The Wigmore Hall, London
Handel – Acis and Galatea
“Pathos, bathos and balmy breezes ebb and flow in Handel’s “little opera” of 1718, Acis and Galatea. Composed for performance on a terrace at the Duke of Chandos’s estate, it mirrors the delicious artifice of the 18th-century garden. The duke had engaged a Huguenot hydraulic engineer to design his gardens. How perfect, then, to commission an entertainment in which a semi-divine nymph transforms her murdered lover into a fountain.
In keeping with the duke’s spendthrift aesthetics, David Bates and La Nuova Musica engaged the parfumier Sarah McCartney to decorate their performance with scents grassy, musky and, for the lustful giant Polyphemus, as acrid as the aftershave of a loan shark on the pull. The olfactory novelty wasn’t necessary in a reading that sparkled from the giddy overture to the consoling final chorus.
Directing from the harpsichord, Bates identified every detail that lovers of this work may have noticed on previous listening, bringing them to the fore, weaving them back into the texture, then pulling out another golden thread.
Led by Bojan Cicic, the orchestra produced a dizzying variety of dynamics and articulation: crisp, tender, witty, flirtatious and audacious. There were bold innovations (three cellos harmonising a recitative), honeyed obbligato solos from the oboist Leo Duarte and the recorder player Sarah Humphrys and tempos that skittered and swung seductively.
Most impressive was the pin-drop silence at the death of Ed Lyon’s virile, ardent, immaculately sung Acis. This was a beautifully cast consort performance, as elegantly shaped in the five-part chorus Wretched lovers as it was in the arias.
Stepping in for Katherine Manley, Augusta Hebbert sang Galatea’s arias with an unruffled, creamy tone and opulent decorations. The tenors Rupert Charlesworth and Nicholas Scott charmed as pragmatic Damon and foppish Coridon, while Christopher Purves was magnetic as the brutish, love-sick, furious Polyphemus.”
“……..The opening Sinfonia set the template for the rest of the evening: daringly breakneck speeds with more than a dash of mischief. The twinkly-eyed sense of fun engendered by the smiling instrumentalists was quickly taken up by a top cast of singers: tenor Ed Lyon as Acis, soprano Augusta Hebbert (replacing an indisposed Katherine Manley) as Galatea, bass Christopher Purves as the giant Polyphemus, and tenors Rupert Charlesworth and Nicholas Scott as Damon and Corridon.
Each soloist contributed dazzling decorations to their da capo arias, particularly Lyon, who hung what seemed to be endless strings of semiquavers over the repeat in Love sounds th’alarm as he resolved to do battle with the giant who had assaulted his Galatea. Purves was hilariously macho as Polyphemus, rolling up his sleeves, unbuttoning his shirt and leering across the stage at Galatea while transforming the lumbering O ruddier than the cherry into a nimble showstopper. Damon offers virtuosic words of caution to Acis about the wisdom of taking on a dangerous tyrant, but it’s too late: the giant kills poor Acis and the whole bucolic idyll turns into a lament for lost love. This would have been the moment that a harsher fragrance could have made its mark but I could not detect any change in the air. No matter: singing and playing of this quality have a heady perfume all their own……..” Read the whole review
“………Ed Lyon sang Acis, Even by the standards we’re used to hearing from him, this was a delicious performance. He was singing with evident relish, his ornate lines shaped with panache, his delivery natural and direct. His face is full of character. Makeup and costume would almost have got in the way, for this Acis felt like a real person. The duet “Happy We!” positively glowed. After that, high point, Polyphemus (Christopher Purves) dominates proceedings, but Lyon’s Acis fights back. The trio “The flocks shall leave the mountain” was enunciated with the sharp thrusts of battle. When Acis died, Lyon’s voice descended into haunting diminuendo – very moving.
Nonetheless, Christopher Purves did come near stealing the show. He, too, has a voice that exudes personality, so his Polyphemus, though a fanciful villain, was witty, even lovable. “I rage, I melt, I burn,”,Purves sang, his chest puffed up in mock swagger. Billows of scent heralded his “O ruddier than the cherry.”. Because the smells were subtle rather than oppressive, one paid attention when they emanated an intriguing mix of sulphur, earth and water mint. In a staged performance, we might encounter smoke and such effects. Here, we visualized using our imaginations.
