Bejun Mehta (counter-tenor): Baroque, Classical and Modern Arias and Scenes for Counter-tenor
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and RIAS Chamber Choir/René Jacobs (Che Puro Ciel)
Julius Drake (piano) (Down by the Salley Gardens)
Rosemary Joshua (soprano)/Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/René Jacobs (Ombra cara)
rec. Che Puro Ciel, April 2013, Teldex Studio, Berlin: Down by the Salley Gardens, September
2010 Teldex Studio, Berlin: Ombra cara March 2010, Freiburg im Breisgau
Full track-listing below HARMONIA MUNDI HMX2908736.38 [3 CDs: 208:09]
Harmonia Mundi has taken the step of reissuing three of Bejun Mehta’s discs in one card case under a new number. If you do a double-take thinking you’ve seen them before, it’s because you have. The individual discs remain unchanged from their first issue and therefore none contains texts. I know that’s a bone of contention for many people.
In two of the discs he is joined by René Jacobs, always an incendiary presence on the rostrum, who directs two German orchestras. In the song disc, Mehta is accompanied by Julius Drake. Che Puro Ciel, dates from April 2013 and takes music by Gluck, Hasse, J.C. Bach, Tommaso Traetta and Mozart. Jacobs encourages deft contributions from the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, to generate rather beautiful flowing colour in the accompanying figures in the ‘title track’, which is from Gluck’s Orfeo. A more athletic aria from Traetta’s Antigona allows Mehta to deploy some of his most forceful and dexterous singing though one of the lyric highlights remains Hasse’s aria from Il trionfo di Clelia. J.C. Bach’s Vo solcando un mar crudele from Artaserse offers plenty of opportunities for virtuoso coloratura, which Mehta espouses with élan; the colour he generates is laudable as is the integration of the wind writing, Jacobs here not exaggerating, and keeping in check his occasional propensity for showy orchestral bravura. Jacobs is at something like his best in Mozart’s early Ascanio in Alba where he galvanizes the Akademie and provides a perfect platform for Mehta’s focused singing. Throughout there is much variety in programming and this virtue – allied to the superior singing and performance – ensures the success of this album.
The world is not short of counter-tenors singing Handel but Ombra cara still generates plenty of enthusiasm. Here Jacobs directs the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and he is in more interventionist form in this repertoire than in the companion one – sample his way with Agrippina, for example. Mehta’s technique is not strained in this recital, his divisions are elegant in Sento la gioia, and he gives a refined rather than passionate account of Stille amare from Tolomeo. One example of exaggerated expressivity from both soloist and conductor comes in the arioso of Orlando, where Jacobs gleefully really does over-egg an already well-sized pudding. Perhaps Ombra cara itself emerges as somewhat under-characterised - a surprising outcome for so richly expressive an aria - but the elysian duet Per le porte del tormento, where Mehta is joined by soprano Rosemary Joshua, is truly beautiful.
Mehta’s album of British songs encompasses some favourites already visited on disc by counter-tenors. Howells’ King David is richly solemn, Quilter’s It Was A Lover And His Lass quivering with eagerness. Silent Noon is sung with great sensitivity and musicality though its interiority is just missed. Unfortunately, he skates over Linden Lea. He does much better with one of Finzi’s more elliptical settings, At Middle-Field Gate in February. Julius Drake proves a characterful accompanist, ruggedly bringing out the equine rhythms of Lennox Berkeley’s setting of de la Mare’s The Horseman. The Purcell-Britten and Purcell-Tippett settings are finely done, too, though I can’t pretend that Mehta’s singing effaces memories of David Daniels in this kind of repertoire. Once again great care has clearly gone into song selection, and in ensuring balance and variety.
If you missed these first time around or want to take a plunge into Mehta’s repertoire these three discs are all desirable, though Che Puro Ciel is clearly the highlight.
CD 1 -Che Puro Ciel [66:33] Christoph Williabld von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orfeo ed Euridice: Aria Che puro ciel! [6:06] Vieni a'regni del riposo [1:46] Aria: Se il fulmine sospendi [3:27] Ezio: Aria: Pensa a serbarmi, o cara [5:07] Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Ascanio in Alba: Recitativo: Perché tacer deggío? [4:32]: Aria: Cara, Iontano ancora [5:01] Aria: Ah di sì nobil alma [3:42]
Mitridate: Recitativo:accompagnato: Vadasi... [1:23] Aria: Già dagli occhi
il velo è tolto [9:19] Tommaso TRAETTA (1727-1779)
Antigona: Aria: Ah, se lo vedi piangere [3:17] Aria: Ah, sì, da te dipende
[5:00] Ifigenia in Tauride: Dormi Oreste! [7:47] Johann Adolf HASSE (1699-1783)Il
trionfo di Clelia: Aria: Dei di Roma, ah perdonate! [4:32] Johann Christian BACH (1735-1782)
Artaserse: Recitativo accompagnato: No, che ha la sorte [1:58] Aria: Vo solcando un mar crudele [6:45]
Originally issued as HMC902172
CD 2Down By The Salley Gardens [69:50] Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) King David [5:01] The Widow Bird [1:48] The Little Boy Lost [2:12] Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) It was a lover and his lass [2:21] Come away, death [2:53] O mistress mine [1:31] Blow, blow, thou winter wind [2:32] Take, o take those lips away [1:25] Hey, ho, the wind and the rain [1:51] Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937) Down by the Salley Gardens [2:46] Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Silent Noon [4:23] Linden Lea [2:25] Bright is the ring of words [1:50] Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) arr Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Lord, what is man? [5:55] Job's Curse [5:42] Gerald FINZI (1901-1956) At Middle-Field Gate in February [3:10] The Sigh [3:28] Since we loved [1:17] Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989) The Horseman [1:11] Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) La Belle Dame Sans Merci [6:09] Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930) Jillian of Berry [0:34] Victor HELY-HUTCHINSON (1901-1947) Set in the manner of Handel [2:20] Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) arr.Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998) Music for a while [3:37] Originally issued as HMC902093
CD 3Ombra cara [71:46] George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Amadigi di Gaula: Aria: Sento la gioia (III, 6) [4:39] Agrippina: Otton, Otton [1:18] Aria Voi, che udite il mio lamento (II,5) [6:02] Riccardo primo, re dÍnghilterra: Aria: Agitato da fiere tempeste (I, 6) [4:05] Tolomeo, re d’Égitto: Recitativo: Che più si tarda omai [2:09] Accompagnato Inumano fratel: Aria: Stille amare (III, 6) [5:32] Orlando: Accompagnato: Ah! stigie larve; Arioso: Già latra Cerbero; Accompagnato: Ma la furia; Aria: Vaghe pupille (II, 11) [8:13] Rodrigo: Passacaille (Ouverture) [4:38] Radamisto: Aria: Ombra cara di mia sposa (II, 2) [9:31] Rodelinda: Fra tempeste funeste (II, 4) [4:46] Con rauco mormorio (II, 5) [7:12] Orlando: Recitativo: Túbbidirò, crudele; Aria; Fammi combattere (I,9) [3:54] Sosarme: Duetto: Per le porte del tormento (II, 8) [9:38]
Originally issued as HMC902077