Bejun Mehta, Julius Drake – Down by the Salley Gardens: 20th Century English Songs (2011) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Bejun Mehta, Julius Drake – Down by the Salley Gardens: 20th Century English Songs (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz  | Time – 01:06:21 minutes | 607 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © Harmonia Mundi
Recorded: septembre 2010, Teldex Studio, Berlin

Bejun Mehta had a rich musical career even before he switched voice type from baritone to countertenor in the late 1990s. He had been an acclaimed boy soprano, studied as a cellist, and been a successful record producer, with his album of Janos Starker playing the Bach cellos suites winning a Grammy. As a countertenor he has forged an impressive international career since the turn of the century, joining the burgeoning ranks of outstanding countertenors that began to appear about that time. Mehta has a natural, unmannered voice that’s strong and even throughout his range. Vaughan Williams’ Bright is the ring of words puts both the power and subtlety of his voice on display. The album doesn’t particularly showcase the coloratura suppleness of which he is capable, except in the goofy faux-Handelian setting of Old Mother Hubbard by Victor Hely-Hutchinson. These songs are notable for a straightforward, graceful lyricism that’s well-suited to Mehta’s unaffected voice. He brings plenty of expressiveness to the emotionally varied repertoire, from the heated romantic fervor of Roger Quilter’s Take, o take those lips away, to the melancholy of the title track. It’s only in Michael Tippett’s realization of Purcell’s Music for a while that Mehta’s interpretation falls short; he doesn’t convey the oddness of the combination of the music’s gorgeous lyricism and creepy strangeness. The title track refers not to the famous setting by Britten, but a version by Ivor Gurney. One of the appeals of the album lies in the relative unfamiliarity of most of the repertoire and the real obscurity of some of it, and it’s a pleasure to have it brought to light. Julius Drake, a masterful accompanist and a frequent collaborator of Mehta’s, plays with deftness and idiomatic sensitivity. The sound of Harmonia Mundi’s CD is clean, open, and nicely ambient. -AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins


Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
1 King David 5’01

Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
2 It was a lover and his lass 2’21

Gurney Ivor (1890-1937)
3 Down by the salley gardens 2’46

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
4 Silent Noon 4’23

Henry Purcell (1659-1695), Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
5 Lord, what is man? 5’55
6 Job’s Curse 5’42

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
7 Linden Lea 2’25

Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
8 Come away, death 2’53
9 O mistress mine 1’31
10 Blow, blow, thou winter wind 2’32

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
11 At Middle-Field Gate in February 3’10

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
12 The Widow Bird 1’48

Berkeley Lennox (1903-1989)
13 The Horseman 1’11

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
14 The Little Boy Lost 2’12

Charles Villiers Standford (1852-1924)
15 La Belle Dame Sans Merci 6’09

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
16 Bright is the ring of words 1’50

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
17 The Sigh 3’28

Peter Warlock (1894-1930)
18 Jillian of Berry0’34

Victor Hely-Hutchinson (1901-1947)
19 Set in the manner of Handel 2’20

Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
20 Take, o take those lips away 1’25

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
21 Since we loved 1’17

Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
22 Hey, ho, the wind and the rain 1’51

Henry Purcell (1659-1695), Michael Tippett (1905-1998)
23 Music for a while 3’37

Bejun Mehta, countertenor
Julius Drake, piano