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Iestyn Davies, Countertenor
Thomas Dunford, Lute

England's "Orpheus"
Thursday, May 16, 2019 7:30 PM Zankel Hall
Iestyn Davies by Chris Sorensen
After countertenor Iestyn Davies performed the England’s “Orpheus” program at the 2014 Spitalfields Winter Festival, the Financial Times wrote of “his pure tone flawless, his phrasing exquisite.” Davies, who also appeared in Broadway’s Farinelli and the King, sings songs by three composers—Dowland, Purcell, and Handel—who were likened to Orpheus, the mythical musician. For these songs—at times melancholy, tender, and bawdy—he is joined by the brilliant young lutenist Thomas Dunford who has been called the “Eric Clapton of the lute” (BBC Music Magazine).


Iestyn Davies, Countertenor
Thomas Dunford, Lute


PURCELL "Lord, what is man?" (A Divine Hymn)

PURCELL "Sweeter than roses" from Pausanias, the Betrayer of his Country

MARAIS "Les voix humaines" from Pièces de viole, Book II, No. 63

VISÉE Chaconne in D Minor from Pièces de théorbe et de luth

HANDEL "Ombra cara" from Radamisto

DOWLAND Praeludium


DOWLAND "Behold a wonder here"

DOWLAND "Flow, my tears, fall from your springs"

DOWLAND "Can she excuse my wrongs?"

DOWLAND "Lachrimae"

DOWLAND "The Frog Galliard"

HANDEL "Hendel, non può mia musa," HWV 117

PURCELL "Music for a while" from Oedipus, King of Thebes

BACH Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 (arr. Thomas Dunford)

DOWLAND "Come again, sweet love doth now invite"

PURCELL "O solitude, my sweetest choice"

HANDEL "O Lord, whose mercies numberless" from Saul

PURCELL "Now that the sun hath veiled his light" (An Evening Hymn on a Ground)


VAUGHAN WILLIAMS "Orpheus with his lute"


Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.

This concert and the Pure Voice series are sponsored by the Jean & Jula Goldwurm Memorial Foundation in memory of Jula Goldwurm.

At a Glance

Iestyn Davies and Thomas Dunford’s program of predominantly English music from the Elizabethan and Baroque eras is titled England’s “Orpheus” because two of its composers—Henry Purcell and G. F. Handel—were in fact given such a title by their contemporaries. Publisher Henry Playford named his collections of Purcell’s songs Orpheus Britannicus, while a cardinal-poet in early 18th-century Rome wrote verse that extolled Handel as “the new Orpheus.” They, along with the extraordinary John Dowland of the prior century, showed the world that the vocally challenging English language could produce as mellifluous song as any other tongue. We also hear beautifully refined examples of lute music by Dowland, along with transcriptions of music originally written for other instruments by Marin Marais and J. S. Bach.


Iestyn Davies

After graduating from St John’s College, Cambridge, Iestyn Davies studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London. An esteemed Handelian, he has delighted audiences globally in such ...

After graduating from St John’s College, Cambridge, Iestyn Davies studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London. An esteemed Handelian, he has delighted audiences globally in such titular roles as Orlando, Rinaldo, and Giulio Cesare, as well as the roles of Ottone in Agrippina and David in Saul. His intelligent and considered interpretations have led to collaborations with Thomas Adès, George Benjamin, and Nico Muhly.

Mr. Davies has performed at such renowned opera stages and festivals as the Metropolitan Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, English National Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as well as in Munich, Vienna, and Zurich.

In the 2016–2017 season, he delighted London theater audiences singing the role of Farinelli in the play Farinelli and the King with Mark Rylance at the Duke of York’s Theater in London’s West End, garnering him an Olivier Award nomination. The project came to Broadway in the 2017–2018 season.

Mr. Davies’s concert engagements have included performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as the Barbican Centre and Royal Albert Hall (London), Teatro alla Scala (Milan), Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Tonhalle (Zurich), and Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (Paris). A committed recitalist, his repertoire ranges from Dowland to Clapton. He also enjoys a successful relationship with Wigmore Hall, where he has curated residencies.

In the 2018–2019 season, Mr. Davies returned to The Metropolitan Opera in Nico Muhly’s Marnie and will appear at the Bayerische Staatsoper as Ottone in Agrippina. He has performed in concert with William Christie and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Bernard Labadie with Les Violons du Roy, and the Handel and Haydn Society; and Jonathan Cohen with Arcangelo at the BBC Proms and on tour with Britten Sinfonia.

Winner of three Gramophone Classical Music Awards, Mr. Davies twice received the Recital Award and once the Baroque Vocal Award in 2017 for his recording of Bach cantatas with Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen. That same year, he was awarded an MBE for his contribution to the field of music.

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Thomas Dunford

Born in Paris in 1988, Thomas Dunford discovered the lute at the age of nine, thanks to his first teacher Claire Antonini. His first solo album, Lachrimae, recorded for the French label ...

Born in Paris in 1988, Thomas Dunford discovered the lute at the age of nine, thanks to his first teacher Claire Antonini. His first solo album, Lachrimae, recorded for the French label Alpha Classics in 2012, was unanimously acclaimed by critics and was awarded the Caecilia Prize from the Belgium Music Press in 2013. BBC Magazine has called him the Eric Clapton of the lute. His second album, Labirinto d’Amore, was awarded the Choc de Classica.

Mr. Dunford performs a wide variety of music that includes jazz, and has collaborated in chamber music projects with such conductors and soloists as Paul Agnew, Leonardo García Alarcón, Nicola Benedetti, Keyvan Chemirani, William Christie, Jonathan Cohen, Christophe Coin, Lea Desandre, Isabelle Faust, Bobby McFerrin, Philippe Herreweghe, Monica Huggett, Alexis Kosenko, François Lazarévitch, Anne Sofie von Otter, Trevor Pinnock, Patricia Petibon, Sandrine Piau, Anna Prohaska, Hugo Reyne, Anna Reinhold, Jean Rondeau, Skip Sempé, and Jean Tubéry.

From September 2003 to January 2005, Mr. Dunford gave his first performances playing the role of the lutenist in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Comédie-Française. Since then, he has played recitals in North America at the Kennedy Center, Cal Performances, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Vancouver Recital Society, and The Frick Collection, as well as in Europe at the Palau de la Música, Wigmore Hall, Saffron Hall, BOZAR Brussels, and Théâtre Auditorium Poitiers. He has made numerous solo or ensemble appearances in the most prestigious European festivals, including those of Ambronay, Académie Bach, La Chaise-Dieu, Saintes, Maguelone, Froville, La Folle Journée, and Utrecht. He has also performed around the globe in England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Austria, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Czech Republic, Brazil, Colombia, Chili, Mexico, Israel, China, Japan, and India.

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