Thursday, August 14, 2014


Greater and "plus grand" than Purcell and Handel


Of course we all know Henry Purcell and we all know he was the first to revive English music and drama in the Post Restoration and then Glorious Revolution England after the puritan night. He is also the one who developed the Masque into the Quasi-opera to become the first step and stage towards the opera in England. He was also a militant of the countertenor, alto or whatever you can call him, in the English tradition of Oxford and Cambridge, of the all-men choirs before the arrival of castratos with Handel.

So Christina Pluhar just pushes our knowledge one iota further and she makes it jazzy, swinging like it never did, and yet, it sounds so natural that we are afraid to go out in the street and just come nose to nose face to face one on one with that great Henry Purcell. He is one of us after all and Christina Pluhar has just brought him back where he belongs. We are then not at all surprised by the conclusion with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that comes also naturally in this voyage. Leonard Cohen is also from that world of old, not so old though, that is part of our heart and mind everyday if we have some consciousness left after all the lies and formatting performed on our brains by the mass media of the subliminal today.

But to only bring together four singers who are all in the range of the “alto” of old, Philippe Jaroussky as a countertenor, Raquel Andueza as a soprano, Vincenzo Capezzuto as an alto and Dominique Visse as a countertenor, one female soprano surrounded by there men who sing within her range, is also an artistic project that requires some audacity and has to be properly saluted. She only has two duets, Jaroussky-Capezzuto and Andueza-Jaroussky and the magic of the duets comes from the tiny differences between the two voices in each case.

The only small defect of this CD is that it is a set of small pieces taken from various musical works by Henry Purcell and that prevents the whole CD to have a coherent meaning in the words it sings and to be reduced to its musical coherence which is not entirely enough from my point of view. But that does not prevent the whole performance to be a beautiful bouquet of brilliant flowers.

In “’Twas within a furlong” Vincenzo Capezzuto plays with his boyish voice to make that very popular song from The Mock Marriage a pleasant imbroglio that may remind us of Ben Jonson’s The Silent Woman with a play on sex confusion in order to fool some Puritan male chauvinist pig. A man playing the silent woman. That play on genders has always fascinated the English.

With “Music for a While” Philippe Jaroussky is a serpent charmer who is trying to mesmerize our senses into total abandon in the arms of music, and that is no gender play or foreplay, but plain magic, the magic of the snake-haired Gorgon who on the order of Alecto, that angry Erinyes, managed to be tamed by the music the great mistress of this world and the supernatural pleasure of mental bliss.

Then in “Strike the Viol” a super jazzy Raquel Andueza is the girlish voice of some kind of young page who is supposed to please his patroness with his music. The result is quite funny and could easily be seen as the satire of the tradition of a later time and still too much present today to have pages played and sung by women playing the boys serving and titillating their mistresses but the mistress becoming a patroness is a sort of female patron, a patron under female disguise. Definitely we are really playing with gender with both hands and both feet at the same time. This kneading might bring our bread to rising point.

So with “Now that the Sun hath veiled his light” Philippe Jaroussky becomes the voice of an undetermined body that is going to bed and is trying to find some communion with a higher mental and ethical level. The body is not particular, just a soft bed will do and Philippe Jaroussky disposes of his body, gets rid of it in that soft bed but what about his soul? He goes to sleep in the arms of God transforming him into his own fatherly lover and that’s where his soul finds the rest it is looking for along with security. Beautiful and never ending Hallelujah in that bliss of Philippe Jaroussky in the arms of God providing him with the mercy he needs to engulf himself in the full rest of the night.

Philippe Jaroussky and Vincenzo Capezzuto in “In vain the am’rous flute” play the love story of a flute and a guitar, a phallic flute and a lascivious female guitar. My Gosh we are playing with gender again and you can imagine the duet with Philippe Jaroussky slightly deeper than Vincenzo Capezzuto who is slightly more boyish if not childish, and there is no longer female and male, but we are playing with age. Is that guitar of age to play with the flute or vice versa? The duet is superb because of this very slight difference of the two voices that are really singing together one on one and in some fugue or canon form. And we do not miss one cue from Philippe Jaroussky to Vincenzo Capezzuto, the older man and the younger boy. Can we think it is more fatherly love than lascivious attraction, or maybe vice versa?

In “A prince of glorious race descended” Raquel Andueza after all, this time, is kosher and she praises a prince, at least his birthday. This time the music has a long solo that is so jazzy that we seem to have crossed the cosmos and landed on some other planet like New York of New Orleans.

With “O solitude, my sweetest choice” Philippe Jaroussky sings in a very sad tone that fits the subject marvelously, his double love or his two loves that are in full conflict. He is in love with solitude and at the same time he is in love with another person who loves solitude too. They have that love in common but that very love sets them apart and makes their mutual love impossible. Solitude is the best friend in life that brings us the knowledge of beauty and the longing for someone who likes solitude too and has found the beauty of it, but we could love each other frantically except that between us two there is that love for solitude and solitude is a jealous lover?

