The Rime of the Historic Mariner: poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge with varied items by Henry Purcell; Rory Kinnear, Zoë Brookshaw, Bethany Horak-Hallett, Jeremy Budd, Jonathan Brown; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment dir. Steven Devine; Queen Elizabeth Corridor
Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders, 5 October 2022
An illustration of the facility of Purcell & poetry
One of the crucial beloved of English-language poems, the bizarre nightmare-parable of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Historic Mariner, was the framing machine for this live performance of music over 100 years older than the poem – a wonderful pot-pourri of a few of Henry Purcell’s best-known music, sprinkled with some much less acquainted gadgets on the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Corridor on 5 October 2022.
Holding court docket with an impassioned and theatrical recitation of the entire poem, Rory Kinnear commanded the viewers’s consideration all through, sustaining a ferociously intense poise even when not talking. Interspersed via the dramatic ship of the textual content, and matched in theme, temper or lyrics to the motion or emotion of the poem, the musicians of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) directed from the harpsichord by Steven Devine, together with a advantageous quartet of solo voices, Zoë Brookshaw, Bethany Horak-Hallett, Jeremy Budd, and Jonathan Brown, offered a sequence of instrumental and vocal works, beginning with the prolonged ode Welcome, welcome wonderful morn and together with virtually two dozen different shorter items.
The programme was devised, or curated maybe is a greater time period, by OAE’s principal oboist, Katharina Spreckelsen, who additionally carried out flawlessly all through the night, significantly within the stunning rendition of Bid the virtues, wherein she and soprano soloist Zoë Brookshaw demonstrated their exceptional breath management as they interwove in an prolonged duet of ecstatic readability.
In truth, readability appeared to be the watchword of the entire night – the OAE, with their interval forces, performing very a lot as a chamber ensemble, or a gathering of like-minded soloists gathered beneath director Steven Devine’s watchful eyes and trendy harpsichord continuo. For a interval ensemble of this dimension, the Queen Elizabeth Corridor is a big house to fill with sound, and even with a pair of trumpets and timpani, and a quartet of double reeds augmenting the modest physique of strings, the orchestra by no means actually roared with sound and fury – however Kinnear’s recitation greater than made up for a few of the extra elegant and well mannered enjoying from the instrumentalists.
In a night of highlights, it is arduous to select specific moments that stood out. Point out have to be given to the gravitas and sepulchral tone of the bass Jonathan Brown in Come up ye Subterranean winds and to the exquisitely manicured melismas of tenor Jeremy Budd, floating above rippling extempore harpsichord in Tis nature’s voice, whereas, on the idea of her melting stunning aria over the repeated floor of Night Hymn, rising alto Bethany Horak-Hallett will definitely be a singer to be careful for on this repertoire. However, for sheer, hushed, virtually translucently pianissimo sound, the OAE string gamers’ efficiency of the Frost Dance from King Arthur was probably the most intensely pleasant second of a pleasant programme.
Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders
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