Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle Spirituals in Concert

Two phenomenal singers. If you've never heard this concert before, you are in for the most fabulous treat.

Below are the timings of individual pieces. I've bolded some of my absolute favorites.

In That Great Getting Up Morning  
04:34 Great Day 
07:23 Sinner,Please Don't Let This Harvest Pass
11:54 Over My Head 
14:36Lil' David 
17:20  Over My Head  !
19:04 Oh, What A Beautiful City
  21:55 Lord, How Come Me Here  
26:59 Believe I'll Go Back Home
28:44 Lord, Won't You Help Me
31:55 Witness 
35:12 Give Me Jesus
40:04 Swing Low, Sweet chariot
43:21Ride Up In The Chariot
45:18 Deep River 
49:59 Certainly, Lord
52:26 Ride On, King Jesus  
55:33 Oh, Glory
59:59 Scandalize My Name  
1:04:21 Talk about a Child
1:07:02Ain'-a That Good News
1:08:30 You Can Tell the World (Joy
 To My Soul)
1:11:23 Calvary / They Crucified My Lord
1:16:56 My God Is So High
1:19:22. There Is A Balm In Gilead
1:24:13  He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Finding Josephine Lang's Grave

Above is a short video taken at Josephine Lang's Grave with Josephine Lang's Lied "Scheideblick" (Parting Glance) heard in the background, sung by mezzo-soprano Milagro Vargas

Joesephine Lang's grave, surprisingly, was difficult to find. I had assumed it must be in Tübingen,where she lived with her husband, who was a professor at the University of Tübingen.

After several years of searching, I located Josephine’s gravesite. It is maintained financially by her offspring. The grave itself shows the only known image of Josephine with her husband, joining them as an emblem of her family and musical life. Lang’s undeserved obscurity is once again shown in the lack of any signs or directions to her grave at the cemetery, while other figures from Tübingen are singled out with signs and directions, among them the Schwäbish poet Uhland.

Interestingly though, there is a well traveled path to her grave showing that many have visited the grave drawn by perhaps the growing realization about her and/or the rather prominent and beautiful grave marker at the grave.

Most people of Tübingen and Stuttgart have never heard of Josephine with the exception of a handful of feminist musicologists who have tracked her down.

As I walked through the cemetery looking for Josephine Lang’s grave, I was reminded of a haunting text from Brahms’ Auf dem Kirchhofe to text by Liliencron.   This Lied, which I had sung so many times before, now had such a vibrant context.   

The lines from the first verse,  "The day was heavy with rain and disturbed by storms; I was walking among many forgotten graves with weathered stones and crosses, the wreaths old, the names washed away, hardly to be read.”   seemed written for this moment.

Looking for Josephine’s grave was made more difficult because it was raining so heavily.  We had taken a few wrong turns and still couldn’t quite find the cemetery. 

The search to find where she was buried had lasted over several years.  Why was it so difficult to find?  Years before when I had tried to find it, there were no plaques or signs or literature that pointed me in the right direction.

My husband was tenacious and together with him, we were able to make some headway until finally he found it without me.  But I needed to see it for myself. 

When I finally did, I was happy to see her name had now been added to the list of luminaries buried at this cemetery.  Seven years ago, it had not been the case.

A woman composer in Biedermaier Germany was a rare occurrence.  Joesphine Lang grew up in a time when women didn’t attend universities, and as a result didn’t have professional careers.  The only exception was teaching,  and a woman could only teach if she were unmarried.  Women and men were unequal. 

Whatever the reasons, her grave seemed quite  “forgotten.”

Josephine Lang (1815-1880)

Scheideblick- Parting Glance   (Niembsch Lenau)  Op. 10 #5 
Als ein unergründlich Wonnemeer strahlte mir dein seelenvoller Blick!
Scheiden musst ich ohne Wiederkehr, und ich habe scheidend all mein Glück still versenkt in dieses tiefe Meer, still versenkt in dieses tiefe Meer.

