What we have here is
an image problem.
Andreas Scholl, a smart, energetic German countertenor, fond of pop
and motorbikes, made a name as a seriously artistic musician. But
his wackiness keeps peeking out (remember the Three Countertenors spoof
disc?), and his musical curiosity seeks outlets his recording company
keep up with. Now they seem to have hit upon English folk songs,
always a safe vessel for crossing over, but Scholl has already offered
lovely renditions in homage to British countertenor Alfred Deller on a
1996 lute-song disc for Harmonia Mundi.
On this new Decca
revisits I will give my love an apple and presents a variant
of Barbara Allen, but otherwise the material is new and newly
I wish I could enjoy these adaptations by Craig Leon, but not a single
one highlights the music, text or atmosphere in any positive way.
Gooey string sound on nearly every track straitjackets the hapless
Scholl. Both artists have admitted a fondness for Charlie Haden's
recording of Wayfaring
Stranger, but should a rare, lyrically naïve vocal by the
jazz bass player really serve as a model here? Scholl's
slightly removed vocalism is not a major problem, but his unawareness
English and American folk tradition is. I wish someone had turned
him on to the work of Benjamin Luxon, a perfectly classical singer
readings of ballads and traditional songs with the late Bill Crofut (as
on Omega 3003) are utterly natural and expressive. The best
cuts are the
affairs, where Scholl can just sing, with plucked strings offering
support. She moved through the fair (a Luxon special) and Annie
Laurie are gorgeous. Except for the nonsensical instrumental
introduction and interludes, Barbara Allen and I will give
love an apple are very effective (though Scholl still sings "howz"
Some of the arrangements are less bothersome: Down
in yon forest (with its refrain, I love my lord Jesus above
brings out the artful choirboy in Scholl, and the unresolved a
to Black is the color is haunting.
We keep hearing rumors of
a pop album
from this interesting artist. Why doesn't he just go for it?