Philip Langridge has died aged 70

Gramophone7th Mar 2010
Philip Langridge, who has died aged 70 (Photo: Richard Davies)Philip Langridge, who has died aged 70 (Photo: Richard Davies)

The English tenor Philip Langridge died on Friday, aged 70.

Born on December 16, 1939 in Kent, Langridge studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London before starting his career as an orchestral violinist.

His professional operatic debut was at Glyndebourne in 1964. His repertoire ranged from the operas of Claudio Monteverdi and Mozart via Wagner (Loge at the Metropolitan Opera and in Covent Garden’s last two Ring productions) and Pfitzner’s Palestrina to Ravel, Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress, Janácek and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron.
He appeared regularly on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses and festivals, including those of Salzburg (debut 1987 as Aron), the New York Met (debut in 1985 as Ferrando), La Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, Edinburgh, and English National Opera. His last performances on stage were in the role of The Witch in Richard Jones’s production of Hänsel und Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera in January 2010.

Langridge was also a regular concert artist, especially in the sacred music of Bach and Handel and the title role in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. Throughout his career, Langridge worked with the day’s leading conductors, including Abbado, Barenboim, Bychkov, Davis, Gergiev, Haitink, Harnoncourt, Hickox, Levine, Mackerras, Masur, Mehta, Ozawa, Previn, Rattle and Solti. On disc he made a distinctive contribution to the Hyperion Schubert edition. His recital partners included Steuart Bedford, Graham Johnson, John Constable, Peter Donohoe, Maurizio Pollini, Andras Schiff and, recently, David Owen Norris (fortepiano) in a tour of Schubert’s Winterreise, culminating in a performance at the Mozarteum Salzburg. With Owen Norris he formed a trio with his daughter Jennifer Langridge playing the cello, and recorded a CD of Georgian Songs.

In the music of Benjamin Britten Langridge was often considered to be Peter Pears’ true successor in vocal quality and immediacy of performance. He recorded many of Britten’s leading roles, often in tandem with Richard Hickox, including Peter Grimes, Aschenbach, the Prologue/Quint in The Turn of the Screw and all the orchestral song cycles for tenor voice. Indeed, he was a champion of 20th-century roles like Mark in Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage and a dedicated and enthusiastic performer of contemporary British music who premiered works including Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus and The Minotaur, for which in 2008 he created (and filmed) the role of Hiereus. He was scheduled to appear in Mark Anthony Turnage’s new opera Anna Nicole at the Royal Opera House.

A number of Langridge’s performances are preserved on film, including those in Peter Grimes, Billy Budd (both from ENO), Idomeneo, La Clemenza di Tito, From the House of the Dead, Wozzeck, Oberon, Jenufa and Oedipus Rex.

Langridge’s many awards included an Olivier Award for Osud, the Singer of the Year Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society and The Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Santay Award, the NFMS/Charles Groves Prize 2001 for “outstanding contribution to British Music”, and a Gramophone Award for Britten’s War Requiem. He was made CBE for his services to music in 1994.

He was married to Irish mezzo-soprano Ann Murray and had a son, Jonathan, with her, as well as three children, including the director Stephen Langridge, from a previous marriage.

Mike Ashman

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