Andreas Scholl / Tamar Halperin

Twilight People

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Twilight People marks a new label, the reinvented Modern Recordings, and a new sound for the famed countertenor Andreas Scholl. The sheer beauty of his voice is undimmed, but perhaps it is less flexible in the acrobatics of Baroque opera than it was formerly. Whatever the case, he devises a recital here that, to paraphrase James Thurber, is very much like nothing anyone has ever seen before. As increasingly often, he is teamed with pianist Tamar Halperin, to whom he is married. The Twilight People title comes from an included song by Ralph Vaughan Williams, but also from songs that refer to twilight in one way or another, from a more general shadowy mood, and the music's residence in spaces between art song and folk music. There are sophisticated treatments of folk songs (many of them in English, where Scholl excels), and art songs that take inspiration from folk music, like Berg's setting of Heinrich Heine, Vielgeliebte schöne Frau. Everything is in pretty much the same tempo and mood, which some will find hypnotic and deeply spiritual, while others may hope for a bit of contrast. Contrast comes, not in the form of upbeat music, but in a full-fledged turn to the spiritual at the end in the form of an oud song by composer Joseph Tawadros, who backs Scholl here. It's haunting, and Scholl shows the ability to get into the spirit of non-Western pieces without seeming to be pursuing them for their exoticism. Something similar is true of the unexpected presence of the spiritual Shall We Gather at the River, which few other European singers could have pulled off. Those who have enjoyed Scholl's crossover experiments in the past will probably like this one, but it is unusually innovative by any standard.

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