This is a stalwart disc, a reissue of recordings dating
from 1966-67 and bringing together the voices of Bernadette Greevy,
a contralto of discernment and depth and Forbes Robinson, redoubtable
bass. Eight selections each, Greevy’s in particular is illuminated by
canny selection chosen, one assumes, in collaboration with Raymond Leppard
who plays harpsichord and directs. She gives us the still little known
Convey me to some peaceful shore from Alexander Balus, certainly
not as well known as it should be, as well as arias from such as Rinaldo
and Rodelinda which are now much more part of the fabric of our experience
than perhaps was the case when these recordings were made. We can note
something of Greevy’s plangent lower register in Vieni, o figlio
– her voice well supported, with a kind of passionate nobility and musicianship
that I find very sympathetic: also there is her soft singing here which
is well matched by the Academy’s strings. The aria from Alexander Balus
is short but very expressive and Greevy’s textual awareness heightens
it still further. There is abundant evidence of her sensitivity in Cangio
d’aspetto with her well-taken runs and good breath control. In Dove
sei it is notable how Leppard brings out the cello line and how
affecting in general the strings are, as are her discreet portamentos.
The aria from Rinaldo features a dramatic recitative with glowering
and fractious lower strings and is correspondingly well sung by Greevy
whilst Leppard’s infectious harpsichord makes its presence felt in La
Rondinella; too florid for some, I suppose, but lively.
The rest of the recital is dedicated to the bass repertoire
and it’s a sturdy, square-jawed selection in the main. Robinson was
somewhat past his best here but still contributes well to the disc.
He is rather blustery in Revenge, Timotheus cries, old fashioned
perhaps and with reasonable runs but a little unfocused in tone which
can lead to a certain immobility. But listen to his gross sibilants
in "hiss" – these are mean and ferocious snakes and how well
Robinson conveys it, without caricature. He is capacious and
cavernous in Se un bell’ardier – sustained with adequate but
not outstanding breath control. His runs in The God of Battle
very slightly detract from an otherwise attractive performance but in
Leave me, loathsome light, from Semele, he is inward, reflective,
philosophical and appropriately softens and colours his tone beneath
which Ledger gets sensitive orchestral contributions. A splendid performance.
The transfers are equally good but there are no texts, though there
are précis for each aria.