About Stephen

Stephen Varcoe is one of Britain’s most distinguished baritones, especially acclaimed in the field of Baroque music and in the song repertoire. He has made about 150 recordings, collaborating with John Eliot Gardiner for Philips, Erato and DG Archiv on discs of Purcell, Handel and Bach, and has joined Richard Hickox for numerous releases of Haydn, Beethoven, Vaughan Williams, Grainger and Britten on Chandos. His musically fruitful relationship with Hyperion Records has produced many fine recital discs, from the romantic and sensuous French songs of Hahn, Chabrier and Fauré with Graham Johnson to the quintessentially English Finzi, Gurney, Parry, Stanford and Armstrong Gibbs with Clifford Benson and Roger Vignoles. With Graham Johnson, Stephen was the second artist after Dame Janet Baker to be invited to interpret Schubert for the celebrated complete Hyperion series. His versatility also encompasses recordings of twentieth century works by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Nigel Osborne, Thea Musgrave and John Tavener.

On the concert platform, in a career spanning more than four decades, Stephen has appeared with orchestras all over the world. Highlights include Stravinsky’s Abraham and Isaac in New York with Robert Craft, Stravinsky’s Threni in London with Rozhdestvensky, Holst’s Savitri in Amsterdam with Hickox, C P E Bach’s Die Israeliten in der Wüste in Cologne with Christie, Bach’s Mass in B Minor in Italy with Rifkin, Haydn’s Creation in Lisbon with Brüggen, Handel’s Apollo and Daphne in Versailles with Minkowski, the centenary performance of Fauré’s Requiem in Paris with Tortelier, and the fortieth anniversary performance of Britten’s War Requiem in Coventry with Cleobury. He has regularly taken part in the BBC Proms and international festivals, and appeared in recital with some of our finest accompanists, particularly Graham Johnson, Iain Burnside, Julius Drake and Roger Vignoles.

His operatic appearances include Haydn’s L’Infedelta Delusa in Antwerp with Kuijken, Debussy’s Fall Of The House Of Usher in Lisbon and London, Tavener’s Mary Of Egypt in Snape, Rameau’s Les Boréades in Aix and Lyon with John Eliot Gardiner, Peri’s Euridice for Drottningholm, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Japan. His repertoire also includes Death in Holst’s Savitri, Demetrius in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Salieri in Rimsky Korsakov’s Mozart & Salieri. In 2006 he was heard in a BBC broadcast of Malcolm Arnold’s hitherto unperformed opera The Dancing Master. Stephen was in the original cast for Jonathan Miller’s ground-breaking staging of Bach’s St Matthew Passion and its subsequent television production, and revivals in the USA.

12 Replies to “About Stephen”

  1. Like a previous blogger this is the very first time I’ve ever heard Stephen in a reasonably long life. (Desert Island Disks – Three Kings with the Choir of Kings College). I have never heard such a pure, beautiful and truly heavenly voice. How lucky you are Stephen to have such a wonderful gift. I wanted to let that sound nestle in my cupped palms and treasure it for ever. It’s the beginning of a wonderful road to discovery for me.

    1. Ditto, ditto, ditto. How is that I have just now discovered Stephen Varcoe? Heard The Three Kings recording yesterday, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty and grace of that glorious voice. I’m a singer and voice teacher and, till now, have had a few favorite singers. None comes close to eliciting in me what Stephen’s voice has. This is truly the voice of an angel.

    2. Ditto, ditto. It has resonated in me for decades – here in Norway! The most moving and beautiful performance of any baritone part. Ever. He has done many beautiful things over the years, but nothing surpasses that magical moment.

  2. I listened to Desert Island Discs this morning and heard, for the first time, Three Kings, with the choir of King’s College. It stopped me in my tracks, it was so beautiful. I have just listened to again on Radio4 iPlayer (and checked the CD details!) As Kryssie Moore says, a wonderful discovery.

  3. I heard this voice for the first time today too on Desert Island Discs. The Varcoe is my new favourite instrument, cello has been relegated to 2nd place. Makes me want to sing.

  4. I have loved the voice of Stephen Varcoe for many years (several decades) since ,like other correspondents ,I heard him sing The Three Kings with the immaculate choir of Kings College Chapel under Sir David Willcocks. Such a soft ,gentle touch and when I try to sing itmyself I try very hard to emulate SV. I have been lucky enough to hear him several times live and it is equally such a lovely experience. Well done as well , Sir David for setting him on the road…….

  5. Stephen Varcoe’s beautiful lyric baritone voice has guided me through many French and German songs, but most of all through the rich song literature of his native Britain: especially Stanford, Armstrong Gibbs, Finzi, and Vaughan Williams. His voice is smooth, not strident, and very flexible in interpreting the nuances of the songs. Compare his version of the poignant “To Lizbie Brown” (Finzi) to anyone else’s and you will not accept anyone else’s (not that many other singers have ventured into Finzi’s singular settings of Thomas Hardy’s poems). And, thanks to the foresight of the late, much missed Richard Hickox, we have Varcoe’s skillful treatment of orchestral songs, some of which I think he has not recorded as solos.

  6. After midnight last night I heard Stephen Varcoe singing ‘The Three Kings’ and promptly looked it up this morning. As a one-time professional violinist, that is one of the most glorious performances by a baritone I have heard. Stunningly beautiful! Thank you so much!
    P.S. I was at Cambridge but later…

  7. I first heard Stephen sing in Johnathan Miller’s production of St Matthew ||Passion when he sang Make |Me Clean My Heart From Sin. It was truly amazing.
    Subsequently I heard him and spoke to him at Three Choirs Festival in Hereford

  8. I played for Richard Hickox from his schooldays, and was captivated by Stephen’s voice when he started singing for Richard: gentle, musical, often dramatic but never harsh. When I am drawn from my choir to sing a solo I try to model myself on Stephen’s melodious voice.

  9. I heard this wonderful voice for the first time yesterday on Classic FM and wondered who it was. I now know!
    I felt Stephen was singing to me – what a communicator and absolute joy to listen to.
    Thank you Stephen.

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