Monday 16 July 2012

Richard Lewis

What does the name Richard Lewis mean to you? The finest Gerontius on record, a superb singer or Mahler or Mozart, Walton's Troilus. You can hear him as Troilus on Youtube, he recorded excerpts with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Cressida; she was Walton's first choice for the role but never sang it on stage. And of course he premiered Tippett's A Midsummer Marriage with Joan Sutherland as Jennifer (a live recording is available on disc and well worth-while seeking out).

For me Lewis remains the Gerontius par excellence (hear him on Youtube), even though I only heard him sing it in the latter part of his career. I was in the London Philharmonic Choir in the 1980's when he sang the role (then in his 70's) with Bernard Haitink conducting. Lewis had had surgery (hip replacement I believe) and needed a chair to help him stand, but his command of the role was still amazing. And the quality he brought to the opening of part 2, you really felt that this was a man who had just died. Haitink's accompaniment of Lewis was exemplary and very sympathetic, always keeping the orchestral sound within the singer's comfort zone.

Now a blue plaque celebrating the composer has been unveiled his house in Eastbourne; more information at the Eastbourne Herald website.

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