Andreas Scholl: Purcell, O Solitude
Accademia Bizantina, Stefano Montanari (cond), Christophe Dumaux (counter-tenor)
It is some serious testament to the beauty of Andreas Scholl's voice that he has succeeded in securing a huge following and being a regular high-scorer in the classical charts, because the counter-tenor, to modern ears, can be a difficult sound to come to terms with. The high register, which is normally associated with the female alto, is mainly limited to the music of the Baroque or contemporary composers, and the singers are rarely afforded the solo opportunities of those belting tenors or mellifluous sopranos. Luckily, Scholl's arrival on the scene nearly two decades ago coincided with a new interest in Baroque and Renaissance music, giving the counter-tenor in general and Scholl in particular plenty of opportunity for exposure. Here, soaring through some of the British composer Henry Purcell's greatest hits, the extent of his immense vocal control is revealed once more, from the desolate When I Am Laid in Earth, from Dido & Aeneas, through the chilling Cold Song from the semi-opera King Arthur, to the fa-la-la frolics of The Fairy-Queen (Purcell's musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream). A delight throughout.
Bach: Six Suites for Cello
The fine Italian cellist brings a vigorous approach to Bach's great work for solo cello, with plenty of bow attack, though perhaps a touch too much rhythmic freedom in the first suite.
Saint-Saëns: Music for Wind Instruments
Canada's National Arts Centre Wind Quintet, Stéphane Lemelin (piano)
Naxos continues to offer interesting releases that go beyond the big-selling populist repertoires of the major labels. This is a fascinating little collection of wind music written by the late-Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns.