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A Musicall Banquet - the Wigmore Hall concert

Andreas Scholl and Edin Karamazov

London, 18 January 2001


Absolute Scholl

Andreas Scholl's interpretation of these intensely beautiful songs was excellent and the lute-playing of virtuoso Edin Karamazov dazzling.  This was not a solo singer with a lutenist alongside.  It was a beautiful and complete duet throughout.  The pinpoint timing and mutual engagement with the music of the performers was enchanting.  Two brilliant friends were making memorable music, and we were allowed to share it. 

These songs are full of period metaphor and subtle music, complex despite the deceptive simplicity of the one-voice-one-instrument presentation. They challenge a listener who is unused to them or to the poetry of the period, but amply repay concentration.  Andreas Scholl quickly brought every song to vibrant life and - I am certain - made each one accessible to everyone present.  His preparatory work on a song is obviously very thorough indeed, to make such a tour de force seem so easy. 

He acted the sense of the songs exactly: vocally, physically, visually and charmingly. Well, as well as one can act, perched on a small stool.  He engaged fully with each line, each word, of every song, expressing the fullness of the sense subtly or strongly, as the song demanded, matching his intonation perfectly to the text.  Absolute Scholl: "Text first".  Enthralling.

One or two notes caught in his throat but this was committed, live performance, not a controlled recording, and nothing was devalued.  His voice is becoming richer now, and capable of more ambitious use without loss of his extraordinary tone.  His diction is deliciously clear: not a syllable, not a consonant, lost or swallowed, in each language.  At this recital, both the special quality of his voice and his skill in deploying it left people gasping.  His loud notes filled the hall.  His quiet notes were as sweet as Silence singing, overheard.

The English songs were filled with sweetness, poignancy and dark drama, eroticism or whimsy, just as the song writers would wish.  John Dowland must have been smiling in Heaven to hear his songs sung like this. The lyrical court songs of France were delivered with mellifluous beauty.  The faster Spanish songs fizzed and flashed with fire as the lute seemed to become a guitar in Edin Karamazov's arms.  The Italian songs would have moved Dante. Amarilli mia bella may be called hackneyed but in Andreas Scholl's hands it became fresh, sweet and heartbreaking, the final ornamentation as light as gossamer, making the heart soar.  All the songs were completely revealed.  O bella piu took the breath away.  Absolute Scholl.

There were ROARS of applause from the whole house.

The Musicall Banquet CD fully captures all the music of the concert. The live recital and the recording are exactly the same in performance quality.  It is a marvellous achievement by all concerned: performers and producers.  The only difference between the CD and the concert (Coin and Märkl were absent but Edin Karamazov was so brilliant that they were not missed) was the powerful magic of actually watching Andreas Scholl singing, seeing for yourself what you have heard in his recordings: a matchless artist giving you the music he knows and loves so well.  At any Scholl concert, the audience is bewitched as he unfolds each song, and they do as he bids: he delivers them to the composer's feet.  Andreas Scholl puts the music he sings before what he calls, self-deprecatingly, the present cult of his stardom. 

Singing seems somehow to maximise Scholl, make him fully himself.  While singing, he is commanding; but when not singing yet still on stage and therefore still in the relation of performer to audience, he seems to become diffident, a fish out of water.  While he clearly takes delight in the audience's pleasure, he seems to want to fade quickly into the background leaving only the echo of the music lingering, or to share the appreciation with the other performer(s) equally.  He is a singularity - and yet a born collaborator.

If there were people in the Wigmore Hall who had not heard a countertenor before, nor listened to Renaissance music, they were surely transformed into enthusiasts by this man's talent.  He is incomparable.

Jill Gunsell
The Andreas Scholl Society