Cantata 182,
Himmelskonig, sei willkommen, her clear tone and commanding presence marking her out for an impressive future career.

The BPBO revealed an over-muscular edge in their account of the harpsichord concerto in D minor, which occasionally drowned out the splendid Christian Rieger at the keyboard, but no one could fault them for their Scholl-like commitment and enthusiasm. It must be infectious.

Rian Evans, The Guardian
26 August 2005

For the participants in the Britten-Pears Young Artist programme, the learning curve is steep, but the rewards of working with an artist of the stature of countertenor Andreas Scholl are manifest. In this pair of Snape Proms concerts, which were the culmination of a 10-day masterclass course directed by Scholl, it may have been the singers who benefited most in practical terms - but, for the instrumentalists, accompanying Scholl himself in works by Handel and Vivaldi was evidently inspirational.

Scholl's conducting debut in the first of these concerts was not perhaps anything to ricochet around the music world, with Bach's Cantata No 105 emerging in a slightly leaden fashion, and the penitential mood becoming a little overbearing. By contrast, the Cantata No 182, Himmelskonig, Sei Willkommen, had a uplifting joy: its contrapuntal writing was clearly defined and the chorus shaped Bach's phrases with Scholl's trademark finesse. Of the promising voices stepping forward to deliver their solos, the warm mezzo of Canadian Jennifer Enns Modolo was the most impressive.

For sheer breathtaking beauty, Scholl's sound is in a league of its own. Even after inflicting 10 days' talking on the vocal chords, its instrumental clarity and purity seemed hardly impaired. In Handel's scena Mi Palpita il Cor, the sequential passages were impeccably articulated, the graduation of tone-colours constantly illuminating. And the siciliano of Ho Tanti Affanni in Petto, with Per Gross's recorder obbligato, achieved an exquisite melancholy.

In his solos, Scholl relinquished the burden of directing to Christian Rieger - the fine executant of two Bach harpsichord concertos on successive evenings - and guest leader Adrian Chandler. Nevertheless, his freely expressive body language communicated eloquently to the Britten-Pears Baroque Orchestra, and the drama of Vivaldi's cantata Cessate, Omai Cessate was vividly realised.