Here is my Tuesday, March 31 Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com review of the Sunday afternoon March 29, 2009, concert by David Daniels and The English Concert, Harry Bicket conducting, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park.
Countertenor David Daniels lives up the the buzz
BY ANDREW PATNER
David Daniels is riding high. At 43 the countertenor has mastered his art in a way that matches singers of the Golden Age of Opera in their more traditional voice categories. A fine actor and a handsome, dark-bearded, even macho physical presence onstage, he has a deserved following for his opera, concert, and recital appearances, as well as his excellent recordings.
His appearance Sunday afternoon at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance was much anticipated by his many Chicago fans and did not disappoint. Singing with the 18-member English Concert and its music director Harry Bicket, a frequent operatic collaborator of Daniels, in support of their joint new disc of Bach arias and cantatas, Daniels was clearly comfortable with his musical partners and the intimacy of the Harris.
An hour of Bach followed by an hour of Handel was the agenda. Both were pleasing, but, not surprisingly, the Handel more so. Bicket's approach with Bach, especially since many other leaders and ensembles let the great composer take off his gloves in performance, is extremely delicate and well-ironed. And Daniels shines most brightly in theatrical rather than sacred scores. Still, to hear this sweet, strong voice with its impeccable control in Bach's "Schlummert ein" ("Slumber now") from the Cantata No. 82, Ich habe genug was nothing short of a privilege.
The fire went up in the Handel half. Daniels knows just how to bring dramatic roles to a concert performance, offering the right balance of impersonating his characters without overacting. Between the expressions of his voice and his face and his command of ornamentation, he tells us all that we need. In arias from Radamisto and Partenope, he showed the special interpretive skills he brings to matters of death and loss. The mad scene from Orlando was a whole opera of its own, contained in just a few minutes.
I love Bicket in the opera house. But for my ears, his Bach and Handel onstage, including orchestral works without Daniels, were both too tame and too much alike. Bassoonist Alberto Grazzi had the freedom and individuality of sound that characterizes the best of earlier music groups. The single encore, though, "Qual nave smarrita" ("Like a lost ship"), another aria from Radamisto, turned any objections into quibbles. This was perfection of both a composer's art and a singer's craft.