Galatea was sung by Augusta Hebbert, substituting at short notice for Katherine Manley. Hebbert has been singing with La Nuova Musica for several years, so she fitted in seamlessly. By the end of the evening, when Galatea is bereft and the masque revolves around her, Hebbert showed her mettle: a very lovely “Heart the seat of soft delight” ,her voice reflecting the characteristic swaying between crescendo and diminuendo that gives Acis and Galatea such charm. This rhythm lends itself to dance. Rupert Charlesworth sang Damon and Nicholas Scott sang Coridon.
When the Royal Opera House did Acis and Galatea with Christopher Hogwood some years ago, the singers were shadowed by dancers. No such resources at St John’s Smith Square, but La Nuova Musica played with such vivacity that one could dream dance. Neither did the absence of a formal chorus make much difference. Singers and orchestra interacted so well that the music communicated with freshness and conviction. At St John’s Smith Square, you’re so close to the musicians that you feel part of the proceedings. Particularly good playing from the leader of the violins and from the oboist whose part feels even bigger in what appears to have been somewhat reduced instrumentation. The oboe leads, but is supported by recorder, also doubling piuccolo to create the image of a shepherd’s pipe………” Read the whole review
Classical-iconoclast.blogspot.co.uk – 4 November 2015
San Pietro, Perugia – Sagra Musica Umbria
Handel – Dixit Dominus, Bach – Motets
Ancient and profound emotions in the Basilica of St. Peter
The 70th edition of the Sagra Musical Umbra opens to the joyous notes of “La Nuova Musica”.
“Yesterday at nine in the evening there was a very moving opening at the SAGRA MUSICALE UMBRA in the Basilica of St. Peters. This event, with all the fantasy, the enthusiasm and the incredibly high professional quality of the vocal and instrumental ensemble ” La Nuova Musica” was conducted by DAVID BATES. There was Handel’s firery psalm “Dixit Dominus” which had been composed originally in Rome in the first years of the 18th century and then some of Bach’s motets which also, in some cases, were based on the book of psalms.
According to Pier Paolo Pasolini the “Siciliana” from Bach’s violin solo is “pure loving without love, almost an expression of the hermaphrodite” !
In this delicate mood of meditative melancholy the 70th edition of the Sagra Musicale Umbra opened in the traditional basilica of San Pietro, a “Bethlehem” for Perugia’s music.
This was an unusual way of opening the greatest musical manifestation of the region, with a small choral and instrumental ensemble, La Nuova Musica from London, lined up on the steps of the transept, and so it announced a very specific type of approach.
Given that everything that comes from London “has to be good” the body language of the young conductor, David Bates – a sort of spiralling hurricane flowed through his arms and hands – revealed itself to be extremely communicative. Bach and Handel inaugurated the event in the basilica which was filled with an audience that was only too happy to be captivated and even amused.
In the first part of the evening, a collection of Bach motets – some of them, the most Lutheran ever to be composed, requiring complex listening – were interspersed with instrumental solos. We heard the already mentioned “Siciliana” played in a philological way by Bojan Cicic, a prelude to the suite in G major for cello interpreted by Jonathan Rees and an aria from the Fourth Chord by the whole ensemble. The four motets, amongst which the implacable “Singet dem Herrn “ unfolded along almost joyful lines, with accentuated rhythm and a definite propensity to follow Bates’ required expressiveness. The twelve accomplished singers responded by opening to cover a wide expanse of timbre often with rich vibrating vocal strength.
All this gave extraordinary warmth and good humour to the Bach, and was the direct consequence of Bate’s particular choice, he is, as we know, a lover of Italian Baroque from Monteverdi to Cavalli. This choice was further underlined, in the second part of the evening, with the Roman Haendel and a particularly wild and gritty signature to the Dixit Dominus.
We remember the importance of those three years that Handel spent among the cassocks of the capitoline cardinals. How as a young Saxon musician, he was determined to make his way through the difficult Italian music market, and ready to challenge as a Lutheran and a German his rivals on their own home ground.
With surprising perfection in the end – Italian full blooded passion that reaches just the right level, and is mixed with a sort of “savage” spirit- this burning psalm allowed Haendel to appear before his audience, the roman curia, with all the aggressiveness of a modern day rock star!
