This is indeed a distinguished and adventurous recital by a grossly underrated tenor. Lavender has made a speciality of the more esoteric works of Rossini and Donizetti. He has sung Arnold (Guillaume Tell) at Covent Garden, Neocles (Le siege de Corinthe) in Madrid, has appeared in the first modern staging of Gabriella di Vergy and the first complete performance in recent times of La favorite, all with distinction, so he deserves to be listened to in these characters’ arias with the respect due to someone who has tackled their formidable difficulties on stage. Respect, however, turns to downright pleasure as he surmounts the vocal hurdles with ease and confidence in a voice that manages to please even when pushed to its extremes. Indeed it would not be overstating his case to speak of him in the same breath as, say, Kraus, Merritt and Bruce Ford.
Rodrigo’s long and incredibly difficult aria from Rossini’s Otello announces Lavender’s ability both to spin a secure legato and negotiate divisions with facility. But it is the second item that places him in the forefront of Rossini singing today. Every note of Arnold’s strenuous outpouring is hit dead centre; up to the high C near the aria’s close, the runs are cleanly delivered, the tone is clear and unfettered. Lavender’s kind of tenor with its keen, pointed head voice may well be very much the sound Rossini had in mind for that part – and for Neocles in Siege, whose Act 3 scena is interpreted with the involvement possible only to an artist who has already sung the part on stage. In both these pieces Lavender’s French is idiomatic. La favorite is at last being restored to the original language and Lavender demonstrates how much smoother Fernand’s arias sound in French. Note also his long breath and his feeling for the shape of a Donizettian phrase.
His Italian is no less excellent than his French. Perhaps there isn’t enough light and shade in Lindoro’s pieces from
Howard Williams is the ideal partner, breathing life into every bar of the orchestration, especially notable in the Rossini pieces. My only reservations concern the recording – too much air around the voice – and the notes – inadequate. Let neither prevent you hearing a notable and fascinating debut recital – and one available at a very reasonable price.'