Italian Album – Timothy Richards, tenor/ Minsk Orchestra/ Wilhelm Keitel, conductor – MD&G Scene multichannel SACD 909 1664-6 (2+2+2), 51:22 [Distr. by E1] ***1/2:
Welch tenor Timothy Richards, of the lirico spinto style, has a voice that is creamy almost beyond belief, perhaps too soft in the end—it does not sound strong, and the very high notes, while ably produced, seem to lack the requisite “bite” to effectively deliver the dramatic impulse. I found this true throughout this very well-recorded album, though Richards’s ability to mesmerize merely by the sound of his instrument reminded me of the same bewitching properties of a much younger Kathleen Battle, who often was able to assuage dramatic deficiencies with pure luscious charm and beauteous vocalizing. Some music responds to purely lyrical singing, while other music needs more teeth in execution.
This is not to say Richards lacks dramatic instinct; but the excellent Minsk Orchestra is a chamber group, which works okay with the Verdi selections but sounds underpowered in the Puccini. And conductor Keitel lacks a killer instinct as well in many of the selections, where the orchestra just doesn’t appear to be into the music as they should—this is exciting, very palpably moving music and too often I hear only “when is lunch?” audibly coming through the sounds they are making. Passionate music rarely plays itself, and they are on autopilot much of the time, as pretty as the sounds are. 51 minutes is also a little short for a debut album, and many other selections could have been added.
If Richards is able to put some more power and energy into his voice then we could have a real star in the making. I don’t hear the heft of Carreras or the soaring flexibility of Pavarotti, two things that let them cut through a massive orchestral texture when needed, though I will say that the dramatic and lyrical proclivities of Placido Domingo are most notably present in Richards’s singing. If he can just turn up the treble a bit a lot of things should fall into place. Recorded surround sound is sumptuous.
1. La Traviata: Lunge da lei per me non v’ha diletto… De’ miei bollenti spiriti… O mio rimrso…
2. La Traviata: Preludio
3. Rigoletto: Ella mi fu rapita… Parmi veder le lagrime…
4. Un ballo in maschera: Forse la soglia attinse… Ma se m’è forza perderti…
5. Macbeth: O figli, o figli miei… Ah, la paterna mano…
6. Macbeth: Preludio
7. Il tabarro (The Cloak): Hai ben ragione
8. La bohème: Che gelida manina
9. Turandot: Nessun dorma
10. La forza del destino: Sinfonia
11. Tosca: Recondita armonia
12. Tosca: E lucevan le stele
— Steven Ritter