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2013 is the centenary of Richard Tucker’s birth, and Sony has re-released a welter of his recordings to mark the occasion. Debuting at the Met in 1945 and hitting instant stardom, he was still giving performances up to his death thirty years later. So why should we be listening to him with such enthusiasm today?

The answer lies in Tucker’s straightforward musicality, allied to a naturally splendid tenor voice. You will seldom hear one singer perform so wide a range of repertoire with such panache and style. Tucker’s tone is golden and warm, the top easy and free, the breath long – he never curtails a phrase. His diction is a masterclass in clarity, and yet he moulds the words into a cohesive and uninterrupted musical line. In other words, this is a voice with spin.

Tucker uses portamento judiciously, but resists the temptation to descend into swooping, even when singing repertoire that provides ample opportunity to indulge bad vocal habits. Moreover, the two collections not only include arias and duets from operas, but Neapolitan song, Viennese schmaltz, and some cross-over albums offering delights such as ‘Love is a Many-Splendored Thing’ and ‘I Believe’. Tucker approaches every track with the same scrupulous attitude, so even the most lurid of 1950s orchestral arrangements are graced with his clean and stylish singing.

Something that connoisseurs may be tempted by are the six albums of Tucker’s cantorial recordings, ranging from ‘Great Jewish Favourites’ to the complete Kol Nidre Service, which will be of huge interest to collectors of synagogue singers. Here Tucker joins the ranks of operatic cantorial tenors such as Peerce, Schmidt and Jadlowker and displays the fullness of sound and fluidity of line as well as the technical demands of voix mixte and decoration that link the two types of music.

Thanks also to Sony for using the original album covers for each of the CDs; they are classics of their type, with Tucker wearing everything from the jaunty hat of Sorrento to the full Perry Como styling of The Fabulous Voice of Richard Tucker.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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