WORKS: Songs by Handel, Gounod, Grieg, Rachmaninov, Strauss, Satie
PERFORMER: Yoshikazu Mera (countertenor); Japan Philharmonic SO/Shigeo Genda
CATALOGUE NO: CD-949
I blame Andreas Scholl. The record companies all seem to have decided that the countertenor voice, for so long the preserve of the early music world, is now so popular it demands to be released from its stylistic ghetto.
Of these two recitals of largely left-field repertoire, that by the American Brian Asawa is the better planned. Wordless classics by Rachmaninov and Medtner (both entitled ‘Vocalise’), Villa-Lobos (the Aria from his famous Bachiana Brasileira No. 5) and Fauré (his Pavane, of World Cup fame), are combined with groups of songs by each composer in tasteful orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.
I actually preferred the latter, where Asawa’s linguistic skills are well in evidence, to the former, where his admittedly beautiful vocalisation seems rather too effortless and disengaged. Yoshikazu Mera – known from BIS’s ongoing series of Bach Cantatas – offers an even more diverse programme, ranging from the sublime (lovely accounts of two familiar Handel arias) to the distinctly less sublime (a ghastly arrangement by Tonika Ichinose of Mendelssohn’s ‘On Wings of Song’).
Mera’s voice is also extremely beautiful, with a slightly warmer vibrato than Asawa, but his grasp of English and French, in particular, leaves a lot to be desired. Both discs offer a good wallow, if little substance; only the Rachmaninov ‘Vocalise’ features on both. Stephen Maddock