Hot on the heels of Iestyn Davies’ distinguished recording of Bach alto cantatas comes another disc containing two of the same from another British countertenor. Tim Mead, a former choral scholar of King’s College, Cambridge has forged a busy and successful career on the operatic and concert stage.
He displays admirable agility in the final aria of Widerstehe doch der Sünde (BWV54). While Davies may have the edge in bringing the words to life, there is certainly much to enjoy in Mead’s account; not only his mellifluous tone but the fine playing of La Nuova Musica, which this year celebrates the tenth anniversary of its founding by artistic director, David Bates. Vergnügte Ruh! Beliebte Seelenlust! (BWV170) also demonstrates Mead’s affinity with Bach’s musical idiom through his unforced vocal technique. His more outwardly expressive approach provides a thoughtful and nuanced contrast to Davies.
By way of contrast the Bach cantatas are paired with Pergolesi’s ever-popular Stabat Mater. Mead is joined by soprano, Lucy Crowe who visited Australia in 2012 to be soprano soloist in the ACO’s performances of Beethoven’s Ninth. Although the voices are in the main well matched, there are occasions in this performance where I feel the performers are lured into the trap of being overly expressive, with the resultant loss of dramatic focus which comes the stark beauty of Pergolesi’s score.