Musical Words: “You’re damn good, Vickers”

The great tenor Jon Vickers has died, age 88. Gramophone has an obituary with the “damn good” quote from Sir Thomas Beecham, as well as a reflection from the much missed critic John Steane about one thing that makes a great singer:  a ‘quality around’ particular aspects of the voice: that golden core of sound that can go from soft to overpowering by seeming to glow brighter rather than merely get louder.

Vickers, with that torrent of sound and extraordinary stage persona, had this quality in spades. Here’s his performance of Otello’s death scene, which gives you a sense of the voice, the sovereign vocal skill and that  wild place–it always feels “outside” to me somehow–that his performances came from.

After that (particularly that staggering “I have a second dagger moment”) you are grateful for the applause and for the calm reasoned voice of Martin Bookspan to bring you back to earth.

Jon Vickers, who died age 88 on July 10, 2015. Pictured here in Les Troyens one of his great roles, with another treasured and much missed artist, Shirley Verrett.

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