Tuesday, 20 September 2016

On his debut disc of arias by Bach, Handel and Mozart for Signum, Norwegian boy soprano Aksel Rykkvin shows remarkable musicianship as well as terrific agility, purity of tone and vocal strength

Norwegian boy soprano Aksel Rykkvin (b. 2003) www.akselrykkvin.com has already made a tremendous impact as a soloist in operas, concerts and music festivals as well as television appearances and his very popular YouTube channel www.youtube.com/channel/UCfU1LDi_Ok54pM8P2wHJW-g reaching an international audience.

Now he has made his debut recording for Signum Records www.signumrecords.com with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment www.oae.co.uk  under Nigel Short www.tenebrae-choir.com/about/nigel-short  in arias by Bach, Handel and Mozart.


Aksel Rykkvin is a classically trained treble from the Children’s Chorus of the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet and Oslo Cathedral Boys’ Choir. He has received singing lessons since he was eight years old from voice teacher Helene Haarr. From 2013 onwards Marianne Willumsen Lewis has been his main voice teacher. In 2015, he was accepted into Musikk på Majorstuen, an audition-based program for classical music talents that Majorstuen School in Oslo offers with the Barratt Due Institute of Music.

He is in high demand as a soloist in operas, concerts and music festivals all across Norway. In March 2016 he received international acclaim for his role in Rolf Wallin's new opera Elysium.
He has held very well attended solo concerts in Oslo and Nidaros Cathedrals, as well as solo church and house concerts. At several official functions, he has sung for the Prime Minister of Norway, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway, and also for the Secretary General of NATO. In November 2015 he sang with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra for a full Oslo Concert Hall. For summer 2016, he was booked for multiple performances at the chamber music festivals in Risør and Oslo. In June 2015 he was invited by assistant Director of Music, Ben Parry, to sing a solo programme in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.

He opens his recording with two works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). There is crisp lithe playing for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Nigel Short in the opening of Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51. When Aksel Rykkvin enters one is immediately surprised by his agility, purity of tone and sheer vocal strength, negotiating Bach’s twists and turns brilliantly whilst finding a subtlety that is remarkable in one of his age. David Blackadder brings some fine trumpet playing. There is a finely shaped Mein gläubiges Herze, BWV 68 with this remarkable young treble duetting wonderfully with Luise Buchberger’s piccolo cello with oboe, cello and strings weaving some fine lines.

The OAE bring lovely rhythmic spring to Georg Frideric Handel’s (1685-1759) Happy, oh thrice happy we from his oratorio Joshua, HWV 64 with Aksel equally finding just the right rhythmic pulse and buoyant tone with quite superb phrasing. He brings a subtle pathos to Handel’s Chi m'insegna il caro padre? from his opera Alcina, HWV 34 with some beautifully long drawn phrases. From the opening exclamation ‘Barbara’ Aksel brings a terrific assurance to Barbara! io ben lo so from the same opera, fairly hurtling forward with a tremendous gusto and agility, quite superb, with terrific accompaniment from the OAE. This young soloist has such a great dramatic understanding. Lascia ch'io pianga from Handel’s opera Rinaldo, HWV 7 is superbly drawn with terrific control and conveying a real sense of loss. There are finely shaped lines and an equally superb orchestral contribution.

Aksel Rykkvin returns to Bach with Ich folge Dir gleichfalls from the St. John Passion, BWV 245 that has a lovely recorder part around which Aksel brings a lively yet gentle tone, full of the utmost accuracy and agility. Aksel brings a quite glorious opening to Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine from the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74, finely supported by the trumpet of David Blackadder with this treble achieving some extraordinarily fine high held notes, voice, trumpet and orchestra blending wonderfully. There is more Bach with Bist du bei mir, BWV 508 where the orchestra provide a spare accompaniment to Aksel’s very fine solo line, bringing his own individual control, accuracy and musicianship even more to the fore, finding a gentle, subtle feeling.
Another three arias from Handel follow.  Everyone will appreciate Aksel’s fine performance How beautiful are the feet of Them from Messiah, HWV 56 where he gives the music a lovely, gentle lift. Thou art gone up on high also from Messiah  brings terrific phrasing and control with Aksel always finding a lovely tone which he varies, bringing some lovely textures. There is a bright and joyful opening to Let the bright Seraphim in burning row from Handel’s oratorio Samson, HWV 57 from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with Aksel bringing a terrific panache, a real vibrancy with more fine trumpet passages from David Blackadder bringing a terrific blend between voice and trumpet in the long held lines.

Bach’s Quia respexit from the Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243 has a beautifully shaped oboe d’amore solo before the treble soloist brings an undulating line, finely shaped and phrased, quite beautifully done. Strings weave a lovely opening to Angenehmer Zephyrus from Zerreißet, zersprenget, zertrümmert die Gruft, BWV 205 to which this soloist brings his lovely tone, long held lines and subtle little decorations. There is such vibrancy and joy to Handel’s Oh! Had I Jubal's lyre from Joshua with the most brilliant flexibility from Aksel, achieving such a lovely tone in the sudden little dynamics and the OAE bringing a real lightness of touch.  
Aksel Rykkvin concludes his recital with three pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The orchestra brings a lovely opening to Voi, che sapete che cosa e amor from Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492 with Aksel shaping and controlling the piece so well, subtly increasing the passion as the aria develops. He brings a terrific drama and passion to Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio also from Le nozze di Figaro with a remarkable control and assurance, a lovely tonal quality and some wonderfully controlled moments toward the end. There is a terrific rhythmic vibrancy from both soloist and orchestra in the Alleluia from Exsultate jubilate, K. 165 with this terrific treble bringing such flair, assurance, accuracy and flexibility to this demanding piece – with no concessions whatever.

This is a disc that is musically satisfying as well as a showcase for Aksel’s great talent. His sheer musicianship as well as agility, purity of tone and vocal strength shown here belies this young artist’s age making it a disc to return to for the sheer joy of it. 

The recording made at St. Augustine’s Church, Kilburn, London, England is first rate. There are useful notes about both the soloist and the music as well as full texts and English translations.


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