“The Italian solo cantata, and the ways in which it was taken up and adapted in Germany and Britain in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, provided the substance of countertenor Bejun Mehta’s recital with the ensemble La Nuova Musica. But despite its apparently didactic theme, the evening never threatened to become a dry lesson in baroque musicology; Mehta is far too relaxed and compelling a performer ever to seem remotely academic.
Cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Handel provided the spine of his programme; compact intertwinings of recitative and arias that Mehta handled as perfectly natural dramatic shapes, and around which he placed other numbers extracted from larger works. He begun and ended with more Handel: the aria Siete Rose Rugiadose, from a three-movement cantata composed soon after the composer travelled to London in 1710 to begin; and the beautiful little Yet Can I Hear that Dulcet Lay from the late one-act oratorio The Choice of Hercules to end . . .
With Mehta doing at least as much to direct and encourage the instrumentalists of La Nuova Musica as the group’s actual director, David Bates, it was a wonderfully democratic evening of music making on the highest level. Mehta may be far less flamboyant than some of his younger contemporaries – he’s far more intent on being a serious artist than a poster-boy – but he surely has few peers among today’s countertenors. His tone is wonderfully even, without being particularly fulsome, his coloratura perfectly precise without ever drawing attention to its own virtuosity . . . the diction was generally as impeccable as every other aspect of the performances.”
Andrew Clements – The Guardian
Image: Josep Molina