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Friday, November 13, 2020

A Musicall Banquet

From the Classical Vault Dept.: Who celebrates a nineteenth anniversary? That’s a date calling for a gift of bronze, which hardly applies to the occasion I’m saluting below. It’s a review of one of the first concerts I attended after the tragedy of the preceding month, and, as such, was all the more comforting. And it has another melancholy edge, as lutenist Karl-Ernst Schroeder died two years after this performance at the age of 45. The review was written for – and appeared on – the now-defunct


TWO DAYS BEFORE HIS DEBUT at Weill Recital Hall in New York, countertenor Andreas Scholl presented the same program at Union College’s acoustically superb Memorial Chapel. That’s a nice characteristic of the long-running concert series at this hall: it attracts artists who want to trial-run what they’ll do in Manhattan. Scholl’s poised, polished Schenectady performance promised a wonderful time for his downstate fans.

Andreas Scholl and Karl-Ernst Schroeder
The pairing of Scholl’s voice, justly praised for its purity of tone, with the sound of a lute gave an added intimacy to this program of 17th-century lute songs. Holborne’s “My heavy sprite” set an easy tempo that characterized most of the selections, all of which explored love as realized through heartbreak or lust. Campion’s “My Sweetest Lesbia” showed Scholl’s skill at rendering a strophic song, with each of the three stanzas given a slightly different – and appropriate – interpretive twist.

Similarly, he knows how to effectively touch a lyric sequence with portamento to underscore its sadness, or with a gentle edge of syncopation when the intent is more brazen. He even took a broadly comic approach in Campion’s “I care not for these Ladies,” juicing the recurring phrase “forsooth, let go!” with exaggerated emotion, still nicely effective.

Songs by Dowland dominated the program, and even the more familiar laments like “Flow my tears” had a compelling freshness. By the time we reached his “In darkness let me dwell,” the unresolved harmony that ends the song sounded all the more trenchant echoing in the hall.

The concert’s second half was drawn from Robert (son of John) Dowland’s 1610 collection “A Musicall Banquet,” adding more musical variety with Spanish and Italian songs. The anonymous “Vuestros ojos tienen d’Amor,” for example, with its text of sardonic denouncement, had a contrastingly rhythmic accompaniment, nicely played by lutenist Karl-Ernst Schroeder.

Schroeder also played a solo each half of the concert. The first, a Dowland galliard, needed a bit more authority to be effective, but he proved himself later with a set of multi-voiced dances by Galilei.

Following the concert’s gentle finale (“O Bella più,” anon.), Scholl and Schroeder encored with “The Water is Wide,” maintaining the easygoing, affecting tone. That’s difficult to pull off in a recital, and all the more of a testament to the skill of these artists.

Andreas Scholl, countertenor
Karl-Ernst Schroeder, lute

Union College Memorial Chapel, Schenectady, NY
Nov. 14, 2001, 8 PM, November 2001

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