In June 2015, when we met Philippe Jaroussky after his Festival Concert in Halle, we asked when he’d next be coming to London. His answer was non-committal and typically modest: he wasn’t sure; he didn’t know if the English were all that fond of what he did. But I hope Thursday’s concert at the Wigmore Hall showed that there’s hope for us yet. The recital had sold out months ago and my brilliant friend only managed to secure tickets by incessantly badgering the box office for returns. The hall was stuffed to the gunwales; the atmosphere was palpable; and yet there were times you could have heard the smallest of pins drop. Refined, elegiac and utterly professional, Jaroussky showed us all once again why he remains the hottest countertenor ticket of all.
I have an ongoing ‘merry war’ with a friend of mine about whether Bach or Vivaldi is the better composer. Before you all splutter over your morning cups of Earl Grey, the squabble is primarily founded on an unjust comparison. I point out that Bach surely couldn’t have written a decent storm aria if he’d tried, whereas my friend quite reasonably argues that Vivaldi is nothing but a faint shadow of Bach when it comes to religious music. Anyway, when I spotted that this book was up for review, I thought I’d better show willing and try to understand a little bit more about (and here I quote my friend) ‘the best composer born in 1685’.*