on 23 December 2012
Let me tell you straight away that you will be blown away by the quality of singing and playing on offer here. Christopher Purves has been steadily making a real name for himself as a basso supremo, regularly working with the likes of Mackerras and other top conductors. Here he is paired with the charismatic Jonathan Cohen and his superb early music group Arcangelo to perform some of Handel's most magnificent -and difficult - bass arias. If you want to sample one, let it be 'Fra l'ombre e gl'orrori 'from Acis and Galatea, where Handel conjures up the king of the deep by giving the singer a span of nearly three octaves to deal with (yes you read that right) Purves is incredible here, not just how he negotiates this (listen out for an A below bottom C) but the sheer beauty of tone and legato line that he sustains. The accompaniment is wonderful, with a bed of strings and recorders wrapping their own line around the singer. The rest is up to this high standard, with recording to match. A disc of the year for me !
I've long been an admirer of Christopher Purves, having marvelled at his musicality and versatility for Opera North in roles as diverse as Balstrode, Dulcamara, the Forester and the Mayor in "La Gazza Ladra". Since then, his career has really taken off and his recorded output has proved to be as varied as his stage repertoire.
Handel recitals on disc for the bass voice are relatively few and far between; I own recitals by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Bryn Terfel, but they both undertake arias nowadays usually assigned to the alto or counter-tenor voice or, in the case of Terfel, to tenors (albeit after transposition). The same is, I believe, also true of Ildebrando D'Archangelo's recital. The only other bass singers I can recall making Handel recitals are Owen Brannigan, Forbes Robinson and, in his recital "Arias for Montagnana". I was never a great fan of Thomas's voice, but I marvelled at his ability to cope with the extraordinary tessitura and vocal leaps in "Fra l'ombre e gli'orrori" from "Sosarme". The same aria is performed on this recital by Christopher Purves, albeit in its version from "Aci, Galatea e Polifemo".
Thomas's voice was not especially "bass" in its timbre, but he had an extraordinary capacity for plumbing the vocal depths. The same is true of Purves; to my ears, there is more "baritone" than "bass" in his voice, but he copes with amazing ease with the demands Handel places on his soloist...at one stage I think he even touches a bottom A, for goodness sake!
I have heard richer, more luxurious voices than Purves', but it is a splendid instrument nonetheless and his singing is consistently sensitive to the demands of the music and offers a particularly well-sustained line throughout, whilst at the same time demonstrating a lively feeling for character. Purves is one of the great singing actors of his day (listen to his singing of the recitative to "O ruddier than the cherry") and is equally at home portraying blustery villains and concerned fathers. Every track is a stand-out and he receives magnificent support from the instrumental group Arcangelo under Jonatan Cohen; the horn-playing is especially fine.
Do yourself a real favour and buy this disc!
on 26 December 2012
I concur with the comments a few days ago by "Bass Lover" - the best collection of bass arias ever, as far as I'm concerned, with track 4 as the unbelievable highlight. It was hearing this track played on Radio 3 that got me to rush out and buy this disc, and I wasn't disappointed.
I brought this cd after hearing a review of it on a local radio station – I was astonished by Christopher Purves’ virtuosity and range, and was further intrigued by the beauty (and different tones) of each of the arias that I heard in the review. I absolutely love this cd now I have it, and have listened to it frequently.
The arias are all for the bass (or base) voice, and Christopher Purves has captured the tone and context of each of the arias brilliantly in my view. We have songs of despair, rage, love, sorrow, lust, revenge and more in these wonderfully selected arias from many of Handel’s works including Rinaldo, Acis and Galatea, La Resurrezione, Deborah, Belshazzar, Orlando, Agrippina, Alexander’s Feast and Semele. The enunciation of Purves’ voice is clear and delightful throughout, whatever the tone of the aria he is singing, and he is skilfully and sympathetically accompanied throughout by Arcangelo under Jonathan Cohen. There is a real depth, yet lightness where required to Purves’ voice and this is clearly defined in every line. Arcangelo’s musical accompaniment offers beautiful music written by Handel which wonderfully aligns with the singing, yet never overshadows nor is overshadowed by the bass voice.
There is a comprehensive booklet accompanying the cd, with information on each of the arias, and the full lyrics (and translated where necessary), with brief bios of Christopher Purves and Jonathan Cohen, and Arcangelo. This is not a cd I would normally go for straight off, but I was totally drawn into it by what I first heard on the radio, and I absolutely love it. It’s one of the best purchases I have made in a while, and one I will never tire of hearing. I can absolutely recommend it wholeheartedly to anybody who is fond of Handel’s music, or anyone who wants to hear beautiful singing, wonderfully rendered by a fabulously talented singer, with a fine musical accompaniment.
on 6 February 2013
Chris Purves has brought new life to these lovely arias, investing them with his own huge, sensitive talent, to create something of great beauty and longevity. I was left almost breathless by the marriage of technical virtuosity and the emotional depth of his singing. Beyond beautiful.
on 5 February 2013
Well yes, Chris Purves has an amazing instrument: he must sing three octaves or more in this virtuoso recital of Handel Arias for 'Base' voice. He is untroubled by the florid passages here; all runs are very clean and taken at a fair old lick. He is also unfailingly musical in his singing of this wonderful music and his vivid word painting is quite superb. The great anomaly here, as far as I am concerned, is, that while Purves does the most extraordinary things, the quality of his voice is not especially ingratiating and doesn't sound like one of the great Italian or Russian basses (Pinza,Siepi, Chaliapin, Kipnis etc.)more like a very competent English baritone with a quite unbelievable lower extention. His voice is also not ideally steady in the slower, legato music and loses focus when singing quietly. Please do not get me wrong - there is much to enjoy here (not least the excellent accompaniment from 'Arcangelo' under Jonathan Cohen) and I recommend you buy this disc; but I still do not think this is 'great' singing.