With overwhelming rhythmic results, a sort of “hard” frenetic pulse, the Davidic text was endowed with ferocious strength and righteous indignation. The singers, the particularly shrill almost Wagnerian sopranos especially, did not hold back from the agitation that Bates was demanding, and perhaps with too much youthful energy he banged rather hard on “Tu es sacerdos” almost turning it into a parody. After the “Conquassabit” that reminded one of a real Zaloti march, two female voices in the “De torrente” brought back to life all the sensual and the carnal that we can always find in Haendel’s music. This was preparation for a triumphant “Gloria Patri” played at supersonic speed to sure and utterly convincing applause.”
Il Giornale dell’Umbria – 13 September 2015
Spitalfields Music Summer Festival 2015
Leçons de ténèbres
“…….The performance featured La Nuova Musica, an ambitious and relatively new Baroque ensemble, joined by two of Britain’s top sopranos. It was a pleasure to see Lucy Crowe, who recently performed in David McVicar’s Carmen at Glyndebourne, in this intimate, novel setting. Singing the first of the three Leçons, Crowe’s acclaim as an international opera star was evident in her command of dynamics and characterisation; the purity of her higher register was offset by the tormented, near faltering effect she produced in the lower passages.
Known now primarily as a master of harpsichord composition, Couperin was a famous pedant when it came to ornamentation, meticulously specifying in his scores what was usually left to the discretion of the performer. Crowe’s technique, which could achieve definition between notes in the closest of runs, was perfectly suited to the composer’s more mannered flights.
Singing the more interesting of the two solo Leçons, Elizabeth Watts’s wonderfully liquid, unforced tone highlighted the best of Couperin’s writing, and the singer could bring aggression to the more psalmic passages. The final of the three Leçons, which brings both sopranos together, is rightly admired, and the evening reached its peak when Crowe and Watts’s voices flickered in harmony during one of the composer’s extended flourishes.
La Nuova Musica’s historically accurate accompaniment, comprised of a viol and arch-lute with founder David Bates at the organ, was well judged, producing crisp, confidential sound. But to emphasise the secular aspect of the music (and also perhaps to pad out what would otherwise amount to only 40 minutes of music) La Nuova Musica interspersed Couperin’s pieces with trio sonatas by the French theorist and self-taught composer Sébastien de Brossard. These were charming but unnecessary. The chance to see such a high calibre of singers, stripped of the sumptuous trappings of international opera halls or country house festivals, was enough.
Jonathan McAloon – 9 Jun 2015
“Nostalgia is not what it used to be, goes the joke. Nor is lamentation. François Couperin composed nine Leçons de Tenebres in 1714, great chunks of the prophet Jeremiah for voice and the sparest of accompaniment, intended to focus the mind in the lead-up to Easter.
Only the first three survive, the ones for Holy Wednesday, and while you can only imagine what excesses of grief and despair were meant to be sung on Thursday and Friday, what’s left certainly packs a powerful punch.
It’s also about 45 minutes long, which can be scheduled before or after supper – at least that seemed to be the idea offered by the Spitalfields Festival on an unholy Monday in Shoreditch.
David Bates, the director and founder of La Nuova Musica, made two astute decisions in this intense and intensely rewarding performance. First, he separated each Leçon with palate-cleansing instrumental music from Sebastian de Brossard, stylishly done, allowing some respite from the many and various torments of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem. Secondly, in Lucy Crowe and Elizabeth Watts, he fielded two sopranos with voices far from the milky sound much loved by today’s early-music gurus.
The result, in the relatively stygian gloom of the Village Underground, was much more than sober devotional. Crowe – brilliantly precise of pitch, superbly dramatic in expression and virtuoically varied in her dynamics – brought the focus of a baroque tragedienne to the opening Leçon. Watts, singing the second set with a fuller, not always securely sustained, tone, was more histrionic, to the extent that the poise and focus of the music felt overwhelmed.
The final extant Leçon saw the sopranos come together, the interlocking of the two voices less seraphic than raw and dissonant, yet the sum effect was exhilarating as well as despairing. Couperin certainly knew how to write a good old whinge.
