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King Lear Recording

By Herbert P. Gleason

Latest addition to the LP catalogue is Brattle Theatre Classics, a series of readings from great plays which has just begun with "King Lear." On this new recording, William Devlin, who played Lear with such distinction here this winter, trumpets the major speeches of the old but unwise King. Members of the Brattle Company read around him to give an inkling of the plot. You may wonder who "Poor Tom" is, or how Gloucester lost his eyes, for such details are unexplained, but Devlin's Lear is all-important. The other characters only guide the course of his catastrophe.

Just as on the stage, Devlin's voice on this record persuades you Lear was "every inch a king." He blazes through the curse of General, commands in the mad wisdom of the judgment speech, "When I do stare, see how the subject quakes." He is calamitous, never pathetic, when he asks, "Is man no more than this?" or when, with dead Cornelia in his arms, he orders the court, "Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!" Devlin's performance is virtuosi, raging through extremity of nature, enormity in man.

Victor did the pressing, which means that it is good. The recording keeps Devlin within its technical limits when he goes to the very edge of control.

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