Allan Clayton ‘definitive’ in Gerontius
Allan Clayton has received outstanding reviews for his performance in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius at the BBC Proms.
‘The role of Gerontius demands a singer somewhere between a lyric tenor and a heroic operatic voice, and Clayton fits that exactly, as impressive in the dying moments of part one as in the dialogues with the Angel in the second and his final impassioned “Take me away”, after Gardner’s superbly paced buildup. It was a performance suggesting that Clayton is now the definitive interpreter of the role in British music today.’
‘Allan Clayton, who seems to hoover up all the monster works for tenor in the English language, sang the title role with the same profundity and engagement he brings to Hamlet or Peter Grimes. He is such an intelligent artist. In his hands the soul’s great cry on seeing the face of God, “Take me away!”, was neither heroic nor terror-struck but a response to the numinous – something ineffable and beyond his comprehension.’
‘Allan Clayton’s plangent tenor is perfectly suited to the title role, and he sang throughout with total security combined with gentle sensitivity, characterising Gerontius as a wounded, needy soul rather than the bellowing bruiser that lesser tenors with bigger voices often give us.’
‘Best singer in the space? Based on years of Proms experience, surely the palm should go to tenor Allan Clayton, ringing of tone and so clear in diction that you can hear every word... Clayton, on the other side of the conductor, was in full control of this insanely taxing (and sometimes awkwardly written) music for the dying and then transfigured Gerontius. While Gardner’s approach was often theatrical, the tenor didn’t act it out emotionally but kept it all in the voice. As with the conductor, you knew you were in safe and perceptive hands from the beginning, a timbre that was always fine-tuned to Elgar’s incredible palette of orchestral colours – every inch as assured as that of Wagner, his master – and a pulling out of heroic stops where necessary.’
‘As the expiring (and then deceased) Gerontius, Allan Clayton’s deliberately emaciated pianissimos on his deathbed were as striking as his anguished, fortissimo cry of “Take me away!” after his moment of judgment.’
‘Clayton, voice molten, every word audible, musically indestructible, created a sense of wide-eyed anxiety that yielded to peace (after being obligingly borne aloft on a choir of heavenly LPO brass, crashing cymbal and big drum).’
‘Last, but by no means least, is Allan Clayton’s towering performance as Gerontius. It is sometimes quite hard to write in measured tones about this exceptional artist, but it is only fair to say that not only did he sing every note as if his life depended on it, but also brought the most astonishing range of vocal colours to the role that I have ever heard in a live performance. In portraying the elderly, dying Gerontius he sang with almost a covered tone – which was perfectly in tune with the character. In the second part, as his soul starts his journey to the afterlife, there was an aliveness and vibrancy to his singing that was all at one with Gerontius’ soul. His perfectly poised, effortlessly delivered ‘Take me away’ set the seal on a remarkable performance, that was nothing short of a privilege to witness.’
Seen and Heard International
The entire performance of The Dream of Gerontius, with London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner, is available on BBC Sounds.