Iestyn Davies was a choir boy in the chapel of St John’s College Cambridge, went on to be a countertenor at Wells Cathedral School and returned to St John’s as a choral scholar. Now aged 32 he has an extraordinarily impressive curriculum vitae both as a soloist in opera and in classical orchestral music.
Handel’s Mi palpita il cor - I feel my heart beating - was written soon after Handel arrived in London for the first time. It tells the story of distress of a male lover blaming the shepherdess Clori and asks Cupid to cause her the same distress he was suffering.
Whilst the Italian composer Nicola Porpora was at the court of the Prince of Wales in London he was competing with Handel. Iestyn Davies sang two of his arias telling of the distress of a lover who is turning away the advances of someone he does not seek.
Between the two Porpora arias the accompanying Arcangelo played Handel’s Violin Sonata in A, although how much Handel had to do with its composition is uncertain. Arcangelo, on the other hand, were showing their metal in this and in the way they accompanied Iestyn Davies. Founded as recently as 2010 by their keyboard player, Jonathan Cohen, they have become a force to reckon with. This was their first appearance at the Edinburgh Festival and welcome they were.
The singing was in Latin. I was fascinated looking around at how few people were following the words, whether in Latin or the English translation, in the programme. I tried to follow the Latin but but no means every word was clear and maybe that’s the way it should be. But I am not sure. But it was an absorbing hour and clearly very much appreciated by the packed audience even if many presumably did not know the two story lines.
Event: Thursday 16 August 2012, 5.45pm