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In Audible Memory of Philip Langridge

Philip Langridge, who died Friday night (5 March 2010), was a quiet star in the world of singers. Perhaps he wasn’t a star at all, but a talented gentleman who happened to be extraordinarily successful. Even if you count only his most important recordings, he has nearly a hundred discs to his name. From Handel to Birtwistle, from Purcell to Thomas Adès, for whose “The Tempest” he created the role of the King of Naples, singing the role on stage throughout Europe last year. And always there was Benjamin Britten — whose music Langridge had a particular affinity for and with whom he had worked extensively. When Chandos recorded the great Britten operas, Philip Langridge was their ‘Peter Pears’.
 
His voice wasn’t ever a lush crooner’s instrument — it was rather on the dry side. But it was very well controlled, imbued with immense artistry, and it lasted him in demanding repertoire all his 69 years. I wanted to see the Frankfurt production of "The Tempest", but was sick at the time. Now I have never seen him on stage. Sad though that is, my memories of him remain strong because he was “my” Grimes. During my long struggle to grasp and appreciate — eventually love — Benjamin Britten, it was his recording of "Peter Grimes" (Chandos, 1997 Grammy winner) that opened my ears the widest. Not the classic Britten-Pears, nor the famous Vickers-Davis, but Langridge-Hickox. It had stoic nobility, complexity, it was darkly-dramatic and above all it remained surprisingly mellifluous. For once I really felt for — and with — the Grimes character. And thus enthralled by the character, the music offered itself with natural self-evidence.
 
His Billy Budd is equally good and if “Death in Venice” were a more popular opera, he’d be famous for that, too. His “Turn of the Screw”, performing alongside Felicity Lott, can be found of Naxos — one of their many fine re-issues from the Collins Classics catalog. That’s where you also find his very worthy Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings — coupled with the Nocturne, op.60 and Phaedra, op.90 where the mezzo is his wife, the equally wonderful Ann Murray.
 
Langridge was a staple of Naxos’s “English Song Series”. He has at least five Messiahs to his name (Mackerras, Hickox, Marriner, Alldis…), sang in Simon Rattle's (English language) recording of Haydn’s Creation, Monteverdi with Harnoncourt and Gardiner, Mozart operas with Haitink and Solti, Mussorgsky and Janácek with Abbado. Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Szymanowski all litter his discography, his wife coaxed him into doing a CD of French songs with her, he notably participated in Graham Johnson’s Schubert Edition on Hyperion, he did Tippett and Weill, and wasn’t afraid of Walton’s Façade.
 
The first disc I will put on in memory of Philip Langridge will be a Hickox-conducted collection of Gerald Finzi (Decca). The music is painfully-gently touching and it opens with “Dies Natalis”. “Rapture”, “Wonder”, and “Salutation” — movements three through five — are exactly what Langridge’s passing asks for. The discs ends appropriately enough with “For Saint Cecilia” — who now warmly welcomes home one of the prouder examples of her art.
 
Jens F. Laurson
 
Philip Gordon Langridge CBE (16 December 1939 – 5 March 2010)
 
70th birthday concert
http://www.musicweb-international.com/SandH/2009/Jul-Dec09/langridge0311.htm

 
Many reviews of Philip Langridge’s musicmaking can be found if you search under his name in MusicWeb International
 
and a brief footnote from Rob Barnett

Allowing for the occasional dalliance with baritone and soprano registers the tenor voice has most often moved me. Philip Langridge was one of its finest British exponents. While his voice in later years developed a vibrato which abraded some of the gleam this was always compensated by his intelligent engagement with the words, his evident feeling for other vocal and instrumental parts of the score and the intrinsic flavour and tone of his voice.
 
It all began for me with a revelatory 1973 BBC Concert Orchestra broadcast on BBC Radio 3 of Finzi's Intimations of Immortality. This was two years or more before Ian Partridge's Lyrita recording. Langridge was in gloriously flourishing voice and the colour, poignancy and delight he lent to Finzi's music and Wordsworth's words melded the two into a single continuum. Hearing that tape now reminds me how steady his tone production was in those days and achieved irrespective of dynamics and of Finzi's ruinously demanding long held notes. That euphoric steadiness had taken damage by the time he recorded Intimations with Hickox in 1988 (EMI)/
 
While he was of course active well beyond the generous confines of British music I would just list a meagre sampling of his fine broadcasts and recordings over the years which may serve in part as a reminder of a grievously missed artist:-
 
Bernard Stevens Et Resurrexit Denys Darlow/Tilford Bach Ens with Denys Michelow 1973

Holst At the Boar's Head RLPO Atherton 1975 EMI CDM 5655651272
 
Malcolm Williamson Mass of Christ The King Groves/RPO 1977
 
C W Orr and Howells songs Langridge Ogston Parkin 1979 Unicorn LP RHS 369 (never reissued on CD, more’s the pity – will this ever be reissued?)
 
Moeran Four Shakespeare Settings / Oldham Chinese Lyrics - Langridge Grady July 1977
 
Anthony Milner Roman Spring - Poole BBCS BBCSO Manning 1980
 
Cyril B Rootham Ode on Morning of Christ Nativity - Handley BBCCO Teresa Cahill December 1980
 
Edmund Rubbra Crucifixus Pro Nobis Sauer, Evans, Routh, Knight 1981
 
Stanford Requiem - Poole BBCCO BBCS Wendy Eathorne Margharet Cable 1981
 
Holst Savitri - Hickox City London Sinf Felicity Palmer Stephen Varcoe 1983 Hyperion
 
Alan Bush The Voices of the Prophets - Lionel Friend 1986
 
Arthur Bliss The Beatitudes - Willcocks LPO / Bach Choir 1991
 
Constant Lambert Eight Poems of Li Tai Po Lionel Friend and Nash Ens 1994 Hyperion
 
Elizabeth Lutyens Islands - David Atherton L Sinf Jane Manning 1995
 


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