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GRAMOPHONE (05/2023)
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Reviewer :
Alexandra Coghlan


When it comes to countertenor Alexander Chance, son of Michael Chance, the Adam’s apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. After becoming the first countertenor to win the International Handel Singing Competition last year (also walking away with the Audience Prize), Chance now releases his debut recording: a programme of English song with lutenist Toby Carr. And it’s a thing of beauty.


Chance’s tone is pellucid; notes fall round and clear as water drops – it’s a really outstanding instrument, fuller and straighter-toned than his father’s, with a lovely softness at the bottom. His restraint is admirable – not overworking songs by Dowland, Campion and Purcell, whose crisp outlines are so much of their charm – as is his control, showcased best in the Purcell: the unbroken horizon-line phrases of ‘An Evening Hymn’, the silky melismas of ‘O solitude’.


These are well-known works: a serious statement of intent from a young singer who could have hedged his bets with unusual repertoire or programming, but instead gives us a classic recital that maps directly on to extant recordings by Bowman, Blaze, Scholl and Davies, among others. It invites comparison, and Chance more than holds his own.


The disc’s theme is melancholy, and it’s in the lighter moments – the courtly roleplay of ‘Can she excuse my wrongs’; the knowing ‘I care not for these ladies’, with its ‘wanton country maid’ who ‘never will say no’ – that Chance shows perhaps too much taste and understatement. Just a little twinkle in the eye, a lifting and lightening of tone and dance rhythms, might give us the ebb to balance a disc that flows in full vocal spate much of the time.


Carr’s delicate touch supplies attractive lute solos by way of interludes, including a ravishing little Prelude by Visée and a Mignarda by Dowland that sings with contrapuntal clarity. All ease and intimate gesture, they’re a good foil to Chance’s more assertive delivery. It’s a lovely pairing, and a recording in which Chance stakes serious claim to the title of his generation’s most exciting British countertenor.

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