Cantata: yet can I hear…

Bejun Mehta; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (Pentatone)

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Cantata: yet can I hear…
JS Bach: Ich habe genug; Handel: Mi palpita il cor; Siete rose rugiadose; ‘I will magnify thee’; The Choice of Hercules – ‘Yet, can I hear that dulcet lay’; Vivaldi: Pianti, sospiri e dimandar mercede, RV676; plus works by Johann Christoph Bach and GM Hoffmann
Bejun Mehta (countertenor); Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Pentatone PTC 5186 669 (hybrid CD/SACD) 71:51 mins

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Bejun Mehta’s CD focuses on the 18th-century cantata, with some excursions. The title track, an aria Mehta admits he ‘fell madly in love with’ when he encountered it in 2015, comes from The Choice of Hercules, a short, secular oratorio by Handel, who is also represented by another aria from an anthem, as well as two true Italian cantatas – Mi palpita il cor and Siete rose rugiadose. In addition, there’s a ‘lamento’ by JS Bach’s uncle, Johann Christoph, and a single-movement funeral cantata formerly believed to be by Bach but now attributed to one Melchior Hoffmann. The remaining items are genuine cantatas by Bach and Vivaldi. Something of a mixed bag, then, but all quality items, with the pieces by the two members of the Bach family outstanding.

As he demonstrates in Mi palpita il cor, Mehta’s voice remains light and graceful, and his general ability to move around the small notes is only occasionally compromised by untidiness. The period-instrument orchestra’s flautist, Christoph Huntgeburth, shines here. So too does his oboist colleague Xenia Löffler in Ich habe genug; she also tackles the small but distinctive bell part in the beautiful Hoffmann piece (if it is his). Mehta’s consciousness of text and sense of drama make vivid the Vivaldi work, while he is deeply moving in Johann Christoph Bach’s fine lament and noble in the Handel anthem aria (‘I will magnify thee’) as well as the title track.

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George Hall