Light Divine: Baroque music for treble and ensemble

The MIN Ensemble, Aksel Rykkvin treble, Mark Bennet Baroque trumpet, Lazar Militec director
63:47
Signum SIG CD 526

Handel’s “Eternal Source of Light Divine” was catapulted to popular celebrity at the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The strikingly original opening movement to a Birthday Ode for Queen Anne, it relies for its success on a steady voice and controlled trumpet tone and both are wonderfully exemplified here. The boy treble, Aksel Rykkvin, has a beautifully pure tone, and if his boy’s lungs require refilling more often than an adult falsettist’s, he nevertheless achieves a lovely legato effect. Mark Bennet manages to match his vocal phrasing with a subtle and expressive Baroque trumpet tone. The MIN Ensemble uses a mixture of modern strings and period brass and continuo instruments but with modern oboes and bassoon, and I have to say I found the rich tone of the modern strings and the occasional post-Baroque habits of their players a little incongruous. However, the intriguing and imaginative choice of repertoire more than made up for this. Much of the music has been arranged by Bennet and fellow trumpeter Stian Aarekjold, but this has been achieved in a way which enhances the originals. Alongside unfamiliar Handel, we hear a series of arias and instrumental episodes by Rameau, as well as a Ciaconna by the Czech priest/composer Phillip Jakob Rittler and an aria by Albinoni. In the vocal music by Rameau, for which the trumpets largely fall silent, I felt we could have done with more in the way of vocal ornamentation – it is now widely agreed that the apparently long sustained vocal lines would have been encrusted with ornaments. I am a mug for anything with Baroque trumpets, but Bennet and his ‘second’, Simon Munday, produce a magnificent sound, while I also enjoyed hugely the voice of Aksel Rykkvin who, at the age of 15, is producing a wonderfully secure and mature sound and has mastered to an impressive degree the technical demands of Baroque vocal music.

D. James Ross

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