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Reviews THE ENGLISH CONCERT
 
Bachtrack 27/03/2018: Bicket and The English Concert leave Carnegie Hall thrilled
The English Concert’s show at Carnegie Hall was a concert performance: we were left with Handel’s glorious music and some glorious singing.
What a great band The English Concert is, and what a wise leader Harry Bicket is. Nary a scratchy violin nor an off-key trumpet; only bright, alert playing with judicious embellishments and a superb sense of drama. One regretted the cuts of whole arias, but coming in at over three hours with intermissions, there was plenty of Handel, splendidly performed.  Robert Levine - Review in full

Newyorkclassicalreview 26/03/2018: A Handel afternoon to remember with English Concert’s “Rinaldo”
First, the bad news: one will have to wait until April of next year to hear the English Concert and conductor Harry Bicket bring another Handel opera to Carnegie Hall. And that is indeed unfortunate, because their Sunday performance of Rinaldo was so wonderful that the pain of its concluding was nearly as acute as the pleasure of its hearing.
The Concert’s Handel performances have been among the best classical music experiences over the past several years, and so one entered the hall Sunday afternoon with a sense of anticipation. What the performers delivered vastly exceeded that.
… Here, Armida’s aria “Vo’far guerra” is interspersed with a virtuosic harpsichord solo. This added tremendous art to her desire for war, especially in Tom Foster’s astonishing performance. His playing was fleet, liquid, and full of panache with some exciting harmonic excursions. It was so fine that, as the audience applauded the whole performance at the end of the act, so did the Concert members applaud Foster.
Another exceptional instrumental moment was the Act I scene in a garden. As Almirena sings “Augelleti,” birds chirp around her, and one of them breaks into simply magical song. This was played by recordist Tabea Debus, and was so full of beauty and deep, natural musicality that one listened in more than a little awe. So fine was the instrumental playing, that in Rinaldo’s aria “Or la tromba,” one’s attention was drawn away from Davies’ excellent singing to Mark Bennett’s trumpet playing. His sound was brilliant and on the valveless version his intonation was perfect and his trills were jaw-dropping.
… the orchestral playing to introduce “Ah, crudel,” was so expressive that one almost wanted a delay before Armida’s entrance. But of course that turned out to be yet another ravishing moment. George Grella – Review in full

NYTimes 26/03/2018: Handel’s ‘Rinaldo,’ in Concert and Profoundly Authentic
The place was packed for a concert performance of Handel’s opera “Rinaldo.” It was the latest in a series of nearly annual Handel performances at Carnegie by Harry Bicket and his English Concert ensemble; since 2013, this has become a beloved ritual for many.…by embracing every element of this work and performing it so sensitively, the musicians made the opera’s humanity and greatness come through. Authenticity matters, more than ever.  Anthony Tommasini - Review in full

Financial Times 15/03/2018: Rinaldo, Barbican, London — ludicrous plot, lovely music
A concert performance of Handel’s opera featured fine singing and playing -
There was a full house for this latest instalment in the English Concert’s annual series of Handel operas. … The English Concert and Harry Bicket, its artistic director, are as lively as any of the period bands. Bicket’s Handel sits satisfyingly midway between the delicate Baroque playing of some and gutsy, driving rhythms at the opposite extreme. Richard Fairman - Review in full

Bachtrack 14/03/2018 : Handel’s calling card Rinaldo still opening doors three centuries on
…The English Concert was alert and stylish throughout, with notable contributions from the recorders in Armelina’s Arcadian “Augelletti”, and oboe and bassoon in Armida’s Act Two “Ah crudel”. The big harpsichord ritornelli in Armida’s “Vo’ far guerra” that closes Act Two were stunningly dispatched by Tom Foster, and got the biggest cheer of the night. Roy Westbrook - Review in full

OperaWire 14/03/2018 :: Rinaldo: Harry Bicket’s Interpretation brings Harry Potter’s Magic to Madrid    
Kings of it All - Top laurels of the performance, however, went to Harry Bicket and the English Concert. …, this is one of the world’s leading exponents of baroque music and every member of this noticeably mixed age ensemble played their original instruments with concerto soloist avidity. Contrabass virtuoso Christine Sticher, viola da gamba guru Joseph Crouch and bassoon wizard Alberto Grazzi were particularly impressive. Instrumental sections such as the Christian march and battaglia sinfonia were “al trionfo” with real “furore” in the passionate playing. Bicket’s overall reading tended to be more measured elegance than cheap-effect ostentation, but there were still plenty of fireworks, either royal or rube, when required. Ole’s all around. Jonathan Sutherland - Article

Operatoday.com 14/03/2018 : Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall
….Bicket’s direction was not overly demonstrative but small gestures made their mark and there was telling control of cadential hiatuses and resolutions. Understandably, in the light of the terrific instrumental playing we enjoyed, Bicket simply allowed his musicians to demonstrate their excellence, none more so than harpsichordist Tom Foster whose flamboyant rendition of the breath-taking virtuosic improvisatory interludes within Armida’s vengeful war-mongering at the close of Act 2 received perhaps the loudest applause of the evening.  Claire Seymour - Article

Classicalsource 13/03/2018 : Handel’s Rinaldo at Barbican Hall – Harry Bicket directs The English Concert with Iestyn Davies, Joélle Harvey, Jane Archibald & Sasha Cooke
…. the English Concert conjured the drama out of the music vividly under Henry Bicket’s fastidious direction. A broad, dignified pace to the Overture set an almost solemn tone for the story of the Christian knights, Rinaldo and Goffredo’s siege of Jerusalem set during the First Crusade. Instrumental support in the succession of arias thereafter was astute, ….. This was probably the most persuasive and animated Handel opera performance that the English Concert has given at the Barbican to date, even compared with the other magic opera, Orlando, in 2016, so here’s hoping that this is a tradition to which Handelians may continue to look forward. Curtis Rogers - Article

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