Right, we had our fun with the lively Scholl/Jaroussky concert in the Barbican in December, now for the serious stuff, Andreas Scholl singing the Purcell his admirers have wanted to hear for years. With one or two exceptions, the programme concentrated on Purcell's quieter, deeper and more reflective repertoire. One of the exceptions though was Sweeter than Roses, which is one of the few Purcell songs which has been a feature of Andreas Scholl's recitals for many years, and which reminded us of his technical wizardry and powers of expression. The remainder of the songs had little in the way of vocal acrobatics but instead were those where the apparent simplicity required clarity of voice, a technique so excellent as not to be noticeable, careful phrasing and flowing lines i.e. Andreas Scholl territory.

Eric Larrayadieu
Eric Larrayadieu

An Evening Hymn... well, yes, there was a certain amount of throat-clearing (as there was throughout the concert) and yes, he went slightly wrong in the middle (covered it well though!), but it couldn't have mattered less, as he captured the entire essence of the piece in a way seldom heard since Michael Chance at this zenith. Closing the first half with Dido's Lament When I am Laid in Earth was something of a novelty, but the well-known ethereal quality of the finest of countertenors was remarkably effective at illustrating how the sentiments expressed transcend mere gender.

Accademia Bizantina also had their moments in the sun - in fact their contribution made up about half of the concert - they played with all the flair and panache for which they are known and their infectious enthusiasm in the Chaconne from King Arthur was a delight to behold. The leader, Stefano Montanari, might have looked as though he were en route from a biker's convention, but he wielded the most glorious baroque violin it has been my pleasure to hear in a long time - his ornamentation during Fairest Isle and icy bowing during the Cold Genius Song were just two of the many highlights. For the majority of the concert, the first violins were on the left of the stage and the seconds on the right, and this arrangement was particularly effective in showing up the subtleties of Purcell's orchestration. It was also clear that the orchestra and singer worked extremely well together and there were times when, as conductor, Mr Montenari just stood still and trusted his sub-group of players and singer to do what was needed; wonderful moments.

Mr Scholl explained to us that Purcell plucked the words of O Solitude from a French poem of some 20 verses (a few lines here, a couple of phrases there) so we should not expect it to make too much sense. However, sung as it was here, it made all the sense in the world and, as did Music for a While, generated a complete stillness in the listener. Andreas Scholl finished the second half with a most delicate rendering of the piece that so captivated the Last Night of the Proms audience in 2005: the beautiful, deceptively simple Fairest Isle from King Arthur - a fitting conclusion to a beautiful, deceptively simple concert.

This programme devoted to Henry Purcell, whom Andreas Scholl sang as a student and has now finally returned to, has the feeling of a circle being squared - it has been a real gap in his recording and performing career, no doubt for practical rather than aesthetic reasons. But, in many respects, leaving this until now has allowed us to benefit from his life experience, as he brings that to his interpretation of Purcell. Perhaps the earlier youthful vigour is a little less obvious these days, more so in his lower register, but his unique, exquisitely beautiful voice, his ability to get to the very heart of a song, and to project that song straight into your head and heart, remain undiminished and unequalled. He is singing this recital, in one form or another, a great deal during this coming year; I commend it thoroughly.