Robert Tear, eloquent Welsh tenor, dies at 72
On Tuesday, quite by chance, I was looking for something to put on the CD player while hanging around the house (I'll be spending a lot of time at home until the first week of May -- no, I haven't been disciplined by the Sun; a company policy requires that I take a whole mess of unused vacation time now).
I spied the delectable recording of Victorian songs and ballads featuring tenor Robert Tear and baritone Benjamin Luxon, with Andre Previn at the piano. I found the CD re-release last year (my 1970s LP version was pretty much shot), but, for reasons unknown, I had never actually gotten around to slipping it into the machine for a spin.
So there I was Tuesday, getting into a Victorian mood and enjoying all over again those fine artists performing those great old tunes. I remember I stopped what I was doing to listen intently to Robert Tear singing ...
"Tom Bowling," the Charles Didbin ballad about "the darling of our crew" who died while at sea and whose "soul has gone aloft." The tenor's eloquent, warm-toned performance moved me all over again.
On Wednesday, I learned that Mr. Tear had died in a London hospice on Tuesday at the age of 72. The cause was cancer.
The much-recorded Mr. Tear was one of the first classically trained vocal artists I found myself drawn to back in the days when I was still quite wary of operatic singing. I think the first thing of his I discovered was a recording of Tchaikovsky songs that revealed how ardent and communicative he could be. I recall fondly, too, his recording of Mahler's "Songs of a Wayfarer," a work not ordinarily undertaken by tenors.
I am so glad that I got to see Mr. Tear on the stage performing one of his most admired roles -- Aschenbach in Britten's "Death in Venice" at Glyndebourne. What a riveting, deeply affecting portrayal.
I'll always have a particular fondness for the wonderful charm and sincerity that Mr. Tear (and Mr. Luxon) brought to those Victorian pieces. Such vocal artistry makes these songs seem somehow far from dated.
Here's an audio clip of Mr. Tear singing "Tom Bowling," a performance that strikes me as perfect in every way: