Handel: Arias for Bass – review

Purves/Arcangelo/Cohen
(Hyperion)

We owe the recent proliferation of Handel recitals primarily to countertenors and mezzos, so Christopher Purves's disc of bass arias makes a refreshing surprise. Handel's writing for bass is often described as samey, the result of his association of the voice with thugs, tyrants and lechers, a criticism that Purves shows to be untrue. We've heard warmer voices in Handel, but Purves is a fine vocal actor, and we're continuously aware of the variety of Handel's style and the sharpness of his characterisation. The great moments are those in which the singing reveals the depths of Handel's psychological insight, above all in a scene from Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, in which the monster Polifemo is suddenly shown to have immense nobility of soul. There's wonderful playing from Arcangelo under Jonathan Cohen, too.

Contributor

Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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