M.L. Rantala, Hyde Park Herald
March 15, 2012
Iestyn Davies is a young British countertenor who has just made his Lyric Opera debut in Handel’s “Rinaldo.” He and the acclaimed British conductor Harry Bicket took time off from their Lyric duties to make a trip to Hyde Park Friday night to perform with the period instrument ensemble Baroque Band at the Hyde Park Union Church.
From the very opening moments of the concert, you knew you were in the presence of greatness. Davies has a glorious voice: full, clear, effective, one that immediately grabs you and never lets go. He sings with a remarkable ability to conjure up the perfect mood and he has a natural ability to sing with both musicality and precision.
The all-Handel evening opened with “Oh Lord Whose Mercies Numberless” from “Saul”. Davies’s voice was gleaming and his easy, natural way with ornaments is striking. This was followed by the up-tempo “Their Land Brought Forth Frogs” from “Israel in Egypt” where both Davies and Bicket, conducting from the harpsichord, brought forth great energy.
“The Peasant Tastes the Sweets of Life” from “Joseph and his Brethren” highlighted Davies bell-like tone, and the orchestra moved from slow shine to powerful rapid fire on the turn of a dime.
Strangely enough, the audience seemed more afraid to clap at the wrong time rather than spontaneously show their appreciation and it wasn’t until after the third number that they finally applauded. But when they did, it was a thunderous sound in itself, and you knew that the performers and their listeners had fully connected.
There was taut phrasing and good speed without loss of clarity in Davies’s approach to “Up the Dreadful Steep Ascending” from “Jepthha”.
The first half of the concert closed with three excerpts from “Semele”. Notable was the fine punctuation from Bicket at the harpsichord and Craig Trompeter on cello. It was also pleasing to hear Baroque Band artistic director Garry Clarke, who normally conducts, serving as a splendid first violinist. The music found Davies singing with heartfelt emotion as well as whirling sweetness.
After the intermission, Lisette Keilson and Patrick O’Malley joined the band, bringing a pleasing, round sound with their recorders. Davies caressed the music, even at its most complex places.
The concert closed with three excerpts from “Partenope”. Whether singing of heartbreak or issuing challenges, Davies knew how to make the music come to life. After more thunderous applause accentuated with loud foot stomping, the already generous concert continued with a splendid encore, “Un zeffivo spivo” from “Rodelinda”.