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Christopher Ainslie countertenor
(“Dawn, still darkness” from Jonathan Dove's Flight was as near to perfection as anything I have heard in the Wigmore Hall...
Musical Pointers 2008, Richard Tauber Prize)

Jennifer Bullock cello,gamba
Adrian Butterfield violin
Laurence Cummings harpsichord, organ
Elizabeth Kenny theorbo, lute

James Baillieu piano




In darkness let me dwell; Mourn, mourn, day is with darkness fled
If Music be the food of love
Agnus Dei from Mass in B minor BWV232; Aria: Ach, bleibe doch, mein liebstes Leben from Ascension Oratorio BWV11
Aria: Sovvente il sole from Andromeda liberata
Ombra mai fu from Serse
Furibondo spira il vento from Partenope

Auf dem Wasser zu singen; Des Fischers Liebesglück; An die Laute; Die Liebe hat gelogen
2 Rückert Lieder: Ich atmet' einen linden Duft; Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
Song of Aiyan

This evening offered two very different concerts separated by an interval. If it was hoped to impose unity of a sort, it would have been well worth trying to get on stage a piano of a type which might still have been in use around the turn of the last-but-one century.

The first half was a superbly conceived selection to show-case Christopher Ainslie's skills, his voice is beautifully steady and, of course, vibrato-free. He was supported by expert early music specialists, lovely to watch as to hear.

The string playing was stylish; Laurence Cummings switched between harpsichord and chamber organ and Elizabeth Kenny accompanied on lute and theorbo as appropriate. Wigmore Hall was ideal for hearing this music at its best, and I hope that the recording being made will surface in due course?

The Schubert/Mahler selection, plus an oddity in a Japanese dialect (which we had to take on trust) was less successful. The counter-tenor voice is, frankly, unsuitable for Mahler, and questionable for Schubert. James Baillieu has an impressive CV, but I thought him uncomfortable on this occasion, over-pedalling and rhythmically wayward accompanying Schubert's Auf dem Wasser zu singen (hear Irmgard Seefried & Gerald Moore on You-Tube !). Best of that group was the last; the grimly despairing Die Liebe hat gelogen given with compelling intensity.

The Wigmore Hall Steinway is expected to do general service which has become somehat anachronistic since the battle for HIP (historically informed performance) has been (practically) won. Early keyboard groups bring their own instruments, which sound wonderful at this renowned London centre for chamber music and song recitals. Wigmore Hall needs a fortepiano of its own?

Peter Grahame Woolf