Thursday 13 July 2017

Perfido! The first disc from Ian Page's The Mozartists

Perfido! - Sophie Bevan, The Mozartists, Ian Page - Signum Classics
Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven concert arias; Sophie Bevan, The Mozartists, Ian Page; Signum Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jul 10 2017
Star rating: 4.5

A striking range of concert arias from Ian Page's new ensemble

This disc from Signum Classics is the first outing for Ian Page's new ensemble, The Mozartists, an off-shoot of Classical Opera dedicated to doing non-operatic projects. Here Ian Page and The Mozartists are joined by soprano Sophie Bevan for a programme of concert arias, Haydn's Scena di Berenice, Mozart's Oh, temerario Arbace, Beethoven's No, non turbati, Mozart's Basta, vincesti, Haydn's Solo e pensoso, Mozart's Ah, lo previdi and Bella mia fiamma and Beethoven's Ah! perfido.

A major figure behind these arias was the soprano Josefa Dusek for whom Mozart wrote Ah, lo previdi (1777) and Bella mia fiamma (1788) and for whom Beethoven wrote Ah! perfido in 1796.

But we start with Haydn, his Scena di Berenice written during his second visit to London and premiered in 1795 as part of a benefit concert with Italian soprano Brigida Giorgi Banti singing the solo role. Though notionally a sequence of recitatives and two arias, Haydn's writing gives a sense of through-composed drama with the opening accompanied recitative large-scale and complex with Sophie Bevan's beautiful shaping of the line combining with her bringing out the welter of emotions. The first aria is short yet affecting, the second terrific in a sturm-und-drang manner with strong performances from Bevan and the ensemble.

Mozart's Oh temerario Arbace was written by the young Mozart in 1766 including his first accompanied recitative. This is relatively straight-forward but beautifully done, and is followed by an aria whose composer is unmistakeable. Bevan sings with grace and poise, and there are some fine ornamental passages. Beethoven's early concert aria No, non turbati was written in 1801/2 whilst he was still studying with Salieri. Simply an accompanied recitative and aria, the recitative starts out quite conventionally but drama does develop and the Mozartian aria is sung with a shapely sense of line by Bevan.

Mozart's Basta vincesti was written in 1778 for the soprano Dorothea Wendling who would sing the role of Ilia in the premiere of Idomeneo in 1781. Again a recitative and single aria, the recitative really plunges straight into the drama (the text is from Metastasio's Didone abbandonata). The aria is sung with grace by Bevan, but she also brings out the strong emotional development with which the twenty-two year old Mozart imbued the aria. Haydn's Sola e pensos is a free-standing multi-section aria setting Petrarch's sonnet number 28. Written in 1798 it was Haydn's final Italian aria. Plangently sung by Sophie Bevan, this is a beautifully formed piece.

Mozart's Ah, lo previdi was his first concert aria for Josefa Dusek (wife of the composer Franz Xaver Dusek). A sequence of recitatives and two arias setting text by Vittorio Cigna-Santi (the librettist of Mozart's Mitridate, Re di Ponto) from Andromeda with Andromeda thinking Perseus has committed suicide. A highly dramatic accompanied recitative leads to a vivid aria with some real drama in it, sung with wonderful poise and focus by Bevan. A moving accompanied recitative leads to the final poised cavatina, a lovely duet with solo oboe. In Prague in 1787 for Don Giovanni, Mozart wrote Bella mia fiamma for Josefa Dusek, its harmonic complexity designed as a challenge for her. The long, complex accompanied recitative leads to an aria which is mature Mozart at its finest. Bevan's moving account of the complex solo part is complemented by some fine wind playing.

The final work on the disc is Beethoven's Ah! Perfido again written for Josefa Dusek in 1796, the year after Haydn wrote the Scena di Berenice Beethoven's concert aria seems modelled on the Haydn. Oopening with a long dramatic recitative, really meaty stuff, the first aria is all poise and line, but the second (no intervening recitative) is terrific, again sturm und drang with Bevan singing with a terrific combination of power and accuracy, with a super accompaniment.

This is a satisfying disc, with a strong selection of concert arias mixing both well-known and lesser known, all receiving stylish and vibrant performances from Sophie Bevan, Ian Page and The Mozartists.

Franz Joseph Haydn - Scena di Berenice
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Oh, temerario Arbace
Ludwig van Beethoven - No, non turbati
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Basta, vincesti
Franz Joseph Haydn - Solo e pensoso
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Ah, lo previdi
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Bella mia fiamma
Ludwig van Beethoven Ah! perfido
Recorded at the Church of St Augustine, Kilburn, London, 15-19 February 2016
Sophie Bevan (soprano)
The Mozartists
Ian Page (conductor)
Available from Amazon.

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