...the whole disc is undoubtedly an enjoyable listen.
Charlotte Gardner 2008-01-16
Ian Bostridge states in the sleeve notes that his aim is to ''rehabilitate the Handel tenor'', and to represent Handel's ''ability to recreate himself whilst remaining essentially the same''. You may not be entirely convinced the Handelian tenor needs much rehabilitation these days, but if it did still need a helping hand (or voice) then Bostridge, with his deliciously mellow tone and scholarly interpretation, is certainly the one to enlist, and this enjoyable disc would do the job. On the second point, whilst Bostridge admits that to represent all of Handel's career on one disc would be an impossible task, this programme does go a long way to achieving it. The music ranges from Cosi la tortorella, a dramatic aria composed in Rome during the papal-driven closure of theatres, to songs and duets in which he is well partnered by Kate Royal from the peak of his commercial success as king of London's operatic world.
Authentic performance buffs may tut over Bostridge's decision to transpose two castrato arias into the tenor, Scherza infida and Ombra mai fu. He rightly argues that this isn't so historically reprehensible, given that Handel himself occasionally transposed arias, and it isn't such a textural transformation as it would be if transposed to the bass. In the end, it all boils down to personal taste. However, in the case of Scherza infida, aside from the texture, it greatly alters the character of the music. The transposition works enormously well, but it has become an entirely different piece; the pain is borne with soft gentility rather than with the searing rage and abandon the treble clef gives it. This might be as much to do with Bostridge as the clef, though; he just doesn't sound particularly angry, and as a general rule he is more convincing when untamed negative emotions aren't called for. As a result, high points of the disc include Where'er you walk, and the uplifting Comfort ye…Ev'ry valley from The Messiah. However, with Bostridge's vocal precision and smooth tone the whole disc is undoubtedly an enjoyable listen.