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Hera Hyesang Park (soprano)
I am Hera
Johannes Maria Bogner (harpsichord)
Wiener Symphoniker/Bertrand de Billy
rec. 29 June - 4 July 2020, Mozart-Saal, Konzerthaus, Vienna. DDD.
Texts and translations included with CD.
Reviewed as downloaded from press preview. No booklet with download.  CD and download from some dealers; download only from others.

I almost missed this among the recent Decca and DG releases; I’m glad that I didn’t. With Cecilia Bartoli’s Queen of the Baroque among Universal Classics’ recent output (4851275), Hera Hyesang Park’s debut recital, with its very varied repertoire, could easily have been overlooked, though I should have remembered that Mike Parr was full of praise for her singing in the role of the heroine in Rossini’s Sigismondo review.

In fact, the virtues of this album are an almost exact foil to Bartoli’s; where the Italian mezzo is often close to being over the top – delightfully so, I add – the young soprano Korean’s singing is a model of the kind of understatement that nevertheless makes its point. A word of warning for Bartoli enthusiasts: almost all of her ‘new’ album consists of reissues, and many of the tracks are of familiar music. It’s one of the virtues of this new DG release that it frequently avoids giving us the obvious choice.

It’s hard to tell from the range of this programme what Hera should now make her speciality. The opening items from Gluck’s Orfeo, Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona and Handel’s Giulio Cesare suggest that it should be the baroque period. I was about to suggest that we needed a new recording of the Pergolesi, but I note that Da Vinci Classics have just released one, with violin sonatas (DVC00176) and Brilliant Classics have reissued the Tactus recording, with a first recording of Tarabella’s much rarer modern sequel, Il Servo Padrone (95360 – review). I haven’t yet heard either.

Even within those four tracks there is considerable variety of mood. If I single out Cleopatra’s Se pietà di me non senti from Giulio Cesare, not only most winningly sung, but one of the less familiar items that I mentioned, that’s certainly not to disparage the other items.

There’s more familiar repertoire to follow: Mozart’s Deh vieni, non tardar and Rosina’s Una voce poco fa from Rossini’s Il Barbiere, and the singing here seems even more perfect. Not since Callas tempered her voice, as an improbable choice for Rosina, in the recording with Alceo Galliera (Warner 2564634089, budget price) have I heard a better characterisation of the music and the character – and dare I say that, though Callas, not always my favourite singer, is superb in the part, Hera sings with greater beauty of tone? Hera has already sung Rossini in the recording referred to above, so perhaps another Rossini role should be her next stop?

If I single out the two Puccini arias from the rest of the programme, that’s more on account of my love for the composer than for any defect in the rest of the programme. How about Hera as Madame Butterfly? Or, indeed, as Mimi, the seamstress whose name is really Lucia?

The two closing items, by Korean composers, seem tailor made for the voice – but, then, so does everything else on this gem of a recording. The setting of Psalm 23 receives a beautiful pastoral performance, rising to heights of yearning, the coloratura voice here as elsewhere beautifully tempered to the music.

Sensitive but positive singing benefits from – and receives – a sensitive but positive accompaniment. The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, who recently coped so well with the unknown situation of a New Year’s concert without an audience, here proves itself equal to the task of assisting in a very wide range of periods and styles. You might not normally make them first choice for Handel, Pergolesi or Gluck, perhaps more so for Bellini and Puccini, but there’s nothing for lovers of period performance to get agitated about in the earlier music. The recording, too, which reached me in 16-bit wav format, seems ideal for the performances; it benefits from being played a notch or two louder than usual.

My press download came with a booklet, containing texts and translations, but none of the downloads or streamed versions that I checked came with a booklet. That’s a serious departure from DG’s normal practice, especially so with vocal music. I’m afraid that I have come to expect the lack of a booklet with downloads from their Universal team-mate Decca, as is the case with the reissue of an otherwise attractive recording of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, directed in 1978 by Alain Lombard and starring Kiri Te Kanawa, Peter Hoffmann and Kurt Moll, resurrected from the defunct Barclay label (4855200 – by the time that you read this, Mike Parr’s review should have appeared).

Some dealers offer this recording as an import; from others, it comes as a download only.  In some areas, the catalogue number apparently ends in -5, not -6.

My complaint about the lack of a booklet with the commercial download mars, but certainly does not spoil my enjoyment of a first recital recording from someone from whom I want to hear much more.

Brian Wilson

Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orfeo ed Euridice, Wq30: Qual vita è questa mai [1:38]
Che fiero momento [3:15]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
La Serva Padrona: Stizzoso, mio stizzoso [3:36]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Giulio Cesare in Egitto: Se pietà di me non senti [9:16]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le nozze di Figaro, K492: Giunse alfin il momento [1:09]
Deh vieni, non tardar [2:54]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Una voce poco fa [6:09]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Idomeneo, K366: Quando avran fine omai [3:29]
Padre, germani, addio! [3:21]
Don Giovanni, K527: Vedrai, carino [3:19]
Die Zauberflöte, K620: Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden [3:25]
Gioachino ROSSINI
Il Turco in Italia: Non si dà follia maggiore [3:31]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
I Capuleti e I Montecchi: Eccomi in lieta vesta [4:55]
Oh! quante volte ti chiedo [3:44]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La bohème, SC67: Quando m’en vo soletta [2:29]
Gianni Schicchi, SC88: O mio babbino caro [2:14]
Joowon KIM (b.1984)
Like the Wind That Met with Lotus [5:27]
Un-Yung LA (1922-1993)
Psalm 23 (arr. Bernhard Eder) [5:13]



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