Classical music’s unremitting progress toward the mainstream is not the one-sided fait accompli one might imagine, yet within this commercially driven exercise there remains room for exceptional quality and artistic sincerity. That, however, requires the remarkable talents of the world’s leading and most popular countertenor Andreas Scholl, he of the glacially clear, heartrendingly emotive, shimmering voice, to tackle the British and American folk pantheon and produce such transcendent results. This commercial complicity wouldn’t work as well if it weren’t for Scholl’s unashamed love of popular music, and intentionally populist agenda, and Craig Leon’s immaculate record as producer of the likes of Blondie and The Ramones, to buoy proceedings here. Backed by the silky Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and renowned lutist Edin Karamazov and glorious harp of Stacy Shames, Scholl soars in the most breathtaking fashion.
Inspired by legendary countertenor Alfred Deller’s earlier versions of this repertoire, and jazz bassist Charlie Haden’s own expert folk interpretations, Scholl and Leon have sought to elevate these simple themes and sentiments to level of the international concert hall. ‘Charming Beauty Bright’ emphasizes the folk phrasing of the instrumental arrangement, with a banjo sound and striding harpsichord against Scholl’s expertly slurred phrases. With tear jerking versions of ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ and the heart stopping ache of ‘Annie Laurie’, Scholl not only demonstrates that popular repertoire can be presented to the widest possible audience and retain its dignity, but it can also produce the simply stunning results herein.
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