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John Tomlinson: Great Scenes and Arias
CD 1

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791) Don Giovanni Act 1 Scene 1: Notte e giorne faticar; Scene 5: Chi è la?; Madamina, il catalogo è questo; Act 2 Scenes 7-9: Di molte faci il lune; Sola, sola, in buio loco; Dunque, quello sei tu; Ah, pietà, signori miei!; Scene 11: O statua gentilissima
Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883) Das Rheingold Scene 2: Wotan, Gemahl! Erwache!; Um des Gatten Treue besorgt; Scene 4: Weiche, Wotan, weiche!; Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge; Ihrem Ende eilen sie zu; Rheingold, Rheingold! Die Walküre act 1 scene 2: Müd am Herd fand ich den Mann; Friedmund darf ich nicht heissen; Aus dem Wald tribe es mich fort; Die so leiding Los die beschied; Ich weiss ein wildes Geschlecht
Arnold SCHÖNBERG (1874 – 1951) a Survivor from Warsaw, op 46
CD 2

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Così fan tutte Act 1: Son già le sei; Vorrei dir e cor non ho; Stelle! Per carità, signor Alfonso; Dove son?; Soave sia il vento; Non son cattivo comico; Che silenzio: che aspetto di tristezza; Act 2: Ah poveretto me; Tutti accusan le donne
Richard WAGNER Die Walküre act 2: Als junger Liebe Lust mir verblich; Ein andres ist’s: achte es wohl; So nimmst du von Siegmund den Sieg?; So nimm meinem Segen, Nibelungen-Sohn; Act 3, Scene 2: Wo ist Brünnhild’, wo die Verbrecherin?; Hier bin ich, Vater; Scene 3: So tatest du, was so gern zu tun ich begehrt; Du zeugtest ein edles Geschlecht; Was hast du erdacht, dass ich erdulde?; Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind!; Der Augen leuchtendes Paar; Loge, hör! Lausche hierher!
CD 3

Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683 – 1764) Naïs Prologue, Scenes 2 and 3: Arrétez, monstres, arrétez; Au fond des gouffres éternels
Francesco CAVALLI (1602 – 1676) L’Ercole amante Act 4, Scene 4: Eccoti o Dea contenta
Richard WAGNER Siegfried Act 1, Scene 2: Heil dir weiser Schmied!; Jier sitz’ ich am Herd, und setze mein Haupt; Du rührtest dich viel auf der Erde Rücken; Viel, Wanderer, weisst du mir aus der Erde Nabelnest; Viel, Wanderer, weisst du mir von der Erde rauhem Rücken; Fragen und Haupt hast du gelöst; Nun, ehrlicher Zwerg, sag mir zum ersten; Wie doch genau das Geschlecht du mir nennst; Ha ha ha ha! Der witzigste bist du under den Weisen; Dreimal solltest du fragen; Act 2, Scene 1: Wer naht dort schimmernd im Schatten?; Mit mir nicht, hadre mit Mime; Fafner! Fafner! Erwache, Wurm!; Nun, Alberich! Das schlug fehl! Act 3, Scene 1: Wache, Wala! Wala! Erwach!; Stark ruft das Lied; Mein Schlaf ist Träumen; Dir Unweisen ruf’ ich ins Ohr; Scene 2: Dort seh’ ich Siegfried nahn; Was lachst du mir aus? Alter Frager!; Kenntest du mich, kühner Spross
CD 4

