Concert Review

Vivaldi & Handel. Cecilia Bartoli with Les Arts Florissants/William Christie and Sébastien Marq (recorder). Barbican Centre, 14 April 2000

Having been underwhelmed by Cecilia Bartoli recently, it was gratifying to hear her in fine voice and in repertoire which she has made her own. Vivaldi's In fuore was properly florid and furious, and Bartoli revelled in the roulades and flourishes which were the hallmark of the evening and the encores which the insatiable audience demanded, so vociferously that cries of 'Cecilia' from my neighbour endangered my ear drum! As the avenger of Holofernes, murdered in his sleep by Judith, she was impassioned in encouraging the summoning of wild rage, death, the whip and slaughter - great stuff.

The Handel items in the second half were more involving. In the Triumph of Time & Truth Bartoli gave an earlier version of the famous Lascia ch-io pianga from Rinaldo, which she had crooned sotto voce there in November. In its second of its three incarnations, Lascia la spina was the lyrical high point of her performance, holding a very slow tempo with sympathetic support from William Christie and his expert musicians, who are touring widely under a three-year sponsorship by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, who asked us to mention their support. Cecilia Bartoli's splendid grey robe 'in luxurious silk from Fabric Frontline Zurich, created by Albert Kriemler' also deserved its note in the programme, and surely contributed to the audience's rapture.

There were Concerti Grossi by Vivaldi and Handel, and a Concerto in C RV 312 in which the flautist Sébastien Marq played a small recorder with such virtuosity as to challenge that of the diva, whilst indulging in the most exaggerated contortions and dancing movements - knees full bend, up on one foot, twisting and turning - forcing us to note and admire his every phrase. Wonderful playing, but hard to look at; even further over the top than the violinist, Christian Tetzlaff, reviewed earlier this month in S&H.

The last item of the official programme, before the long sequence of encores, was the opening aria of Handel's little-known early oratorio La Resurrezzione, which had bowled me over in October when given at the Barbican by Trevor Pinnock. In Disserratevi, o porte d'Averno the Angel commands Lucifer to open the gates of Hell, a command which none could ignore as delivered by Cecilia Bartoli, with Les Arts Florissants strengthened with trumpets, woodwinds and drums to help deliver the message. The ovations left no doubt that Bartoli could and did deliver.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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