> John Tomlinson bass arias [RF]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Arias from operas by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Wagner, R. Strauss and Lortzing. Sung in English.
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Philharmonia Orchestra. Cond. David Parry.
Recorded: December 1998, October 1999, September 2001 in Blackheath Halls, London. Mid Price.
CHANDOS. CHAN 3076 (78.31)



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It was only after graduating in Civil Engineering that John Tom, as he is known in the trade, turned to singing and trained at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music. His sonorous basso cantante quickly caught attention and he was soon treading the boards at London's English National Opera (1974) and Covent Garden (1976). Since that time his CV has expanded to take in most of the great opera houses of Europe and America, although not, it seems, La Scala. The latter omission may not be unconnected with his career direction into the Wagner repertoire where he has, very unusually, appeared as Wotan and Wanderer in two different productions, and their revivals, at Bayreuth. He has also sung Hans Sachs Landgraf, and more recently, Hagen at that theatre.

On this disc Tomlinson mixes the higher Germanic bass-baritone roles with the lower, basso profondo, parts. Thus we get both Pizarro's 'Revenge' aria and Rocco's 'If you don't have any money' from Beethoven's Fidelio, and the Dutchman's Monologue and Daland's aria from The Flying Dutchman. The disc starts well with Osmin's 'Revenge' aria, from Seraglio, where the pitch and tempo suit the singer well. However, in Sarastro's Prayer from the Magic Flute, which follows, Tomlinson is troubled to hold the legato line, and this is only the start of the downside. In the higher-lying roles he often shows signs of strain and the tone spreads under pressure to give a wobble. Try 4-5 min. in 'Wotan's Monologue' (tr 7); similar disconcerting sounds are also to be heard in the Dutchman's Monologue (tr 9).

Recorded ten years earlier, this programme might have portrayed this great singer in his prime and in repertoire in which he has enjoyed a distinguished international career. For me, I shall cherish, in my mind's eye and ear, Tomlinson's formidable vocal and histrionic portrayals of Boris and Verdi's Oberto, Attila and King Philip; his German repertoire will be denied me as I will not, regretfully, return to this disc.

The booklet has an informative essay on the excerpts by John Steane, also details of Peter Moores, and the Foundation that bears his name, and which sponsors these 'Operas In English' discs on the Chandos label. Tomlinson's biographical details give no date of birth; nor do any of my programme biographies! Needless to say, the recording is of the highest Chandos quality, and supporting choir (not attributed) and soloists are present, where appropriate, giving proper sense to each excerpt. The words are printed for each track, though with Tomlinson's diction these are largely unnecessary.

Robert J Farr


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