‘Aspects of Love’: Jakub JÛzef Orli?ski at Wigmore Hall

The young Polish singer has enjoyed a swift elevation to the high ranks of
countertenor stardom of late, fuelled by an acclaimed debut album, Anima Sacra (on the Erato label) in 2018, and a celebrated
appearance in the role of Eustazio at the start of Glyndebourne’s touring
production of Rinaldo this autumn. Orli?ski has now released a
second album, Facce d’amore, with Il Pomo d’Oro under
conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, and several of the ‘aspects of love’
delineated therein formed this programme at Wigmore Hall.

This was the first time I had heard Orli?ski in solo recital. His
countertenor has a core of steel which is manipulated with the flexibility
of silk. ‘Pure’ seems a puerile word with which to describe his
countertenor, which rings fluently but possesses a muscular snap and stamp
when required. His breath control is superb: long lines sailed forth
effortlessly; curlicues and cascades danced sweetly. For those yet to
experience Orli?ski’s virtuosity and charm, Warner Classics have offered a

Bononcini’s ‘Infelice mia costanza’

was, at Wigmore Hall, an astonishing expressive feat.

The instrumentalists of Il Pomo d’Oro were vigorously
enthusiastic, sometimes rather too much so, though this was more noticeable
at the start than in the later items, so perhaps it was just a matter of
finding the groove. From the first notes of Cavalli’s Sinfonia to La Calisto, the instrumental timbre was modern, edgy and virile –
sort of ‘Europe Galante meets Les Arts Florissants’, perhaps. Violinists
Zefira Valova and Jonas Zschenderlein formed a dynamically reciprocal
partnership; cellist Felix Heinz Knecht was gruffly robust or coolly
refined, as was required. Director and harpsichordist Francesco Corti ran a
tight ship but allowed the individual players some expressive leeway.
Plangent harmonies, as in the Sinfonia from Bononcini’s La nemica d’Amore and at the start of Conti’s ‘Odio, vendetta,
amor’ (‘Hatred, revenge, love’, from Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena), were exploited to the full, and
dialogues were vibrant between the individual voices.

Orli?ski’s lower range is sonorous and full of colour: at times in
Cavalli’s ‘Crudo Amor’ (‘Ruthless love’, from Claudio Cesare), and
elsewhere, he seemed to be singing in what I imagine is his
‘natural’ baritone. Predieri’s ‘FinchË salvo Ë l’amor suo’ (‘If I know her
love is safe’, from Scipione il giovane) also ranged high
and low, conveying both the imagined dangers the beloved one might face and
the protagonist’s own fluctuating emotions. The confident running lines of
the opening gave way to melodic turbulence, enhanced by pulsing cello
gestures: what if a hurricane should place love in danger? In contrast, in
‘Dovrian quest’occhi piangere’ (‘These eyes should weep indeed for you’),
from the same opera, the silkily extending lines were heart-winningly clean
and fresh, but not wanting for colour.

Boretti’s ‘Chi scherzo con Amor’ (‘Playing with Love’, from Eliogabalo) and ‘Spera, chÈ tra la care’ (‘Take hope’) from
Handel’s Muzio Scevola demonstrated Orli?ski’s vocal strength and
agility to the full. His ability to craft fluctuating idioms and emotions
into a coherent whole was evidenced by an assured performance of Handel’s ‘Ah Stigie larve! … Vaghe pupille’ (‘Lovely
eyes’, from Orlando) which culminated in a striking declaration of
intent, ‘NÈ calm ail mio furor’ (‘my fury will not be assuaged’), plunging
to the depths with angry determination and inspiring a stirring
instrumental playout.

Some beautifully woven string textures ushered in ‘Sempre a si veghi rai’
(Faithful to such fair eyes, from Orfeo), which Hasse composed for
Farinelli, and in which the relaxed ornamentation of the da capo truly
charmed. Orli?ski concluded with Orlandini’s ‘Che m’ami ti prega’ (‘Your
Emperor Nero’, from Nerone) in which he demonstrated all the
tricks of the trade with a supreme assurance worthy of the Roman tyrant

If I had any small misgivings then perhaps it was that Orli?ski pushed his
voice a little too hard at times: a sudden dynamic surge could threaten to
veer too wildly. And, occasionally I thought that he threw away a cadence
rather brusquely. He didn’t make much of the texts, sacrificing verbal
clarity for musical poetry and suaveness of line.

But, these are trivial quibbles really. This was a terrific recital and
when, at the close, Orli?ski asked the audience, “Would you like some
more?” the answer was never in doubt. He fulfilled the enthusiastic
response with not one but four encores, offering more unfamiliar but
beguiling fare: Nicola Fago’s ‘Alla gente a Dio diletta’ (fromIl faraone sommerso), ‘Agitato da fiere tempeste’ by Handel ( formRiccardo I re d’Inghilterra), another aria from Boretti’s Eliogabalo, ‘Chi scherza con amor’; and, finally, ‘VedrÛ con mio
diletto’ from Vivaldi’s Giustino.

Throughout the recital, Orli?ski was direct, personable, generous: he wore
his singing heart on the sleeve of his beautiful green suit. And the
capacity audience at Wigmore Hall loved it.

Claire Seymour

Jakub JÛzef Orli?ski (countertenor), Il Pomo d’Oro
(director/harpsichord, Francesco Conti)

Francesco Cavalli
(1602-1676) – Sinfonia from La Calisto, ‘Erme e solinghe …
Lucidissima face’; Giovanni Antonio Boretti (c.1638-1672)
– ‘Chi scherza con Amor’ from Eliogabalo, Sinfonia and
‘Crudo amor non hai piet‡’ from Claudio Cesare; Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747) – ‘Infelice mia costanza’
from La costanza non gradita nel doppio amore d’Aminta, Sinfonia
from La nemica d’Amore fatta amante; Luca Antonio Predieri (1688-1767) – ‘FinchË salvo Ë l’amor
suo’ from Scipione il giovane; Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759) – Ah! Stigie larve! …
Vahge pupille’ from Orlando HWV31, ‘Spera che tra le care gioie’
from Muzio Scevola HWV13; Johann Adolf Hasse
(1699-1783) – ‘Sempre a si vaghi rai’ from Orfeo; Francesco Bartolomeo Conti (c.1682-1732) – ‘Odio,
vendetta, amor’ from Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena;Nicola Matteis (d.1737) – Ballo dei Bagatellieri from Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena; Predieri
‘Dovian quest’occhi piangere’ from Scipione il giovane; Giuseppe Maria Orlandini (1676-1760) – ‘Che m’ami ti
prega’ from Nerone (arr. Johann Mattheson).

Wigmore Hall, London; Saturday 14th December 2019.

product_title= Jakub JÛzef Orli?ski (countertenor) and Il Pomo d’Oro at Wigmore Hall
0product_by=A review by Claire Seymour
product_id=Above: Jakub JÛzef Orli?ski

Photo credit: Jiyang Chen