Tuesday, February 22, 2011

John Blow - Venus and Adonis - Pickett, New London Consort

 


 

 

 

 

Review:                                       Gramophone Editors Choice

In the case of John Blow's only opera (and lamentably one of only two real 'all-sung' dramas to emerge from England in the Restoration period), Pickett is at his most luminous. Pickett has his listener mentally prepared from the outset for the opera's solemn denouement. The noble and eloquent opening (with some minor ensemble infelicities) sets the scene in more ways than one since Pickett is not content to see the Prologue's traditional machinations undermine the cultivated John Blow expression he believes this work merits. Consequently, the introduction of Venus and Adonis emerges sumptuously from Blow's skilful preparations, notably in the beautifully sung chorus refrain "In these sweet groves" and an ethereal Act Tune of three recorders which delivers the doomed lovers to their first intimate exchanges. Catherine Bott is the most telling and sensual Venus imaginable, her singing always captivating in its tonal variety and emotional nuance. Her relationship with Adonis is never mannered but tense and simmering, and in its chilling realism allows the listener to experience the brutal psychology of an anonymous adaptation. (Story line: Venus insists that Adonis goes hunting and the former suffers incessant grief when he meets his match with an Aedalian boar.) Michael George, as Adonis, plays his part thoughtfully in the striking immediacy of the tragedy, elegantly shaping his lines with a prescient tinge of melancholy before he is led in wounded at the start of Act 3. Both he and Bott are aided in their moving valediction by a continuo realization which demonstrates an acute characterization in articulation as much as in the choice of timbre. For those who think of Dido as the only operatic achievement England could offer in the mid-baroque, a rude awakening awaits: this recording reveals Blow's opera to be a work of rare quality and pathos.

 

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