Monday, October 24, 2011

Review - Daniel Taylor, countertenor - "unplugged"

Daniel Taylor visited Sherwood Park's Festival Place for an intimate concert of early music and Handel arias to a small but enthusiastic crowd (by the way Edmonton, where were you?)

Joined by Agnes Zsigovics, soprano and Jordan de Souza, piano, Daniel wowed the audience with not only his vocal talent but also his natural comedic wit as he told stories and described some of the music.

For anyone new to the world of countertenors, Daniel put everyone at ease by describing the countertenor voice and telling a story of a performance in Victoria where a woman in the audience remarked, "What the hell was that?!" and thought that a young countertenor student was mouthing along with a recording. If you have never heard a countertenor before, run out and buy one of Daniel Taylor's many CDs for Sony Classical - you won't be sorry.

The first half of the concert included some early music standards and folk song favourites such as “I will Give My Love an Apple” and “Down by the Sally Gardens”. It is wonderful and rare to hear these well known simple tunes receive such care and sensitivity by a seasoned artist.

Daniel Taylor shared the music with Agnes Zsigovics who supplemented the program with solos and duets with Daniel. Agnes is a promising soprano with a haunting early music style and I hope to hear much more from her in the future. In particular, the ornamentation in Agnes’ “Lascia ch’io pianga” from Handel’s Rinaldo was beautifully understated and authentic.

The second half of the performance was devoted to the music of Handel and Jordan de Souza was allowed to shine on the piano with the rousing Harmonious Blacksmith Variations. The highlights of the second half were the infrequently performed “The Pilgrim’s Home” from the oratorio Theodora which was lovingly sung by Agnes Zsigovics, Daniel Taylor’s always stellar singing of Cara Sposa (Rinaldo) which I would argue is his best role, and finally, the encore.

Daniel Taylor brought the house down (and his hair!) with the passionate and unhinged singing of one of Tolomeo’s arias from Giulio Cesare satisfyingly unleashing the full power of both his countertenor and baritone voice in the final aria of the concert.

In order to ensure that classical music remains part of Festival Place in Sherwood Park, Daniel offered that any money donated to his Theatre of Early Music would be doubled and provided to Festival Place to allow more classical music concerts to be performed. Thank you to Daniel (the philanthropist!), Agnes and Jordan for venturing out to the suburbs of Edmonton and I wish there were more people there to appreciate your work.

Daniel Taylor returns to Edmonton on Monday February 13th with the Theatre of Early Music in Dido and Aeneas at Convocation Hall at the University of Alberta.

Jordan de Souza returns to Edmonton in the spring to conduct Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict at Opera Nuova’s Vocal Arts Festival.

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