WQXR Discussion on Avery Fisher Hall Renovation
David Lang's "love fail" at BAM

Andreas Scholl at Alice Tully

by Angela Sutton


Saturday's recital at Alice Tully Hall began with an endearing episode. The damp late-Autumn weather, as it sometimes does for many of us, played havoc with star countertenor Andreas Scholl's vocal cords. One verse into John Dowland's "Flow My Tears," Mr. Scholl stepped offstage to properly clear his throat. His accompanist and partner Tamar Halperin smiled to the audience, shrugged, and vamped some Baroque piano. Both performers were so good-humored and frank about the glitch that the audience gave Mr. Scholl a long ovation upon his return to the stage and was in his pocket for the rest of the night.

This sort of magical intimacy persisted throughout the evening, as Mr. Scholl seduced his audience in a program of song. The countertenor, a male voice in the alto range, requires conscious effort to produce and has within it an inherent energy that the alto lacks. Mr. Scholl's free-floating, perfectly tuned voice had both this energy and yet repose, an ear-tickling combination.

The evening's first half featured English-language works, primarily from the English Renaissance, but also including some infrequently performed songs by Haydn (from a set inspired by his first London trip). German song formed the second half, including well-known works such as Schubert's "Ave Maria." In both languages, Mr. Scholl gave nuanced, plastic readings of the texts, supported by creative and original dramatic gestures. One of the most striking of these was Mr. Scholl's switch to his natural baritone as Death in "Death and the Maiden," exploiting the double character of his voice to portray both halves of the dialog.

Ms. Halperin gave delicate, precise support at the piano, matching Mr. Scholl stroke for stroke. The performer's onstage partnership was palpable, with every detail clearly worked out, and yet spontaneous-sounding. The grateful audience called the pair back for two encores, and judging from the length of the artist greeting line later on in the lobby, could still not get enough.

This was the duo's last U.S. appearance for a while, but when they do return, consider it not to be missed.