Behle’s Fine Mozart Recital

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ZERO TO HERO / MOZART: Don Giovanni: Overture; Dalla sua pace; Il mio tesoro. Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Hier soll ich dich den sehen…Konstanze, Konstanze; Wenn der Freude Tränen fliessen; Ich baue ganz. Die Zauberflöte: Dies bildnis. Così fan Tutte: Overture; Un’aura amorosa; Ah, lo veggio. La Betulia Liberata: D’ogni colpa la colpa maggiore. La Clemenza di Tito: Se all’impero, amici Dei. Idomeneo: Fuor del mar / Daniel Behle, ten; L’Orfeo Barockorchester; Michi Gaigg, cond / Sony 19075864582

Daniel Behle, one of my favorite modern tenors, presents here a recital of Mozart arias which he raised money for via crowdfunding. I’m a little surprised that he chose to record an album of music done so many times by so many other tenors when other, less-well-traveled repertoire awaits him, but he probably wanted to make his mark.

The good news is that he’s in excellent voice and sings these arias superbly. The bad news is that he’s accompanied by one of those generic HIP orchestras that sound like a MIDI and bulldoze their way through the music with tempi that are too fast and phrasing that has no feeling. Indeed, they have chosen to underscore their lameness by including two of Mozart’s overtures on this disc, and neither one is very good. They sound like a 12-piece band trying to convince us that this is what Mozart heard in his day, As Baron Munchausen once said, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?”

Conductor Michi Gaigg also rushes the tempo in “Dalla sua pace,” which didn’t thrill me a lot, but as I said, Behle sings beautifully, shaping the musical line and being able to affect fine dynamics shadings while still maintaining a firm voice regardless of volume level. His forte singing does not become hard, and his piano singing still has body to the tone. “Il mio tesoro” gallops along at a very brisk pace, which makes the aria sound more like a Presto. At this tempo, Behle is easily able to sing the long run on “tornar” in one breath, though the note separation almost sounds like “Di quella pira”—clean but fast. Mind you, I have some Mozart tenor recitals in my collection that certainly could have been conducted at a brisker clip, particularly the Stuart Burrows album on which he is accompanied by the stodgy John Pritchard, but there is a happy medium that can be found between Pritchard and Gaigg. I should also note that the hall acoustics are much too dry and airless, making this album almost sound like something recorded in NBC’s notorious Studio 8-H.

Much to my surprise, “Hier soll ich dich den sehen” from Die Entführung opens at a sensible tempo, but as soon as we get into the aria proper the tempo is pressed a bit too much. Nonetheless, Behle interprets this well, even adding a little cadenza at one point that I’d never heard before but which made perfect musical sense. He also imbues “Wenn der Freude Tränen fliessen” with considerable charm thus offsetting the coldness of his accompaniment to some degree. Happily, Gaigg takes the fiendishly difficult “Ich baue ganz” at a somewhat moderate pace, thus allowing Behle the opportunity to get through his runs without sounding too pressed. Both conductor and tenor also take a sensible tempo for “Dies bildnis” from Die Zauberflöte; this is one of the real gems of this album, strange orchestral sound aside.

“Un’aura amorosa” also comes out well, with Behle singing the slow descending scale passage between verses in one breath, connecting the words as well as the music. He even attempts the seldom-sung trill in the final phrase. “Ah, lo veggio” is also taken at a fast pace, but here the quicker tempo actually helps the aria. Following this is a real rarity, an aria from the very early La betulia Liberata. It’s basically a fast, florid piece with tricky runs and, yes, yet another trill, which he sings perfectly.

We end this recital with an aria from Mozart’s last opera, La clemenza di Tito, and his most Gluck-like opera, Idomeneo. The latter is, of course, the now-justly-famous “Fuor del mar” which was once considered a great rarity. This latter aria is again taken at a moderate pace, and although the small (40-piece) orchestra again sounds rather anemic Behle does not, singing with a fuller tone and a rather heroic attack. He does, however, drop his voice to half volume for the runs—listen to Ben Heppner or Hermann Jadlowker if you want to hear them sung at full voice.

But here’s something very weird: about two minutes after the aria ends, if you haven’t already taken the CD off your player, you’ll hear someone (Behle?) talking in German. It sounds like stage dialogue, but since it’s in German, is not mentioned in the booklet at all or identified on the inlay, I have no idea what it is or what it means.

All in all, a good album for Behle despite the dry, claustrophobic sound, but only just acceptable (if that) for the orchestra.

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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