Born: June 12, 1938
One of England's most peripatetic and persuasive lyric tenors, Ian Partridge retained most of his vocal freshness into his sixties, cutting a wide swath through the repertory. Well schooled and long on musicianship, he is comfortable and exemplary in works from the Renaissance to modern times. His voice, though not large, has substance: a firm lower register and a fine-grained texture, it lent vocal authority to his performances. Although Partridge had earlier been disappointed by the relatively few opportunities for British artists to perform songs by German composers, he later went on to record many of them, preserving interpretations of warmth, wisdom, and vocal appeal. Almost exclusively a recitalist and oratorio singer, Partridge has enjoyed a low-key but enduring career and has won the respect and admiration of colleagues and audiences alike. Partridge began his advanced level musical studies at the Royal College of Music in 1956 before transferring to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he trained under the bass Norman Walker and pursued conducting classes with Aylmer Buesst. His reputation grew rapidly following his solo debut in a 1958 performance of Messiah in Bexhill. Within a few years, he found himself one of his country's busiest tenors, valued for his reliability and interpretive suitability for several centuries' worth of music. From Monteverdi, Schütz, Handel, and Bach to Schoenberg, Weill, and Britten, Partridge was point-on in both his singing and interpretation. Benefiting from work with both Britten and Peter Pears (who instructed him in the art of singing through phrases), he further sharpened his already very precise diction, making it more flowing and conversational. With Pierre Boulez, Partridge recorded Schoenberg's Die Jacobsleiter, finding the French composer/conductor stimulating and pleasant to work with. Other projects Partridge has undertaken with Boulez include Schumann's Der Rose Pilgerfahrt and Stravinsky's Le Rossignol. In addition to performing the roles of the Evangelist in the Bach Passions, parts for which Partridge has long enjoyed a strong reputation, he recorded the Evangelist in Norwegian composer Trond Kverno's St. Matthew Passion, a work described by the tenor as "powerful," calling for unaccompanied singing over its hour and a half length in a contemporary adaptation of plainsong. Partridge's collaboration with actress Prunella Scales has resulted in more than 300 performances of a program entitled "An Evening with Queen Victoria," featuring songs written by Prince Albert. Partridge also portrayed St. Nicolas in a Thames Television production of Britten's score, winning the Prix Italia in its aftermath. Among the tenor's more than 150 recordings are Schubert's Die Wintereisse and Die Schöne Müllerin (the latter rated by BBC Music Magazine as a first choice); recordings of Schumann's Liederkreis, Op. 39, and Dichterliebe; Peter Warlock's haunting Curlew River; Ralph Vaughan Williams' equally affecting On Wenlock Edge; a complete edition of Handel's Chandos Anthems; Purcell's The Fairy Queen; and Iopas in the recording that grew from Colin Davis' Covent Garden production of Berlioz's Les Troyens, the occasion of Partridge's stage debut in 1969. As a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, Partridge has given master classes in song and early music from Aldeburgh to Ravinia to Versailles. The tenor received the CBE (knighted) in 1992 for his service to music.