BBC Music Magazine - - Reviews -

I Cher­usci

Yvonne Pren­tki, Katha­rina Kon­radi, Markus Schäfer, Uwe Gottswin­ter; Si­mon Mayr Cho­rus; Con­certo de Bas­sus/franz Hauk (harp­si­chord) Naxos 8.660399-400 153:02 mins (2 discs) Si­mon Mayr, a con­tem­po­rary of Beethoven, was known across Europe for his operas. Con­duc­tor Franz ★auk, who lives in Mayr’s Bavar­ian home­town, in 2003 founded the Si­mon Mayr Cho­rus and since then has recorded Mayr’s over­tures, con­cert song and sa­cred works us­ing the same band and choir. In Au­gust 2016, ★auk tack­led a Mayr opera for the first time, con­duct­ing I Cher­usci in a live con­cert which he then recorded.

I Cher­usci (1808) is a fetch­ing but frus­trat­ing score. The ti­tle

refers to a Ger­manic tribe un­der Ro­man rule. Its plot cen­tres around the Cher­us­can hero free­ing his im­pris­oned beloved from a cap­tork­ing smit­ten with her and a high priest wish­ing to sac­ri­fice her alive. Love, hate, long­ing, fear – these Mayr knits into some lovely en­sem­bles, show-stop­ping so­prano solo arias, and shim­mer­ing solo in­stru­men­tal parts. Tus­nelda’s Act I ca­vatina (‘Ec­comi a voi’) ex­em­pli­fies Mayr’s lus­cious vo­cal­ism, which fore­shad­ows Rossini. But as a melodist Mayr fal­ters: his arias just aren’t ear-catch­ing.

Of the cast, Yvonne Pren­tki as the hero­ine is the star: a young prizewin­ning col­oratura, she sings in strato­spher­i­cally high reg­is­ters with care­less ease. An­other ris­ing tal­ent is Katha­rina Kon­radi, whose colours brings lus­tre to her mi­nor char­ac­ter. ★auk does a great job weld­ing in­stru­men­tal to vo­cal so­los and mak­ing recita­tive bus­tle for­ward; in vir­tu­oso arias, how­ever, cli­maxes and their build-ups are pre­dictable. ★alf the cast are tenors of un­even qual­ity whose en­sem­bles lack blend. Berta Jon­cus



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