Neil Fisher – 11 June 2015
Israel In Egypt
“Although there was certainly wonderful energy and momentum – not least in the continuous succession of choruses in Part One describing the plagues in Egypt – Bates and his musicians were constantly alive to the dramatic details of Handel’s setting […] Bates’ approach was consistency, successfully sustaining drive and élan, and enthralling us as a result. Bates also brought out a range of colours from the chorus and orchestra […] rare and impressive combination of technical accomplishment and vigorous inspiration in this interpretation overall. If only all Handel performances were this engaging.’
Curtis Rogers – 7 June 2015
‘Using just 20 singers, all young adults with mainly men on the alto line, and an orchestra of 26, David Bates took advantage of these smaller forces to get a higher degree of control in the music. This ensured that all of Handel’s brilliant depictions of the plagues were vividly done. There was a sense that each vocal or choral timbre, colour or texture was taken to its ultimate. Accented notes were crisply firm, legatos were very smooth, attack was vividly brilliant and the quietly sustained choral passages were very intense […] Handel used his full armoury of tricks in this work, and David Bates’ eye for detail ensured that none of them were missed and all registered brilliantly […] It was clear that David Bates and all his performers drew intense satisfaction and enjoyment from this attention to detail. The result was very involving, with a superb sense of élan.’
***** Robert Hugill – Friday, 5 June 2015
An interview which our artistic director David Bates did with with Caiti Grove for Country and Town House Magazine
” the duets were gorgeous and transfixing and the quality of the singing was largely excellent throughout an accomplished performance.”
Matthew Stadlen – 5th June 2015
The Times March 2014
“If anyone can be relied on to make Baroque music sound newly hatched, it’s the aptly named ensemble La Nuova Musica. They dust out the tiniest corners and crannies of phrasing and embellish the music so that it sounds more dizzy with life than you’ve ever heard it.”
Hilary Finch of The Times reviews our recital with Tim Mead (countertenor) and Bojan Cicic (violin) in the London Handel Festival
L’Issipile at Wigmore Hall achieves critical acclaim
La Nuova Musica’s debut concert at Wigmore Hall, a ground-breaking performance of Conti L’Issipile (1732), received universal critical acclaim.
“From La Nuova Musica and David Bates [L’Issipile] got the best possible revival… That a long evening literally flew by was thanks both to these stunning performances and to the brilliance with which Bates marshalled his forces, letting each instrument sing out in high definition. No show-stopping aria, but much Handelian bewitchment; will they now stage it? Why not?”
*****Michael Church, The Independent
“A knock-out performance… Bates and La Nuova Musica go from
strength to strength.”
**** Tim Ashley, The Guardian
“This outstanding and utterly absorbing performance by La Nuova Musica and a stellar set of soloists made for a thrilling musical evening… The fourteen instrumentalists, led from the harpsichord by founder and director David Bates, produced playing of fleetness, vivacity and charm. The Sinfonia epitomised the perfectly synchronised panache of the strings’ Italianate lines, and the striking contrasts of dynamics suggested the surprising twists and turns of the drama to follow… Concert performance this may have been, but the drama was transfixing. The three hours whizzed by.”
Claire Seymour, Opera Today
“Francesco Bartolomeo Conti’s L’Issipile really does need, not just “the four greatest singers in the world” as Caruso famously remarked about the requirements for Trovatore, but six of the greatest exponents of the baroque singing style – not to mention a first rate band under exacting yet sympathetic direction. We got all of that, so much so that the near-standing ovation came as no surprise.”
***** Melanie Eskenazi, MusicOMH
Reviews for LNM Recordings
A Royal Trio
**** “exceptionally well thought out … Zazzo [is] in glorious voice throughout.”
*** “[Zazzo] has brought a wonderful and unusual collection of music together here. Exploring beyond the usual Handel standards, he finds some exceptional arias, both from the composer’s own lesser-known works (try Admeto for exquisite surprise after surprise) and those of his rivals. David Bates and La Nuova Musica offer deft support, at their best in the orchestral overtures and sinfonias where they can stretch their stylistic legs…”
***** “The results provide us with a fascinating insight into the musical world of the London opera house in the 1720’s and help to provide a more balanced view of Handel’s work … Lawrence Zazzo and David Bates have some up with something a little more imaginative, and give us a wide selection of styles from the simply elegant to the bravura. Zazzo is on peak form and combines the requisite virtuoso fireworks with an elegant sense of line (very necessary in the Bononcini), and all with a lovely warm tone. He is well supported by David Bates and La Nuova Musica, who give stylish support and provide a lovely involving performance. This is certainly one of those discs which I will come back to.”
