Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

George Frederic HANDEL
(1695-1759) Acis and Galatea - I rage, I rage, I rage, I melt, I burn … O ruddier than the cherry. Samson - Honour and arms scorn such a foe.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
(1756-91) Die Entführung aus dem Serail - Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden; Ich gehe, doch rate ich dira; Vivat Bacchus! Bacchus lebe!b.
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Simon Boccangra - A te l'estremo addio … Il lacerato spirito. Ernani - Che mai vegg'io! … Infelice! … e tuo credevid.
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-81) Mephistopheles' Song of the Flea. Alexander BORODIN (1833-87) Prince Igor - No rest, no slumber; The sober life of boredomd; Igor, listen.
(1813-69) Russalka - Miller's Song.
(1862-1918) Myself when young.
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900) The Mikado - A more humane Mikado … My object all sublimed.
Geneviève de Brabant - We're public guardians bold yet waryc.
Includes bonus track of Mussorgsky's My soul is sad from Boris Godunov (from CHAN3007). All tracks sung in English.

John Tomlinson (bass); Philharmonia Orchestra/David Parry with aHelen Williams (soprano); bBarry Banks (tenor); cAndrew Shore (bass-baritone); dGeoffrey Mitchell Choir.
Chandos CHAN3044 [DDD] [77'42]

It's discs like this one that make one take stock and realise how lucky we are to boast a singer of the calibre of John Tomlinson. He has sung in every major opera house (being a Bayreuth regular since 1988). His repertoire is enormous, ranging from Handel (represented here) to Birtwistle (regrettably not represented here). Tomlinson realises that Handel can take a robust approach, and delivers a full-blooded account of both the famous O Ruddier than the cherry and the Samson excerpt. He makes an imposing Osmin (Entführung), although I question his decision to scoop up to the first note of Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden. Still, the lower register delivers the fruity bass notes Mozart demands and the excerpts are immersed in the spirit of comic opera. Only Helen Williams' weak lower register detracts at one point, but on the credit side Barry Banks' light tenor seems ideally suited to the task.

Tomlinson truly excels in the heavier roles, so when the Boccangra excerpt arrives at track 5, we really know we've arrived. Boccangra has never joined the pantheon of Verdi's great operas (time for a reappraisal, methinks), but it's obvious that Tomlinson totally believes in his chosen excerpt (Fiesco's Scene and Aria). His entreaty, Pray now, Maria, for me is truly heartfelt. Similarly, the other Verdi snippet is culled from Ernani and Tomlinson gives it its full weight. This is true Verdi singing, the involvement complete.

Russian music seems particularly suited to Tomlinson's voice and talents. He successfully takes on three parts from Prince Igor (No rest, no slumber seems Boris-like in its painful entreaties) and seems to identify fully with each character (the encore track on the disc, from Chandos' famous recording of Boris Godunov, serves as a timely reminder of his abilities in that opera). The lighter items are a true delight. Tomlinson lets his hair down in the Mikado's Song and in the Offenbach duet. The unexpected success of the lighter side of this compilation is the Miller's Song from Dargomizhsky's Russalka. This was one of Chaliapin's favourite roles, and Tomlinson brings bags of jollity to it.

The 'official' final track, (from Pirates) is a joy mainly because of Tomlinson's emphatically north-of Watford accent ('muther', 'smuther', 'anuther', 'an appy' etc) and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir's enthusiastic championship of battered vowel sounds. The encore, with the Chorus of Opera North and the English Northern Philharmonia under Paul Daniel, is a reminder of Tomlinson's great (a much abused word, here the only one to use) reading of Boris.


Colin Clarke



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