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Andreas Scholl sings Handel and mock Baroque in Sydney

The last time I was in a concert hall in Australia, I was a performer on the stage of Perth Concert Hall. So it's nice for a change to be front of house at the relatively new City Recital Hall at Angel Place yesterday evening. It has the look and feel of Symphony Hall in Birmingham - except it's about 1/3 smaller. The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra started the evening with a Sinfonia by Brescianello - which showed off the acoustic quality of the hall - resonant and bright, not sloppy at all.

The star of the evening then appeared to sing a setting of Stabat Mater by Marco Rosano (an Italian film and TV composer). The work by and large had an alla breve quality with mostly slow movements. The writing was probably best described as mock-Baroque. While the work showed off the voice of its dedicatee Andreas Scholl, the music became tedious quite quickly - somehow it lacked the richness of musical styles or architecture that one expects to find in a genuine Baroque work.

Andreas Scholl then sang a number of arias that were sung / made popular by Senesino during the time of Handel and Porpora. He sang these arias with flair and articulation. The top notes were particularly strong and penetrative, while the mid-range had a passionate quality. Va tacito from Handle's opera Giulio Cesare was particularly fine. The evening ended with an encore - a Gaelic folk song accompanied by Paul Dyer on the harpsichord.

I was not sure whether it is customary practice in Australia for the conductor to introduce the concert. Paul Dyer came on stage to give a short history of his association with Andreas Scholl. The orchestra's musicologist Alan Maddox also gave an informative introduction into the world of castrati singers. I did find the whole experience welcoming - putting the audience at ease about the music that they were about to hear.


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