Lucy Crowe joined us for two performances of Classical Women in November 2019.
★★★★★ Review in The Times from Bath MozartFest
Bath is no stranger to star singers. In the 18th century the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini drew in Europe’s prima donnas for his concert series. He would have snapped up Lucy Crowe, whose exceptional Handel and Mozart recital graced this year’s Bath Mozartfest. Her voice glittered as brilliantly as the Assembly Rooms’ crystal chandeliers, and she packed in more than enough drama to have amused those gossiping Georgians.
If Crowe’s soprano was once exquisitely pure and light, it has matured into something far more interesting. None of the beauty is lost. Nor her unshakeable technique: Crowe made the difficult athleticism of Ah! Se il crudel periglio from Mozart’s Lucio Silla look easy, ending with a mock wipe of the brow. Her coloratura is pinpoint clear; those high notes ping like stars in a night sky. Her ornamentation is imaginative and eloquent. Yet her sound is now so much richer, the colours more varied. Expression is everything.
In Handel the emotion was visceral. Crowe poured out anguish as the abandoned sorceress Alcina in Ah! mio cor; the word “sola” exhaled in desperation, “pianto” a tear-filled cry. Spiky strings scratched through to the heart. The creeping disquiet conjured in Ombre pallide, also from Alcina, left a shadow in the soul. There was some hope, at least, in a finely judged Dove sono from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.
La Nuova Musica was on exhilarating form, from agile double bass to virtuosic leader. The instrumental interludes — even the ubiquitous Allegro from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik — were wonderfully fresh. And the conductor David Bates, his gestures fluid and natural, was entirely at one with Crowe.
The superb programme explored 18th-century women who, Bates hoped, might “resonate with contemporary thinking”. At the end there were flowers for her, wine for him. With a wry look, Crowe whisked away his bottle and handed him her bouquet. Equality in action
Listen to BBC Radio 3 In Tune from Monday 11 November with Lucy Crowe, David Bates and musicians from LNM performing extracts from Handel’s Giulio Cesare
Watch Classic FM’s video of the rehearsal at St John’s Smith Square