If you’ve seen Brindley Sherratt in action, you’ll know him to be a consummate stage animal. But the British bass has had an unusual path to prominence. After training as a trumpeter, he switched to singing where he soon won a coveted position in the BBC Singers. Only after 13 years of financial security did he leap off into the unknown, which is how come he’s recording his first solo album at the relatively mature age of 59. It has, however, been worth the wait.

Fear No More is named for a poem in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline that consoles the dead by suggesting that nothing now can touch them while reminding the rest of us that “golden lads and girls all must as chimneysweepers, come to dust.” Sherratt performs Gerald Finzi’s masterly setting with a lugubrious relish for the text’s gloomier aspects, his obsidian bass the living personification of the Grim Reaper.

The same sensitivity to words and feeling for the macabre informs his dramatic accounts of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death. Trepak has a deliciously grisly swing while Field Marshall conjures the horrors of battle, both aided by Julius Drake’s flexible and colourful accompaniments. What makes Sherratt special is his careful avoidance of Gothic excess, something the voice could easily encompass were he a less thoughtful artist.

The first part of the disc shows him to be a fine Schubertian with a granitic account of Mayerhofer’s darkly despairing Fahrt zum Hades and a lollop through an Italian serenade to words by Metastasio. Death and the Maiden is another pearl and a chance to deploy his spinetingling pianissimo as the most seductive of spectres.

He’s at his finest, however, in the concluding set of five English songs, including a bleak yet salty account of Ireland’s Sea Fever and an aching resignation in Michael Head’s Limehouse Reach. As he waves us off with a Falstaffian turn in Warlock’s Captain Stratton’s Fancy, we are already looking forward to volume two.

Listen on Apple Music

Title: Fear No More
Work(s): Songs by Schubert, Mussorgsky, Warlock et al.
Performers: Brindley Sherratt b, Julius Drake p
Label: Delphian DCD34313

Take the Limelight Reader Survey and you could win an Australian Digital Concert Hall gift voucher