Handel's Finest Arias For Base Voice
While recitals on CD of soprano arias from Handel’s operas, oratorios and odes abound, those featuring bass voice are less common. Here is one to treasure both for the sensitive and well-sustained singing of Christopher Purves and for the wonderfully wide expressive range of Handel’s music. Some of the pieces, such as Polyphemus’s ‘O ruddier than the cherry’ from Acis and Galatea, are well known but many others, such as ‘Fra l’ombre e gl’orrori’ from Handel’s earlier Italian setting of the same myth, are less often encountered. Purves has an acute ear, serving well his intonation and lively feeling for characterisation. Both the Polyphemus pieces come over with colourful vigour, as do Milton’s vivid images of the chase from L’Allegro. Here Handel complements the text with a rousing, hunting horn solo, beautifully played by Roger Montgomery. Such pieces strikingly contrast with the reflective ‘Tears, such as tender fathers shed’ from the biblical oratorio Deborah.
The pleasure of single-voice recitals can sometimes be tempered by repetitive mannerisms or exaggerated gestures. Purves avoids both, ensuring enjoyment which is further enhanced by excellent support from the instrumental ensemble Arcangelo under Jonathan Cohen’s sympathetic direction. It’s a shame that ‘Come rosa in su la spina’ from Apollo e Dafne was not included but we can’t have everything, or so I’m told.