Askonas Holt singers tak' the High Road
Askonas Holt's singers excelled themselves at this year's Edinburgh Festival. At the grand opening concert in the Usher Hall, Hanno Müller Brachmann sang his first Mass of Life, in which he was joined by Robert Murray, who also appeared in the very contrasting Purcell King Arthur, alongside multi award winning soprano Sophie Bevan who turned all heads with her rendition of the great aria Fairest Isle. Sophie had earlier appeared in A Midsummer Nights's Dream, tucked in between rehearsals for her ROH debut later this month. Angelika Kirchschlager returned to the Festival for Berlioz's Les nuits d'ete. After a long absence, David Daniels returned to the scene of former Festival triumphs for a concert of Scarlatti and Handel, conducted by Harry Bicket, culminating with the great aria Oh Lord whose mercies numberless dedicated to Sir Charles Mackerras, with whom David had sung Saul at the Festival in 1999. Festival favourite, Neal Davies, in his 18th Festival and the 20th anniversary of his first appearance there, having already garnered praise for the performances of David and Jonathas imported to Edinburgh from this year's Aix en Provence Festival, brought the concerts in the Usher Hall to a resounding conclusion with Belshazzar's Feast.
In the historic and striking setting of Greyfriars Kirk, Brindley Sherratt took part in the world premiere of MacMillan's Since It Was the Day of Preparation, and Iestyn Davies made his Festival debut in a concert of arias by Porpora and Handel, accompanied by Jonathan Cohen and a small ensemble from Arcangelo. Iestyn's appearance was also featured on BBC Two's The Culture Show.
At the Queen's Hall, Sir Thomas Allen launched the famous recital series with a concert dedicated to the memory of Kathleen Ferrier. There were three conspicuous debuts - from Christiane Karg (whose recital won the Edinburgh International Festival Bank of Scotland Herald Angel Award), wonderfully accompanied by one of Edinburgh's favourite sons Malcolm Martineau); Luca Pisaroni (singing Schubert, Rossini, Meyerbeer and Liszt) and Toby Spence (singing Beethoven, Mahler and Schumann), all of whose recitals were broadcast by BBC Radio 3.