Richard Lewis – The Great Welsh Tenor
George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1759) Arias and recitatives
Arne DORUMSGAARD (1921-2006) Arrangements of folksongs of the British Isles
Full contents list at end of review
Richard Lewis (tenor)
Handel - London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent
Folksongs – Chamber Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras; Tina Bonifacio (harp)
rec. no details supplied by first published 1958 (Handel); 1960 (Dorumsgaard).
no texts included
REGIS RRC1375 [79:33]

Richard Lewis is probably best known today for his part in two sets of recordings. He recorded the part of Gerontius with both Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir John Barbirolli, the latter performance being wholly exceptional in both singing and identification with the role. The other well known recordings are the main tenor parts in Sargent’s versions of the Savoy operas, sung with grace, wit and understanding. Recordings of some of his Glyndebourne roles including Mozart and Monteverdi are also valuable, but unfortunately as far as I am aware no issue exists of his role as Aaron - I use that spelling as it was sung in English - in the first British staging of Schoenberg’s opera. I am sure that recordings must exist of that and some of his other operatic roles and I hope that one day they may be more generally available. In the meantime here is an interesting coupling of the contents of two LPs. They have been issued together on CD before (by Dutton) but I have not heard that version and do not know whether it shares the excessively brief gaps between items found here.

The first part of the disc consists of extracts from various of Handel’s oratorios and such like, put together in no particular order and all subject to drastic additional orchestrations. By 1958 this was already regarded as an anachronism in many circles as was the heavy and unstylish conducting of Sir Malcolm Sargent. As a result although one can admire the beauty and where necessary the vigour of the singing, as well as the clarity of the diction, it is hard to enjoy the performances as a whole. The best are probably the Jeptha extracts, linked together as was usual at that time, and “Total eclipse”. As singing all are worth hearing even if they bear little resemblance to what today is thought of as Handelian style.

The folksongs are something of an oddity. They are said to have been arranged by Dorumsgaard although no further details are given, at least in this reissue. Many of the songs are familiar from other arrangements, in particular those by Britten, but the arranger here has apparently either not known those versions or has deliberately approached them differently. In some cases, especially “The foggy, foggy dew” I almost suspected that, like Haydn and Beethoven in their folksong arrangements, the arranger knew only the melody, not the words. No matter; the results are delightful, something like a cross between Canteloube and the Light Music composers celebrated on Guild. Hugo Shirley’s note refers to these arrangements as being “less than chaste” and that is certainly true, as also is his praise for the quality of Lewis’s singing and the beauty of his voice.

These are not the most important or even the most characteristic reminders of the art of Richard Lewis but they are worth hearing, the Handel for the singing and as a reminder of a former way of performing that composer, and the folksongs as a wholly pleasurable experience for those, like me, with debased taste and a sweet tooth.

John Sheppard

A wholly pleasurable experience for those with debased taste and a sweet tooth.

See also review by Jonathan Woolf

Full contents list:

Joshua – So long the memory shall last … While Kedron’s brook [4:29]
Jeptha – Deeper and deeper still … Waft her, angels [7:46]
Acis and Galatea – Would you gain the tender creature [4:51]
Jeptha – For ever blessed [2:05]
Judas Maccabaeus – My arms! … Sound an alarm [3:56]
Alexander’s Feast – War, he sung [5:28]
Samson – Total eclipse [4:35]
Semele – Where’er you walk [4:32]
Judas Maccabaeus – Thanks to my breth’ren … How vain is man [5:22]

Bingo [1:41]
Ar hyd y nos [2:41]
King Arthur’s servants [1:39]
Grad gael mo chridh [3:39]
The Helston Furry Dance [1:52]
Dafydd y garreg wen [2:54]
The foggy, foggy dew [3:10]
The stuttering lovers [1:39]
The Maypole Song [1:48]
I will give my love an apple [1:46]
O love, it is a killing thing [2:09]
Buy broom buzzems [1:46]
O waly, waly [5:05]
There’s none to soothe [2:15]
The briery bush [2:11]