Simon MAYR (1763 - 1845)
Samuele - Azione Sacra in Due Parti (1821)
Andrea Lauren Brown (soprano) - Samuele; Susanne Bernhard (soprano) - Anna; Rainer Trost (tenor) - Elcana; Jens Hamann (bass) - Eli
Simon Mayr Chorus (with soloists)
Ingolstadt Georgian Chamber Orchestra/Franz Hauk
rec. Asamkirche Maria de Victoria, Ingolstadt, Germany, 15-19 September 2009
The Italian libretto and the English and German translations may be accessed at the Naxos website.
NAXOS 8.572721-22 [34:28 + 60:02]
Some years ago I reviewed two issues in the Simon Mayr Naxos series. Maybe I should exclude the definite article - Mayr’s oeuvre is so large that there can be no hope of a ‘complete works’ edition. However, what I have heard so far has been very attractive. I refer readers to my previous reviews here and here. I may add that several of my colleagues also have shown great enthusiasm about other Mayr issues from Naxos.
The present work, the oratorio Samuele, was written for the appointment of the new bishop Pietro Mola in Bergamo in the spring of 1821. On 8 April the bishop’s consecration took place in Milan cathedral. On 12 May Mola arrived in Bergamo. On 2 June Samuele was performed in the great hall of the Congregazione della Carità MIA during a concert by pupils of the Lezioni caritatevoli. The main source for the text is the first Book of Samuel but there are many references to other parts of the Bible as well as non-Biblical sources. The most original scene, musically speaking, is the melodramma in the second part, scene 5 (CD 2 tr. 13) with speech instead of singing. This concerns Samuel’s prophecy and the justification for speech instead of song is that this is the word of God and it has to be expressed differently than the words of the people.
Samuele is a fairly late composition. Mayr was approaching sixty but he had another twenty-four years to live, so he reached an age attained by very few of his contemporaries. The music is rooted in Classicism and is alternately idyllic - the chorus that rounds off Part I (CD 1 tr. 8) could be something from Haydn’s The Seasons - and dramatic - the chorusAh! qual fragor! in Scene 5 (CD 2 tr. 17). It is also very melodious. Take, for example, Samuele’s Preghiera, also in Scene 5 (CD 2 tr. 11). As in other Mayr works instrumental solos are quite frequent, a clarinet solo in the long duet in scene 1 (CD 1 tr. 3) is just one instance. The orchestral playing is superb - the Georgian Chamber Orchestra retains its position as one of the leading chamber ensembles in Europe. The Simon Mayr Choir, founded by Franz Hauk in 2003, also evinces high level skills.
The four main soloists are also very good. Andrea Lauren Brown in the title role begins a little hesitantly with squally tone but she improves quickly. When she reaches the aforementioned Preghiera she is in wonderful shape. Her dramatic singing is also splendid. Susanne Bernhard as Anna is even better, equipped with a superb, extremely beautiful voice. Just listen to her in the recitative preceding the duet in Scene 1 and her joyous and dramatic aria with chorus a little later in the same scene (CD 1 tr. 5). Rainer Trost, the best known of the soloists, has been around for quite some time - he was a very good Camille in Gardiner’s Die lustige Witwe almost twenty years ago. He has retained both beauty of tone and elegance of phrasing. Jens Hamann’s well-schooled lyrical bass is adroitly suited to Eli’s role. He sings the aria Esser degli esseri (CD 2 tr. 2) with beguiling tone and plenty of nuance.
Those who have not yet been in contact with Simon Mayr’s music could do much worse than start here; those who already have probably won’t need any persuasion. This is a valuable addition to the growing catalogue of Mayr’s works.
A valuable addition to the growing catalogue of Mayr’s works.
see also review by Raymond Walker (August 2012 Recording of the Month)
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