Fresh from our month-long tour of the USA and Europe, reviews of Ariodante – our latest installment in our series of Handel operas-in-concert for New York’s Carnegie Hall – have been flooding in.
Following Radamisto, Theodora, Alcina, Hercules and Orlando in previous years, the prospects of Ariodante and the all-star cast of Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Sonia Prina, Christiane Karg, Mary Bevan, David Portillo, Matthew Brook, Tyson Miller and Bradley Smith were enough to send tickets flying out of the door.
Not only did we visit the great concert halls in New York, Washington, Kansas City, Ann Arbor, London, Vienna, Paris, and the new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, our Carnegie Hall performances was also broadcast live across the globe to some 22,000 people via Medici.TV’s online platform, with even more views from their on demand service and Facebook Live.
WHAT THE CRITICS HAD TO SAY: USA
‘Harry Bicket and his English Concert chamber orchestra, held Carnegie Hall’s audience in thrall for nearly nine minutes as she [Joyce DiDonato] wrung every bit of emotion from this music.’ – New York Times
‘Mr. Bicket’s superb players brought clarity and suppleness to their stylish and refined playing. We can look forward to the English Concert’s next Handel installment, when it returns in spring 2018 with “Rinaldo.’ – New York Times
‘It was supposed to be one of the highlights of the classical season — and it actually was. Whatever it takes to create a sense of event and excitement was in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Tuesday night’ – Washington Post
‘a performance so stunning it was liable to make even the most jaded of early-music skeptics take note.’ – New York Classical Review
‘[DiDonato] allowed herself for a bar or two to drop to a pianissimo in a shattering instant of vulnerability. Bicket and the ensemble were right with her, their sound suddenly as delicate as lace under her whispered phrases.’ – New York Classical Review
‘Through it all, Bicket and The English Concert were nothing short of brilliant. Sporting perfectly tight ensemble, spacious and ringing tone, a variety of colors, gleaming strings and clean, forceful brass, they are the model of a period chamber orchestra in every sense. In stark contrast to the common failing of anemic-sounding historical ensembles, it was no trouble at all for them to summon up ferocious power for dramatic effect, and then cool off with aching sighs.’ – New York Classical Review
‘It’s curious to think that not too long ago, a performance like this one, of a baroque opera on the main stage of Carnegie Hall, would stand out as a real rarity on the season calendar. Now one hardly bats an eye when an international superstar like DiDonato headlines the performance in front of a sell-out crowd. For Handel lovers, we are living in an extraordinary time.’ – New York Classical Review
WHAT THE CRITICS HAD TO SAY: UK & EUROPE
“If there is a more supportive Handelian conductor than Bicket, he or she is in hiding. The English Concert played with the vivacity and discipline of a continental ensemble, secured by Joseph Crouch’s expressive and attentive continuo cello, decorated variously with oboes, natural horns and dulcet treble recorders, and perfumed with the heathery tone of a mournful bassoon in Scherza infida” – The Times
“To hear The English Concert playing Handel is to arrive in technicolour Oz after a lifetime of black and white baroque in Kansas. We’re not short on period bands in the UK, but few bring this music into anything like the kind of focus that Harry Bicket and his crack team of musicians achieve, nor demonstrate such love and joy in the process. The solo line-up may have been starry, but the hero of this Ariodante was the orchestra.” – The Arts Desk
“There is no doubt that The English Concert’s ongoing Handel series is a source of constant joy… it was quite an achievement to have one wishing for more after a long evening of Handel, but Bicket and his forces managed it. Superb.” – Seen and Heard
“The English Concert led by Harry Bicket committed to perform Handel’s operas, gave a ravishing and sentimental performance together with the soloists on top form at the Elbphilharmonie.” – Bachtrack (from Hamburg)
“Bicket’s band is in its element in this repertoire” – Sunday Times
“For the instrumentalists it was another matter, and all power to 21-strong English Concert for not wilting as they turned in a probing, exultant and musically tireless performance” – Bachtrack