The German countertenor was nominally the star attraction but it was the singing of Klara Ek which stole the show. I was greatly impressed with the young Swedish soprano when she sang Mozart and Mahler with the CBSO last year. Once again her vocal purity, warmth and vivid engagement with the text proved a winning combination.
Vivaldi’s Salve Regina was first performed by the girls of the Pieta orphanage where the composer worked, so simplicity and innocence are part of its appeal.
Ek avoided the trap of being arch or faux-naif in this plea to the Virgin Mary – the repeated cry of “dulcis” was both sweet and moving.
Scholl showed his undoubted vocal skill in Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater but unlike some countertenors – David Daniels is a prime example – I find him sometimes a trifle emotionally cool. But Scholl’s ethereal sound and Ek’s warmer, sappier voice complemented each other perfectly in Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater bringing contrast and variety to the performance.
It’s a sacred work in an operatic style and both singers shaped their individual items dramatically and blended their voices ideally from the exquisite opening duet onwards.
The Academy of Ancient Music, directed by violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk provided ideal support and gave nimble chirpy performances of two solo items – the second and third of a set of six Concerto Armonico once attributed to Pergolesi but actually by a Dutch nobleman Count Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer. I feared they might be as interminable as his name but they were very entertaining.