Berlin Phil find another English tenor

Berlin Phil find another English tenor


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2021

Message from the orchestra:

Due to the current pandemic situation and the tightened entry conditions from Great Britain, tenor Allan Clayton has unfortunately had to cancel his participation in the concert conducted by Sir Simon Rattle on 29 May at short notice.
Andrew Staples will take his place in Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings op. 31.


  • RW2013 says:

    six of one, half a dozen of the other, meant in the nicest possible way.

  • Tom Hase says:

    What a shame – I was really looking forward to the concert, in particular to Stefan Dohr’s interpretation. If there is one thing that I appreciate about the change from Rattle to Petrenko at the helm of the Berlin Phil, then it is the change in casting of vocal soloists. I guess vocal timbres will always be a matter of taste – in that case, it seems that my taste in voices is much closer to the one of Kirill Petrenko than the one of Simon Rattle.

    Now, I know that the Britten Serenade was written for Peter Pears, who was not exactly a belcanto tenor either (coming to think of it, which British tenor of the last 50 years was known for the beauty of his timbre?), but even by that standard I find the timbre of Andrew Staples just incredibly hard to tolerate. I am sure that he is an accomplished singer and admired by many people, but to my unqualified ears he sounds colourless and weak when singing piano and like a hoarse frog who is being tortured when singing forte.

    • Jonathon says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I’m sure he’s very musical, but am somewhat astonished at the level of his success, though that could be because Daniel Harding seems to book him whenever he needs a tenor, or even to make a film for his orchestra, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Do they not have film makers in Sweden?

      • Sabine says:

        They are best mates Daniel and Andy. but to be honest this kind of singer conductor relationships and friendship is normal and is how the industry works… I just wish Daniel Harding wasn’t such a creep , then life would be much more tolerant

    • A musician says:

      Tell us what you really think. You might know that musicians read this site. Horrible words to read. I’m sure you’re really shit at your job as well.

      • Tom Hase says:

        I seriously doubt that any serious musician cares about my opinion, and that’s probably for the better. If you don’t mind I will express my opinion all the same. As I said, it is obvious that this very tenor sound is very much appreciated by a lot of people. Good for him! If you go to your average Oxbridge college, you will find many choral scholars which very much strive for this type of tenor sound and would like to sound this way. Maybe it’s an acquired test – to my untrained ears it just sounds strangled and without any of the colours I find interesting.

        • A musician says:

          I’m sure that many an internet troll has said the same….

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            “Internet troll”; the convenient moniker of choice for anybody who diverges from the progressive opinionata.

        • Maria says:

          Yes, Oxbridge et al sound. It is not a British sound, but an English sound. I think a Welsh, Scottish or Irish tenor, or any singer for that matter, would object to would be branded as that sort of ‘British tenor’. English is meant here.

    • bgn says:

      “which British tenor of the last 50 years was known for the beauty of his timbre?”

      Anthony Rolfe Johnson.

    • Bonetti Micaela says:

      Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, here was a tenor with a wonderful creamy voice (and great musicality) !

    • Andrew Staples says:

      Hey Tom, Good stuff. Let me tell you what I think about you… you’re a dick.

    • Adrian says:

      You can still hear the concert and Stefan Dohr’s interpretation – it hasn’t been cancelled.

    • Maria says:

      Pears studied wth Lucie Manen and a hefty sound to have done Peter Grimes with Heather Harper. Read Lucie Manen’s book and you’ll see it is all pure bel canto. Pears had his own distinctive sound and a very secure technique. Many today are trained generically so you turn the radio on and, in many cases, you don’t know who they are as they all sound the same, particularly if they’ve been to Oxbridge or similar.

  • Edgar Self says:

    To answer Tom Hase’s question I suggest tenor Toby Spence on the strength of his opera performances and CD of Gerald Finzi.

    • Tom Hase says:

      Thanks, I will give it a try. A quick youtube search lead me to a short excerpt from Dichterliebe, which butchers the German vowels in quite an extraordinary way (including some weird voice cracks), but maybe German is just not his language.

  • retired musician says:

    Andrew Staples singing the Evangelist in St. John Passion this Easter was one of the finest interpretations I have been lucky to hear. Whatever your taste in timbre, he is a wonderful artist and a great singer – you have to give him that.

  • Elisabeth Perry says:

    Yes!!!! He is totally brilliant. Did it in March with Netherlands Radio Philharmonic orchestra and Vasily Petrenko. Great singer and special musician

  • Graham Elliott says:

    Andrew Staples is a brilliant tenor. I imagine his voice working perfectly for the Britten

  • Edgar Self says:

    Well, Tom, you can’t have everything. Another might be Rufus Muller, or Mueller. He sings Evangelist, Purcell’s Aeneas, &tc.

  • Ronan says:

    Was Stuart Boroughs ,Welsh I think, not a beautiful sound. I heard him aing a padt in Eugene Onagin inRussian and it was beautiful. (Sorry for the spelling)

  • Gary Freer says:

    Anthony Rolfe Johnson was also a top bloke.