The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (159): Better on the Med

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (159): Better on the Med


norman lebrecht

August 21, 2020

These were Berthold’s Mediterranean Songs, written for the outstanding English tenor Richard Lewis – a great Mahlerian artist who was unfairly eclipsed by Peter Pears.


  • Thomas Dawkins says:

    Richard Lewis and Peter Pears’ repertoire only really intersects with Gerontius. Lewis did Missa Solemnis, Beethoven 9, Herod in Salome, Das Lied von der Erde, things I hope Pears never even considered touching! I have a guilty pleasure in Stainer’s Crucifixion during Lent, and Lewis is stellar on George Guest’s recording.

  • AndrewB says:

    These songs are a real find. Thank you for sharing them. Richard Lewis is his usual excellent self. Pears doesn’t come automatically to my mind when I think of Lewis. Their repertoires were not exactly the same . I would say that a better comparison for Richard Lewis’ success would be Alexander Young with whom he was sharing the honours in many roles at that time. Among the other British lyric tenors enjoying particular success during the 50s 60s and 70s were Gerald English , John Wakefield and Duncan Robertson.

  • F. P. Walter says:

    Lewis was a marvelous performer with an impressive range–the warmest and most eloquent of all Christs on the Mt. of Olives under Ormandy. . . a fully characterized yet genuinely sung Herod in Salome under Leinsdorf . . . unsurpassed in Lied von der Erde under Reiner . . . ditto live in Chicago as Schoenberg’s Aaron under Solti, sung in lucid English and not upstaged even by Hans Hotter’s Moses. In many ways Lewis was a more valuable vocalist than Pears, IMO.

  • KANANPOIKA says:

    Check out Richard Lewis in the Beethoven 9th with
    Rene Leibowitz (1961) STUNNING….!

  • John Borstlap says:

    Beautiful and gripping songs…. showing that the Mediterranean is not always the territory of sunny happiness.

    Shocking that such music was dismissed in the name of progress.

    Goldschmidt was right to compose as he did, and all the people who had dismissed him – thousands of them – were wrong. How can that be, such collective suicidal deafness? And how long can such foolishness continue?

    ‘This untenable situation lasted threehundred years’. (From a book on Chinese history.)

  • fred says:

    Lewis was indeed a far greater tenor talent than the over-hyped Peter Pears, Lewis’s Haendel record is a desert island disc

  • E says:

    Thank you for this, especially interesting as it is conducted by the composer (and the tenor voice is indeed fine). At first listening of the first song, it seemed
    “very English.” What did that mean? It was the long held syllables, I think. Today, hearing Ainsley and Zagrosek,
    Olive Trees reminded me of Schoenberg’s world. The selection of poets is so varied as to raise wonder. But then, reading their biographical notes, it seems they almost all had lived in Greece. Lots of sea images, here.
    And the discovery of an England that — not living there is no excuse — I didn’t know at all. So, thank you again.
    This is really interesting.

  • Paul Wilson says:

    These are beautiful songs and very well performed by Richard Lewis. Lewis was a very fine singer but, in my view, lacked the individuality of the really great vocal artists (and I’d include Peter Pears in this list) and, crucially, was not especially responsive to text. His diction in the Mediterranean Songs is rather ‘muddy’ which is perhaps a by-product of his technique. My music teacher at Cathays High School Cardiff, Cliff Bunford (a noted choral conductor in South Wales and a well known tenor in his day) once remarked that ‘Richard Lewis always sounds as if he has a cold’ and I think this is spot on: it has the effect of occluding enunciation. Of course, there is much to admire in Lewis’s singing and he has, I suppose, a ‘better’ voice than Pears, despite Lewis’s limitations as an interpreter; other commentators have rightly praised his Handel, ‘Gerontius’ and ‘Das Lied von der Erde’. (Pears, surprisingly, did sing the latter work at the Edinburgh Festival with Kathleen Ferrier – if anyone knows of a recording, I’d be intrigued to hear it!) As to Lewis being ‘overshadowed’ by Peter Pears it has already been pointed out that their repertoires did not overlap that much, but I’d be interested to know why, after singing ‘Les Illuminations’, Peter Grimes. and the Male Chorus in ‘Lucretia’ early in his career, Lewis did not sing more Britten when he was in his prime. I heard him sing Captain Vere in ‘Billy Budd’ as a ‘step in’ at Covent Garden but that was when he was semi-retired and his voice was not what it had been. In any event I am delighted to have been introduced to these songs of Berthold Goldschmidt and I shall enjoy getting to know them better, in Richard Lewis’ often very beautiful renditions.