This wonderful evening’s music demonstrated the amazing versatility of the CBSO.
Here’s a world-class Mahler and Strauss orchestra which, under the leadership of harpsichordist-conductor Emmanuelle Haïm, was metamorphosed into a brilliant baroque band.
Haïm, a tousle-haired bundle of energy, coaxed a wide range of dynamics and tone colours from the players.
There was nothing prim or small-scale in their performance of the suites from Lully’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Purcell’s Fairy Queen and Rameau’s opera Näis. The thundering timpani sounded as if it had arrived direct from the battlefield, lutes strummed plaintively and the inspired Héloise Gaillard’s recorder soared and chirruped gaily overhead.
Soprano Lucy Crowe and tenor Ed Lyon are part of the younger generation of singers who perform this repertoire with maximum emotional expressiveness, eschewing the pallid vocal quality and anaemic tone once considered “authentic” – and both made excellent contributions.
In Purcell’s plaintive O let me ever, ever weep Crowe’s singing, with discreet, but telling, use of vibrato, was intense and heartfelt. As the titular hero of Rameau’s opera Dardanus, Lyon’s Lieux funestes was a genuine cri de coeur.
In Lully’s delightful duet Bel tempo che vola, Crowe and Lyon showed themselves to be equally adept in comic repertoire.
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