Raquel Andueza in “When I am laid in earth” on a slow jazzy music evokes her burial when she dies. It is beyond any material consideration, it is the fate of everyone to die and people will remember you but here the music and the song become a real dirge because Raquel Andueza wants to be remembered in herself and not in her fate. And since the song comes from Dido and Aeneas, we can think Dido is singing here, that queen who fell in love with a passer-by who played love to get what he wanted, ships, and dropped her like an old sock to her burning love when he had the sails he wanted.

Vincenzo Capezzuto with “Wondrous machine,” on a mysterious music both jazzy and modern, sings some praise to Cecilia, the saint patroness of music. He nearly moves into some kind of rocky music that could be for us a charming hymn and motto calling all our legs and minds to the vast demonstration to conquer life through its notes, through its tempos. And there is like some submission to that fate. Well obliged since we know we are the snakes of this ascetic Sufi Fakir that music is.

In “Here the deities approve” Philippe Jaroussky merges music and love under one single God. He finds a tone that is both ecstatic and maybe slightly sad or simply agreeing to that fusion of music and love that are merged in one God but can only live their union below, in the human world in real life where both music and love can thrive. The music then is like the promise and the regret that the merger is in the realm of gods and can only be enjoyed in the world of man, in the lower world. Divided forever, divided allegiances that nothing can bring together again.

Raquel Andueza with “Ah! Belinda” sings her love for Belinda. Perfect love oxymoron that is as clear as can be. This song of unsatisfied love, of excessive grief is a lament in the singing but is a sort of slow whirling may pole dance in the music accompanying that song. The music is what her life would be if she could love and be loved back by that Belinda, so far away and so distant. The contrast between the two is heart tearing and mind rending.

In “Hark! How the songsters of the grove” Raquel Andueza and Philippe Jaroussky sing love, in nature, in the woods, in couples and the music is a real dance that makes you trot and spring on your toes. Philippe Jaroussky is slightly darker, deeper and Raquel Andueza is slightly lighter, higher and the two can sing their duet as if they were two turtle doves in love for ever, or at least for as long as necessary to enjoy the moment. The two voices are perfect in range and clearly different so that the duet is really dynamic and avoids the peril that could have menaced them: to be two in one and undistinguishable.

Vincenzo Capezzuto then with “One charming Night” is a lascivious boy who is hoping to get his lucky night, that night when he will be able to reach the sky and to hold it long enough to call it a long embrace. That boyish voice, that pubescent tone are just what we need to think of love the first time, of desire before love, of unsatisfied yet envy, desire, lusty hunger that make him brag about what he hasn’t even experienced once yet. He speaks in the thousands and tries to make us dance along as if we were his fools.

In “Man is for the woman made” Dominique Visse in the tone and voice of a hawker in the street, or in the Covent Garden of old when flower girls and fruit sellers were peopling the place along with vegetable vendors and butchers of all types. Punch and Judy are not very far away and of course this Bartholomew Fair has its puppets and its good assertion of man and woman because man and woman are confused most of the time under disguises that the Puritan hated, just as much as the puppets, and the humoristic and sarcastic tone of the hawker is there to let us know we are lying all the time, including when we lie down in some soft bed with a lady lay or a juicy gay.

With “O let me weep” Raquel Andueza sings the sad sadness of the miserable Fairy Queen who has lost her love, whose lover has gone away on some adventure. Finally the Fairy Queen is devoted and attached to her male-asserted lover, her male-identified loss and the grief is in every syllable and in every note behind. Cry! Cry! And enjoy your crying! It is part of life and she wants to enjoy so much that she promises she will never sleep again. That Fairy Queen is kind of a cry baby but she is a narcissistic attraction to our own grief, or to our desire to experience such a deep grief because it is both inhuman and superhuman to know such deep drama. You have to be a fairy to love that much a man who has left you behind. Raquel Andueza is a perfect fairy in this dire strait between love and no-love, between remembering and forgiving.

The “Curtain Tune on a Ground” is a good closing music for that exploration of impossible love and dedicated sorrow. The rhythmic percussions are quite in the style of Henry Purcell and avoid as much as possible the polyrhythmic modern music of today and remain on one tempo, on one line and keep your feet aligned on your hands and your head. We are closing up with the tradition and we can have the bonus track and Vincenzo Capezzuto can give us his own personal interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, itself a free variation on Handel’s “Hallelujah,” though the words are not provided in the booklet: it’s a classic, man, and Leonard Cohen is our man, as is well known and we know every single word of his songs. Meet modern times and old baroque times and Vincenzo Capezzuto lends his light boyish voice to that song and music that we do remember in Cohen’s deep tones and colors, even though it must have been composed for a castrato, hence a countertenor or a male alto. Superb shortcut from one place to another, from one time to the next and even the one after the next to the one after this one.

Enjoy this experience. It is unique and after all it is some kind of vast evocation of love and particularly those loves of different shades that we can only think of and dare not even envisage in our immediate life, preferring grieving them to being engulfed in some adventure that leads to total abandon and fiery destruction.


Post Scriptum: Enjoy Leonard Cohen as a good complement, Leonard Cohen Greatest Hits 1967-2004 CD 1


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?