The English Concert’s small scale Easter (Wigmore Hall, 23 March 2016)

In contrast to last year’s St Matthew Passion at the lumbering Barbican, this Easter season I opted for a much shorter performance at the intimate Wigmore Hall that included one of my favourite singers’ very welcome return to London.

And, as it rurns out, a lot of… hair.

The English Concert | Harry Bicket director, harpsichord

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Concerto for Strings in G minor RV157

Violin Concerto in C major ‘Per la santissima Assunzione di Maria Vergine’ RV581 | Nadja Zwiener violin

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751) | Katharina Spreckelsen oboe

Concerto for oboe in D minor Op. 9 No. 2

Antonio Vivaldi

Sinfonia in B minor RV169 ‘Al Santo Sepolcro’

These pieces are all very enjoyable though by music alone I didn’t feel religiously transported. That, I think, is the nature of the music at hand as much as my own nature. But their effect was such that I’ve been listening to them for the past few days. Per la santissima Assunzione di Maria Vergine1 was done in a very dramatic manner, more so than usual, which showcased much virtuosity and chutzpah from the soloist. By contrast the oboe concerto came off serene.

INTERVAL

Giovanni Ferrandini (1710-1791) | Ann Hallenberg mezzo-soprano

Cantata: Il pianto di Maria

Obviously for me the big attraction was Ann Hallenberg, whom I had last seen at Wigmore Hall as the end of April 2014. Il pianto di Maria felt more operaticly dramatic (but the Hallenberg way, which is never OTT) than feverishly religious. Then again, I wasn’t looking for a religious experience, rather to hear her live after a good while. One of the things I like most about listening to her is how she blends in with the orchestra. It feels like the voice is another instrument, without which the music would miss its spark. I get an extra dose of enjoyment from listening to singers whose phrasing fits the sounds around them so well.

I sometimes talk about the effect certain singers’ stage presence has on me. Hallenberg is the one who always brings with her a sense of calm and proportion. It makes me feel – for the duration of the performance at least – that everything is all right.

PS: Annual update on Hairstyles at Wigmore Hall + assorted divagations. There was a bit of seat upgrading by the younger gen after the interval thus I got an unexpected windshield wiper head in front of me. I wiped along with him (during the more anguished moments in the music) until I found an angle which allowed me see more of Ann2 and less of my immediate surroundings. Still, it was hard not to notice that in front of the wiper was Prince William’s bald spot and at 11 o’clock a lady with hair dry and bushy like a haystack and which curls at the end and stays starched in that position until wet. I know that type of hair well, it’s common on one side of my family. At 1 o’clock we had a lady with dramatic soprano cca 1965 hairdo but luckily she was short enough and very resistant to swinging with the breeze.

On the way out I saw a few ladies chatting on the side block and one of them had alarmingly opinionated hair (looked a bit like the tray with Jochanaan severed head in it) that made me think of a certain pre-rephaelite painting. Looking it up meant going through about 100 Rosettis and Burne-Jones’ etc. with the the focus on hair. Daunting task, I tell you, as it seems all of them were obsessed with hair livelier than a ! All of them. But most importantly I noticed they all painted the same woman, and that is precisely Anja Harteros in period dress.

Alcina: You pale shadows, I know you hear me;
you hover around me and conceal yourselves,
and are deaf to my words. Why? Why?

Ombre pallide3: We’re afraid of your insatiable hair!


  1. And I seem to recall it being placed just before the intermission. 
  2. Ann’s hair, normally quite cheerful itself, was on best behaviour today, having taken a step back from the spotlight (literally, it was placed behind her neck). 
  3. Yea, this pre-raphaelite incursion gave me an irrestible urge to listen to Ombre pallide
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About dehggial

opera lover with a predilection for Mozart and Baroque

Posted on March 25, 2016, in baroque, live performances, mezzos & contraltos, wigmore hall and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thank you for your fun review. I will hear Ann Hallenberg live in Salzburg in May, can’t wait. And you are absolutely right, THE pre-rafaelite model does look like Harteros! 🙂

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  2. Somehow i was under the impression she sings much more in this recital? Or may be that’s the one in May? I discovered this piece with VK of course.. would really have loved to hear it live.

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