“as Lawrence Zazzo and David Bates’s superbly responsive period band confirm, the two Italians were were skilled operatic professionals whose best numbers could easily pass for Handel … A natural theatre animal, Zazzo ‘lives’ each phase of the grieving accompanied recitative, always alive to the sound and meaning of the words, and phrases and colours eloquently in the aria that follows … I enjoyed this snapshot of London’s operatic life almost without reservation. Zazzo and the players – not least the fabulous horns – have all the boldness and virtuoso panache one could wish for in the extrovert arias”
Richard Wigmore – Gramophone, November 2014
“an operatic power house in London which, along with Lawrence
Zazzo’s genius as a countertenor, is the inspiration for this CD. Indeed, Zazzo’s genius as a countertenor are immediately displayed with his vigorous interpretation of Handel’s ‘Rompo I lacci’ from Flavio … Each piece showcases the sheer skill of Lawrence Zazzo and the demands placed on his voice.”
**** “[Zazzo gives] committed and dramatically excellent renditions of these roles. The surround sound is outstanding, and the production values rank with harmonia mundi’s best, which is always considerable.”
“This is an exceptionally interesting and well researched release … The playing is superb throughout”
Alastair Harper – Early Music Review, December 2014
“Without the harrowing visual element one can more easily appreciate how intensely moving these cantatas are in their own right. Sacrifice may be the theme but sensuality predominates. Beautiful, cleanly etched singing and playing”
Richard Morrison – The Times, 26th July 2014
**** “Bates, one of baroque music’s rising stars, presents three fine 17th-century sacred pieces. First there’s the delicious expressivity of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Le Reniement de Saint Pierre and Sacrificium Abrahae, then the climax is a dramatic reading of Giacomo Carissimi’s oratorio Historia di Jephte. The effect of Bates’s performance is immediate, his relish of the agonising clashing harmonies in the lamenting final chorus irresistible.”
Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times, 31st August 2014
“A feast for those who love French baroque music … Recorded sound beautifully captures the warm acoustics of the venues, and profuse program notes and complete texts add to this outstanding issue.”
“The recording itself has the quality of a live performance. Crucially, Bates brings to the fore the dramatic qualities of each oratio … Bates always keeps a sense of pace in the long lines of this music, gloriously in the finale of Charpentier’s La Reniement de Saint Pierre. The ensemble singing is unconstrained and nothing short of radiant, and the de Brossard instrumental pieces offer both balance and the instrumentalists of La Nuova Musica the chance to bring colour and vibrancy to the record.”
Tim Woodall, Early Music Today, September – November 2014
“The soft-edged clarity of this smoothly sonorous recording is a tasteful foil to the high levels of emotion, definitely and effectively conveyed by an excellent cast.”
Rebecca Tavener, Choir & Organ Magazine, September – October 2014
“A neat idea this … Sophie Junker is…strikingly powerful. This is a disc of much promise from a generation of British Baroque performing talent.”
Lindsay Kemp – Gramophone Awards Issue, September 2014
“beautifully performed … All three pieces…are a pleasure to hear, performed as they are by skilled and experienced members of this excellent ensemble … The line-up of singers here is impressive and gives all the colour and drama needed … Charpentier and Carissimi have established reputations to which this lovely issue simply adds lustre. Buy this, sit back and enjoy.”
“Youthful voices and transparent instrumental textures capture both the intimacy and the immediacy of the music … felicitously played and expressively shaded by this fine team of players.”