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Le nozze di Figaro Act 1: Cinque; dieci; venti; Cosa stai misurando; Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama; Or bene, ascolta e taci!; Se vuol ballare, signor Contino; Non più andrai farfallone amoroso; Act 4: Tutto è disposto; Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi
Richard WAGNER Parsifal Act 1: O wunden-wundervoller heiliger Speer!; Titurel, der fromme Held, der kannt’ ihn wohl; Vom Bade kehrt der König heim; Vervandlungsmusik; Nun achte wohl und lass mich seh’n; Act 3: Heil dir, mein Gast!; Heil mir, dass ich dich wiederfinde!; O Herr! War es ein Fluch, der dich vom rechten Pfad vertrieb; Karfreitagszauber; Du siehst, das ist nicht so; Mittag. Die Stund’ ist da
John Tomlinson (bass-baritone), Lella Cuberli (soprano) (Donna Anna CD1; Fiordiligi CD2), Waltraud Meier (mezzo-soprano) (Donna Elvira CD1), Joan Rodgers (soprano) (Zerlina CD1; Despina CD2; Susanna CD4), Ferruccio Furlanetto (bass) (Don Giovanni CD1; Guglielmo CD2), Matti Salminen (bass) (Il Commendatore CD1), Michele Pertusi (baritone) (Masetto CD1), Linda Finnie (mezzo-soprano) (Fricka CD1), Eva Johansson (soprano) (Freia CD1), Birgitta Svendén (mezzo-soprano) (Erda CD1 and CD3), Graham Clark (tenor) (Loge CD1; Mime CD3), Deborah Polaski (soprano) (Sieglinde CD1), Placido Domingo (tenor) (Siegmund CD1), Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano) (Dorabella CD2), Kurt Streit (tenor) (Ferrando CD2), Anne Evans (soprano) (Brünnhilde CD2), Günter von Kannen (bass) (Alberich CD3), Philip Kang (bass) (Fafner CD3), Siegfried Jerusalem (tenor) (Siegfried CD3), Poul Elming (tenor) (Parsifal CD4) et al
Chor der Sächsischen Staatsoper Dresden and Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli (Schönberg), English Bach Festival Chorus and Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan (Rameau), Michel Corboz (Cavalli), Berliner Philharmoniker/Daniel Barenboim (Mozart), Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim (Die Walküre Act 1; Parsifal), Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele/Daniel Barenboim (Das Rheingold; Die Walküre Acts 2 and 3; Siegfried)
Recorded in All Saints’ Church, Tooting Graveney, January 1980 (Cavalli); EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, in December 1980 (Rameau); Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin, 3-12 November 1989 (Così fan tutte); 6-17 May 1990 (Le nozze di Figaro); April 1991 (Don Giovanni); Bayreuth Festival June/July 1991 (Das Rheingold); June/July 1992 (Die Walküre and Siegfried); Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, 28 November 1993 "Live" (Die Walküre Act 1 Scene 3); Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden, May/June 1998 "Live" (Schönberg)
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62301-2 [4 CDs: 79:11 + 73:11 + 75:59 + 75:41]

Five hours of excerpts from complete recordings, mostly Mozart and Wagner and made during a period of almost twenty years, is a worthy tribute to the art of John Tomlinson, who will turn 60 on 22 September next year (2006).

He will probably be best remembered for his Wagner and especially his Bayreuth Wotan/Wanderer, a part well represented on these discs. A sturdy and powerful delivery, deep involvement, good characterization and excellent articulation are his hallmarks – and not only in his Wagner singing but generally speaking. On the reverse side of the coin can be noted a certain stridency of tone, rawness, even, which works well in many of his parts while in others one could ideally wish for a more rounded tone. It also makes for example his Figaro more heavyfooted than is ideal. It is an involved and pointed performance but this Figaro is more revolutionary than good-humoured. But no one can deny that it is an interpretation full of life – as are his other Mozart characters. For example Don Alfonso’s cynicism is well depicted and in this role Tomlinson can also be honeyed and ingratiating. There is a great deal of recitativo secco included in the Mozart excerpts which is valuable, since this is where much of the acting and word-painting is done. The trio Soave sia il vento from Così is enchanting with excellent contributions from Lella Cuberli and Cecilia Bartoli. As Leporello he is closer to Fernando Corena’s larger-than-life approach than Erich Kunz’s more slimline valet, but of course just as keen with his words. With three formidable basses – Tomlinson, Furlanetto and Salminen – the churchyard trio becomes even darker and more doom-laden than usual.

