Anando Mukerjee & Steven Maughan

Handel
Atalanta – Di ad Irene
Gluck
Paride ed Elena – O del mio dolce ardour
Mozart
Die Zauberflöte – Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön
Liszt
Der du von dem Himmel bist, Op.4/3
Strauss
Heimliche Aufforderung, Op.27/3; Ständchen, Op.17/2
Rachmaninov
How fair this spot, Op.21/7; Spring waters, Op.14/11
Ponchielli
La Gioconda; Cielo e mar
Tosti
Aprile
Donaudy
O del mio amato ben
Donizetti
Lucia di Lammermoor – Tombe degl’avi miel … Fra poco a me ricovero
Duparc
Phidylé
Massenet
Ouvre tes yeux bleus
Bizet
Carmen – La fleur que tu m’avais jetée
Giordano
Andrea Chenier – Improvviso

Anando Mukerjee (tenor) & Steven Maughan (piano)


Reviewed by: Richard Nicholson

Reviewed: 28 March, 2009
Venue: National Opera Studio, London

Anando Mukerjee has been stealthily climbing the ranks of promising young tenors, with regular appearances at smaller London venues and a Wigmore Hall debut in May 2007. Regarding the latter I did not find him entirely comfortable as a singer of Lieder and mélodie. In addition, the artificial sound of his top notes suggested the need for more technical study.

This private recital in the intimate surroundings of the National Opera Studio revealed a voice with expanded possibilities and suggested progress in coming to terms with the upper extremities.

The recitalists began with an eighteenth-century group, a brisk Handel aria, contrasted with the stately solemnity of Gluck, both idiomatically delivered. Aminta’s runs from “Atalanta” were fluent and stylish. Tamino’s ‘Portrait’ aria did seem a slightly odd bedfellow for them and it turned out to be Mukerjee’s least successful performance. The slow tempo revealed a tendency to pronounce unstressed ‘e’ sounds too brightly, while the lengthening of certain syllables for emphasis, including in the very opening line “Bildnis”, jarred quite badly.

It was re-assuring to find the Liszt and Richard Strauss songs free of any such solecisms. The changing moods of “Heimliche Aufforderung”, the nonchalant, the romantic and the ecstatic, were clearly defined, conveyed bodily as well as vocally. Steven Maughan supported Mukerjee with some particularly deft playing of the sparkling pearls of Strauss’s “Serenade”. He was equally effective in both the flowing phrases and irregular rhythms respectively of the two Rachmaninov songs . Mukerjee’s attack on the climactic high B flat in “Spring Waters” was a great improvement on his troubles in the Wigmore recital: here and in the final note of Enzo’s aria which concluded the first half there was just a hint of the voce fissa but this was entirely forgivable in the context of vocalism which was free and secure.

The two Italian romantic songs benefited greatly from not being overloaded with cloying emotional sauce. Grace was their main feature. The head voice was used with control for the first exclamations of “È l’April!” and intelligently contrasted with the second ones, while the final diminuendo was enchanting.

That Mukerjee has the requisite command of his vocal equipment and understanding of style to succeed in mélodie was clearly evident in both Duparc and Massenet: in the former his legato was impeccable and the sultry atmosphere came across well, while he switched to convey the lighter atmosphere of the latter with ease. Only some inappropriately operatic poses and gestures could be questioned in the song repertoire generally.

The three operatic items in the second half were those which gave rise to the most excitement and optimism. The recitative to Edgardo’s last-act aria bristled with resentment at Lucia’s suspected treachery; the aria which followed was reinforced with a consistent vibrancy in the tone which had previously in the recital come and gone but which here made something particularly moving of the declamation. Moving up a notch to more robust music, Mukerjee’s intensity in the ‘Flower Song’ (“Carmen”) was not in question, though some lack of nuance was epitomised by the application of a full chest voice to the high B flat that is marked pianissimo.

Chenier’s ‘Improvviso’ was a daring choice to end with for a singer of Mozart and Duparc but Mukerjee filled the rhetorical phrases with fervour and potency, successfully conveying the impression of spontaneous creation. How he might manage in the theatre is a moot point. I am reluctant to believe that Mukerjee sees himself as a potential verismo tenor but he advertised here that there are reserves of power available to him. His career seems on the point of taking off.

Maughan was a first-class accompanist and the two musicians showed evidence of a mutually confident and sympathetic partnership of which one would like to hear more.

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