Kate Bolton – BBC Music Magazine, November 2014
The Times December 2013
Passion, energy and enthusiasm go a long way with me. There was much more besides in this Spitalfields Music Winter Festival concert by the American countertenor Lawrence Zazzo and David Bates’s periodinstrument group La Nuova Musica. The overwhelming impression, however, was of performers so clearly enjoying their repertoire – Handel and his older contemporaries Corelli, Ariosti and Bononcini – that only the congenitally churlish would resist being wafted along on their cloud of exuberance. ****
Richard Morrison The Times reviews The Royal Trio / Lawrence
Zazzo at the Spitalfields Winter Festival
The Guardian December 2013
A match made in Handel heaven [Larry] Zazzo and [David] Bates work uncommonly well together. Both
are enthusiasts, conveying tangible glee in what they do… La Nuova Musica played with a sensuous immediacy that was utterly beguiling…Bates [was] imperious of gesture… A treat from start to finish.” *****
Tim Ashley The Guardian reviews The Royal Trio / Lawrence
Zazzo at the Spitalfields Winter Festival
Classicalsource.com, March 2013
…rewarding and stimulating…the vocal virtuosity required was flawlessly realised… rarely can such moralising have been so enchanting!
Curtis Rogers reviews Handel Il Trionfo del Tempo at the London Handel Festival
Bachtrack.com, March 2013
…the hall erupted in deserved applause from a moved but joyful andmost privileged audience.
David Fay reviews Bach St John Passion at St George’s, Bristol
The Times, January 2013
That sense of the composer’s adaptability was intensified by Bates and La Nuova Musica’s zesty approach, particularly in the Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C and the lovely C minor Concerto for violin and oboe. Rhythms had a French, balletic twist; the quality of the string sound was earthy and Italianate. As conductor-cum- harpsichordist, the flamboyant Bates cuts a Wodehousian figure, but there’s no artifice or pretence in the directness of expression that he is aiming for.
Neil Fisher reviews BACH UNWRAPPED at Kings Place.
venue.co.uk, November 2012
…among today’s new generation early music ensembles, few know how to bewitch as potently as David Bates’ La Nuova Musica. Their pre-Christmas Messiah at St George’s last year was as fresh as it was revelatory, and they set the bar high for this rematch. To judge by the cheers it was a bar cleared without breaking sweat…
Paul Riley reviews ACIS & GALATEA at St George’s, Bristol
Bachtrack.com, November 2012
…this was an utterly delightful performance of a gem of a piece…
David Fay reviews ACIS & GALATEA at St George’s, Bristol
Reviews | La Nuova Musica http://lanuovamusica.co.uk/reviews/
The Independent, June 2012
Directing from the organ, with instrumental interpolations drawn from Sebastien de Brossard’s violin music (soloist Bojan Cicic), David Bates savoured slow tempi and luxuriant textures. Among the soloists Mark Chaundy’s fiery Jephthah and Simon Wall’s mellifluous Abraham were outstanding. The overlapping dissonances of “In carmine doloris” were dizzying in the generous acoustic of ShoreditchTown Hall, underpinned by the baleful seam of cello, theorbos, lirone, organ and harpsichord.
Anna Picard reviews SACRIFICES at the Spitalfields Festival
Evening Standard, June 2012
A tiny band of musicians, directed by David Bates, provided subtle orchestral colour of often heartbreaking poignancy while seven singers doubled as soloists and chorus. The small-scale forces lacked nothing in pathos, the acoustic of Shoreditch Town Hall resonant enough to fill out the sound without swamping it. On purely musical terms this was often exquisite…
Nick Kimberley reviews SACRIFICES at the Spitalfields Festival
venue.co.uk, December 2011
With the band living every moment as if lives depended on it (how often does your ear usually find itself drawn to the cellos in Messiah?), and most of the audience literally on the edge of their seats, not merely listening but taking part vicariously, the raucous standing ovation at the end was pretty much guaranteed.
Paul Riley reviews Handel Messiah at St George’s, Bristol
The Guardian, December 2011
With the energy level generally extremely high, and the band ripping into the accented rhythms in the bass’s Why do the nations…? and the tenor’s Thou shalt break them, small was not just beautiful but absolutely compelling.
Martin Kettle reviews Handel Messiah at the Spitalfields Winter Festival
The Times, December 2011
Thanks to the inspired direction of David Bates this was to be musicmaking of an undogmatic, long-pondered intelligence, generously yet undistractingly ornamented, and with the small band minutely sensitive to its interplay with the human voice.
Hilary Finch reviews Handel Messiah at the Spitalfields Winter Festival