Daniel Behle: Gluck Opera Arias
The inexorable rise of Handelian opera seria has exploded the old-fashioned polemic that formerly exalted Gluck as a righteous reformer acting as some kind of radical forerunner to Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk. A clearer view of the tercentenary birthday boy as an evolving pragmatist who wrote differently for dissimilar occasions and audiences emerges from Daniel Behle’s performances of arias from an assortment of operas covering a 30 year period, from the early Venetian Ipermestra (1744) to the Parisian version of Orfeo (1774).
Seven Metastasio aria settings showcase the bright playing of Armonia Atenea and Behle’s assertive singing. The tyrant Danao’s fiery denunciation of his own daughter (‘Non hai cor per un’impresa’ from Ipermestra) contrasts neatly with the pastoral delicacy of the oboes and strings in Massimo’s ‘Se povero il ruscello’ from Ezio (Prague, 1750); Behle’s precise cadenza and virile embellishments are impressive, and Gluck springs a thrilling surprise with turbulent strings for the middle section describing a swollen brook bursting its banks. Behle is not quite so comfortable in galant music that requires sweeter suppleness, such as the lovely ‘Je chérirai, jusq’au trépas’ from the comedy La recontre imprévue (Vienna, 1764), but he is outstanding in stormier music such as Jupiter’s thrilling soliloquy from La contesa de’ numi (Copenhagen, 1749) – if only the booklet-note could provide some hints about what’s going on.