L’Arpeggiata, Philippe Jaroussky (dir. Christina Pluhar, Wigmore Hall)
Philippe Jaroussky has been at the top of my “absolutely must hear at some point list”. As a counter-tenor he is to my mind unsurpassed. He pulls off the feat of being almost girly without being in the least effeminate (am I that unreconstructed?). He is involved in musical archaeology, and trying new things. I may add a chapter to the hagiography noting him as showman after last night’s performance.
A wonderful blend of beautiful music, rhythmic improvisation, fine and high singing, moving songs, and excellent showmanship came together under the directorship of Caroline Pluhar. The interposition of almost jazzy tunes and old singing gave this the feeling of being timeless, i.e. impossible to situate in time. It reminded me, in the juxtaposition of thrilling tunes with ornate, refined singing of the Brazilian Baroque concert (Ex Cathedra) recently. This was pushing the music envelope.
Music for a while
We were indeed beguiled from the very start . The extract ‘Twas within a furlong of Edinboro’ Town’ was delivered with art and humour. ‘An evening Hymn’ and ‘Strike the viol’ were likewise utterly delightful. ‘O solitude, my sweetest choice’ was another wonderful selection.
One charming night
If the whole evening was charming, which ‘gives more delight, / than a hundred lucky days’. The words of the songs described exactly how I think we all felt.
Man is for the woman made?
The first encore was Man is for the woman made. This was given in the libretto, but appeared to have been skipped. It was played with every ounce of humour that might have befitted John Falstaff in the tavern – there was a bawdy, raucous element to this. Exotic rhythms and improvisations from the instrument players saw Jaroussky turn around, hands on hips in mock exasperation. Quite why it was skipped and then used as an encore out of sequence is not immediately apparent. The only possible explanation I could fathom was that Jaroussky felt unable to play it straight – it is fairly absurd- and the deeply tender plaint from the Fairy Queene would have landed oddly after it. Nothing lost in the end, as it made an excellent encore.
The second and final encore saw a plea from Jaroussky to ‘Remember me’. The audience were hardly likely to forget anytime soon.
Overall: more delight than a hundred lucky days