A countertenor is a male singer whose voice is in the
alto range - very high, and very rich. Andreas Scholl is one of the
most popular countertenors performing today, delighting baroque music
fans with his diaphanous, angelic voice. In his many recordings and
performances, he has shown himself to be one of the best successors
to the great countertenors such as Alfred Deller and James Bowman.
Schollís popularity, though, has not gone beyond the
baroque idiom, which is arguably a niche market. This new recording
of English, Irish, Scottish and American folksongs is an attempt to
make a crossover from the classical market into the more lucrative pop
market, as the famous Three Tenors have done, and also, undoubtedly,
to try and have a success similar to the Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli.
Scholl has already been derided by his core fans for
this disc; it seems that real classical music fans find it difficult
to accept this kind of crossover album. Mailing lists and newsgroups
on baroque music have been full of negative remarks on this project.
Is it worth his alienating his core fans in the hopes of hitting it
big on the charts?
It must be admitted that Alfred Deller did similar
recordings several decades ago, but the mediatization was different.
He was attempting to present a specific repertoire interpreted by his
then unique voice. The difference here is the clear desire to break
out of the classical ghetto and tap the easy-listening market.
I must admit, I am a sucker for this kind of music,
though. Being American, I was raised on folk songs, and the melancholy
tone of many of these songs, such as Wild Mountain Thyme, brings back
But the problem with this disc is that Schollís voice
just does not fit the music. This is earthy music, written by pilgrims
to a new land who struggled to survive. While Scholl has a magnificent
voice, its effeminate qualities do not fit with the underlying tone
of this music. In addition, all the songs sound the same. Even with
a variety of arrangements, and such instruments as banjo, dulcimer and
lute, there is still an underlying tone that sounds nothing at all like
Appalachian folk songs, but more like Broadway show tunes.
Fortunately, Schollís voice is very pure, and he uses
vibrato sparingly. He sings with great emotion and colour, and the purity
of his voice is indeed a pleasure to listen to. But, this is not music
written for lush string arrangements, nor was it written for the tone
and style of this kind of voice. Yet, it will undoubtedly be very popular,
if it manages to break through to the all-important FM radio playlists.
Only the hard-core Scholl fans will want to buy this disc; if you like
his singing in Vivaldi or Pergolesi, this is better left in the shop.
But, if you are looking for a Christmas present for someone who doesnít
like classical music, and you want to let them discover a truly magnificent
voice, get them this. It is the kind of disc that almost anyone will