Edinburgh International Festival music review: Iestyn Davies & Ensemble Guadagni, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Kettle.
Star countertenors can sometimes inspire a hugely devoted, passionate following simply through the otherworldly purity of their voices – as evidenced by the huge and enthusiastic crowd that English countertenor Iestyn Davies drew for his Purcell recital with a crack ensemble of period players under harpsichordist Richard Egarr.
But there’s so much more to his singing than simply ineffable beauty (though there’s plenty of that too). He was quite a reserved performer, but he channelled all his expression through that intensely focused voice, rich in dramatic grit, and his Purcell was as thoughtful as it was beautiful. He never overplayed the composer’s copious word-painting, but his delivery of the unpredictable The Plaint was fluid and expansive, and his What power art thou was scarily intense.
It was as if each note meant something, and had a shape and an inevitable flow to the next. And in that, he was ideally matched by Egarr’s remarkably agile ensemble, who came into their own into a vivid suite from John Blow’s Venus and Adonis, complete with piping sopranino recorders for the entrance of Cupid, and a dazzling Purcell three-part Fantazia that showed off the group’s three string players to magnificent effect. Davies might have been the headliner, but at times Egarr’s sparkling instrumentalists even threatened to overshadow his subtle, supple art.
Published in The Scotsman on 20 August 2015
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