Conductors

During his long career Richard sang with nearly every great conductor of his time including British greats such as Malcom Sargent (pictured top, left), John Barbirolli (pictured, top right), Charles McKerras, Adrian Boult, Thomas Beecham, Alexander Gibson, John Pritchard, Colin Davies, Yehudi Menuhin and Andrew Davis.

 

But he also sang with Leonard Bernstein (pictured, bottom left), Georg Szell, Georg Solti (pictured, bottom right), Lorin Maazel, Erich Leinsdorf, Vittorio Gui, Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter, Antol Dorati, Carlo Maria Guilini, Pablo Casals, Daniel Barenboim, Eugene Ormandy, Fritz Reiner and Antal Dorati.

 

Richard auditioned to Malcolm Sargent after his demob from the army, displaying the musicianship that would be become well known. Sargent, firing a tenor who had been engaged to sing Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, asked a London agent if there was a tenor who could sing it. Yes, he had.  Lewis, never having seen the score, far less sung it, looked at it in the train to Liverpool, sang it to Sargent, and was engaged. So began an artistic association that would last for his whole career.

 

It would be Sargent who realised that this young tenor could be a fine Gerontius (Elgar). With his encouragement, Richard went on to become the finest of his generation recording Gerontius with the conductor in 1955 with Marjorie Thomas. Also, Sargent recorded all the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with Richard in 1956. These recordings are still available.

 

John Barbirolli also saw Richard as the finest Gerontius of his time, recording it with him in 1964 with Janet Baker. Which recording of the two is the finer is debatable; he was 41 in the Sargent recording, 50 in the Barbirolli. Each has different virtues.

 

Solti was another favourite conductor for Lewis. His fire, enthusiasm, his loyalty to British singers, all were an inspiration and Richard performed with Solti in USA and Europe extensively.

Guilini was perhaps the most admired. Lewis particularly liking the Italian's dedicated sincere approach to music.

 

Bruno Walter was an early influence. There is a story behind the recording of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.  Richard was engaged, together with Kathleen Ferrier, to perform this work live in the Edinburgh Festival in the early fifties, and to make a recording of it after.

 

Richard was relatively unknown at this time, so the recording company wanted a better known tenor, also changing the recording venue to Vienna and so Richard was dropped. He was to say "when we were rehearsing, Julias Patzac (the Viennese tenor) arrived to talk about the recording as I rehearsed it for the concert". He looked upon this as one of his great disappointments.

But a recording was recently released, captured during the public performance with Kathleen Ferrier and Barbirolli.