In the Wagner field we hear him, not only as Wotan but also in a live concert performance of the first act of Die Walküre, as Hunding. In this lower-lying part he sounds actually more comfortable than he can as the more baritonal Wotan. As usual he articulates the text admirably, obviously relishing every phrase this none-too-sympathetic character has to deliver. Placido Domingo sings an eager Siegmund with lyrical beauty, easily trumping most of his latterday competitors, while Deborah Polaski, what little we hear from her, is curiously neutral. As Wotan Tomlinson can sometimes, as I have already implied, be quite strained, but he is always a vivid presence and in Die Walküre he is authoritative and powerful in act 2 while in the third act his anger gradually gives way to concern, sorrow and fatherly love. Anne Evans is a vulnerable Brünnhilde, very human. His Wanderer in Siegfried is well represented and, to my ears at least, Tomlinson is in even better shape here than a year earlier as Wotan. We also hear Graham Clark’s whining Mime and Siegfried Jerusalem’s still youthful Siegfried. Gurnemanz in the extended Parsifal excerpts is done with great feeling although Tomlinson’s somewhat gritty voice is not an ideal instrument to express warmth in the way Kurt Moll does in the Karajan recording. Poul Elming in the title role is another worthy Heldentenor, so with hindsight one can say that the tenor department during the last fifteen years or so hasn’t been too sparsely filled.

Among the assisting soloists, besides those already mentioned, Birgitta Svendén’s noble Erda in both Das Rheingold and Siegfried, and Joan Rodgers’s lively Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, rank among the best. Barenboim has a firm grip of the proceedings, both as a Mozartean and a Wagnerian, although the complete recordings of course give a fuller picture. Still these are not only bleeding chunks that end as soon as you have started to get involved. Bleeding they are, many of the Wagner chunks, but they are also quite substantial. Once into the third scene of act 3 of Die Walküre, we are offered almost 30 minutes of continuous music right up to the very end of the opera.

Apart from Mozart and Wagner we get glimpses of quite different areas of Tomlinson’s capacity. On CD3 we hear the comparatively young bass-baritone in some baroque excerpts. Recorded in 1980 he is here more smoothly sonorous and impressively agile in his runs. It is especially nice to have the scene from Cavalli’s L’Ercole amante, a recording that should be available in its entirety, not least for the reading of the title role from Ulrik Cold, who is not heard here; Keith Lewis and Yvonne Minton are, although unmentioned in the credits. At the other end of the spectrum we meet Tomlinson in a 1998 recording of Schönberg’s touching A Survivor from Warsaw, where his speaking voice has the same characteristics as his singing: intensity, involvement and admirable diction.

The booklet has full details of who sings/plays/conducts what but it is a little clumsily arranged with first all the tracks listed, then all the singers listed and then orchestras and conductors listed. And the recording venues and dates are listed in still another place on the last page of the booklet. It is just as hard to decipher as the heading to this review. And for some reason I was not able to find recording dates for the Parsifal excerpts. As some kind of consolation we get a nice "letter" from Tomlinson where he reminisces about the recording sessions, e.g. noting that the Berlin Wall fell during the recording of Così fan tutte. An expanded portrait of Tomlinson’s career and extensive synopses to the operas included are also presented in an essay by Raymond McGill. We do not get the sung texts though, but that would probably be asking too much; after all this is a budget price issue

To get an even fuller portrait of John Tomlinson in some of his great parts, one needs the complete recordings, but for those who admire his singing but already have other versions of these operas and don’t want to invest in "the whole thing" once more, these are worthy examples of his art. Others may have offered more beautiful tone and smoother delivery, but for untiring intensity and deep involvement John Tomlinson is hard to beat.

Göran Forsling

 

 



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