19 Oct 2019

BLOW; PURCELL Countertenor duets (Davies & Hall)

Elegy
Purcell & Blow: Countertenor duets
Iestyn Davies, James Hall, The King’s Consort / Robert King

Vivat 118

This latest disc from the King’s Consort on the independent label Vivat is absolutely on point: with two wonderfully matched countertenors and superb recorder playing bound together in the intimate acoustic of Alpheton New Maltings, Suffolk there is much to enjoy here. The big draw is, of course, countertenor Iestyn Davies and for me his performance of Purcell’s O Solitude is a clear stand out. Davies sings the entire song in falsetto maintaining his tone’s silvery thread through even the most fiendishly low passages. His word painting is nuanced, subtle and intimate. Paired with the deliciously warm tone of Reiko Ichise’s bass viol, the cushion of the chamber organ and Lynda Sayce’s ever-sensitive theorbo this is surely one of the best countertenor performances on disc rivalling even perhaps King’s previous account with James Bowman (Hyperion King3).

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The duets, sung with James Hall are superb throughout, carefully balanced and well controlled, although perhaps too modest for my tastes: consider the opening duet: Hark how the songsters, which shies away from the sheer giggly joy of the recent improvisatory performance by L’Arpeggiata (Erato 2564633750). This is also the case in Sound the trumpet, that most famous of countertenor duets, the emphasis here being more sprightly than extrovert. It lacks the grandeur of King’s earlier Bowman/Chance pairing, especially on the opening long notes (Essential Purcell, Hyperion KING2) but compensates with nimble energy. Hall is certainly a voice to listen out for and he contributes many ravishing moments to this disc.

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To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Nov 2019)

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