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Handel Solomon

Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin / English Voices / Timothy Brown - director

Lufthansa Baroque Festival, St John's Smith Square 12 May 2007

 

Mojca Erdman Solomon's Queen & First Woman

Joanne Lunn Queen of Sheba

Ann Murray Second Woman

Tim Mead Solomon

James Gilchrist Zadok

Christopher Purves A Levite

 

Handel depicts Solomon as the ideal monarch, devout in the service of his God, lovingly tender towards to his wife, wise in his dispensation of justice, revered by his subjects and gracious in welcoming a visiting monarch. In short, he is rather too good to be true, and such an abundance of virtue amounts to an evening that is rather short on dramatic tension.

 

This performance made no attempt to overcome that situation, in a static concert presentation, with the singers all lined up with their scores in hand. In the title role Tim Mead was singing almost totally from memory and adopted a suitably regal stature. His singing was stylistically authentic, and his voice has a considerable beauty of tone, but he fell short in projecting his words something James Gilchrist achieved with apparent ease even in his most ornamented passages; but he could make little of the eulogistic Zadok. Mojca Erdman, who sang both Solomon's Queen and the First Woman was a sad disappointment, with neither clarity of diction nor emotional involvement.

 

Ann Murray (Second Woman) worked hard to bring a bit of spirit and feeling into the trial scene, with some racy venom in her voice, but it was not until mid-way through the final section and the rousing martial chorus Shake the dome, and pierce the sky that the performance really came to life.

 

Joanne Lunn * had already made her stage presence felt with her entry as Queen of Sheba and she sang with grace and bright clarity through a sequence of recitatives. Sadly her first aria Ev'ry sight these eyes behold was one of a number of cuts, but her warm, golden toned Will the sun forget to streak was the highlight of the evening.

 

There was some fine playing by Berlin's Akademie fur Alte Musik, especially their flautists (Monika Scholand and Andrea Kiltzing) and oboist (Xenia Loffler) and English Voices gave their all for their Director Timothy Brown, who was the safest of choices as a very late replacement for the indisposed Ivor Bolton. The lively and expressive Veronica Cangemi had been scheduled to sing both the soprano role of Queen of Sheba and the normally mezzo role of Second Woman. I understand that she withdrew from the performance some weeks in advance, but this information was rather surprisingly omitted from both the Festival's and St John's web sites.

 

Serena Fenwick

 

* q.v. also: Joanne Lunn was a special delight, with a pure steady tone and immaculate delivery.