As an unexplainably blissful sea showed me your soulful gaze!
I had to take leave and not return.  And parting, I quietly sank all my happiness into this deep sea.
(Translation: Milagro Vargas) 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger 1919-2014

Voice of Freedom
Voice of the Unions
Voice of Civil Rights 
Voice of the Rivers
Voice of Justice
Voice of the People
Voice of Humanity
Voice of a Generation
Voice of Hope 
Voice of America 
Voice of the Earth

His voice was the piercing sound of humanity and struggle coupled with raw beauty and hope. 

New York Times Obituary

Monday, April 15, 2013

ALFRED DELLER 1912- 1979

The wonderful English counter-tenor Alfred Deller, occupies a unique place in music of the 20th century.  He not only was an exquisite musician with a beautiful and expressive instrument, but he was a major figure in the early years of bringing attention to early music performance practice and was largely responsible for its growth and popularization in the 50's, 60's and beyond.

He was largely self taught and in 1950, he formed his own vocal and instrumental ensemble, the Deller Consort.  He sang the premiere in Britten's A Mid Summer Night's Dream at the Alderborough Festival.

Listen to this brilliant musician's technique, the imagination of sound and colors, phrasing, diction and extraordinary ability to communicate!

Text by Ben Johnson 1572-1637

Have you seen but a white lily grow before rude hands have touched it?
Have you marked  but the fall of the snow
Before the soil hath smutched it?
Have you felt the wool of beaver, 
Or swans' down ever?
Or have smelt o' the bud o' the brier,
Or the nard of the fire?
Or have tasted the bag of the bee?
O so white, O so soft, O so sweet is she!

Below are snippets of a performance of MUSIC FOR A WHILE (Purcell) with a wonderful interview with Michael Tippett who helped launch Deller's career.  




The Three Ravens:  This is one of my most favorite performances of a strophic song!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Mark Reizen, at 79  sings:

Tchaikovsky, In the midst of the ball

In the midst of the noisy ball,
amid the anxious bustle of life,
I caught sight of you,
your face, an enigma.

Only your eyes gazed sadly.
Your divine voice
Sounded like pipes from afar,
Like the dancing waves of the sea.
Your delicate form entranced me,
and your pensiveness,
your sad yet merry laughter,
has permeated my heart since then.

And in the lonely hours of the night,
when I do lie down to rest,
I see your pensive eyes,
hear your merry laugh...
And wistfully drifting
into mysterious reveries,
I wonder if I love you,
but it seems that I do!

Two performances of Rachmanioff's:

In the silence of the mysterious night

In the silence of the mysterious night,
your alluring babble, smiles and glances,
your fleeting glances, the locks of your rich hair, locks pliant under your fingertips -
I will long be trying to get rid of the images only to call them back again;

I will be repeating and correcting in a whisper
the words I've told you, the words full of awkwardness,
and, drunk with love, contrary to reason,
I will be awakening the night's darkness with a cherished name.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Beatrice Rippy 1930-2012

I first met Beatrice Rippy in 1969 at the Third Street Music Settlement in New York City.  I was 14 years old and she was my first voice teacher.  Together with her husband, the noted pianist Carroll Hollister, she gave me weekly lessons that would shape my musical life.  Miss Rippy not only gave me the best vocal instruction a young singer could wish for, she influenced my life as a young woman.  
She was a captivating performer, with a rich voice and a powerful stage presence.  See this article written in January 31, 1963 describing Miss Beatrice Rippy's peformance in a recital where she offers a "Musical Fusion of Negro and Jewish People."  She was a winner of the 1959 Concert Artist Guild Award and had a distinguished career as a concert artist.  She had the rare gift of being able to teach a young singer technique without taking away the "naturalness" of singing.  She took a special interest in me and I was invited to take extra lessons at her apartment on the upper west side.   I would come on Saturdays and spend an entire afternoon there vocalizing, singing through songs, and then coaching with Mr. Hollister. I would sometimes look after their two young children, Freddie and Elizabeth, in exchange for the many extra hours Miss Rippy and Mr. Hollister so generously spent with me.  
During those wonderful early years of my training, Beatrice Rippy taught me how to sing a beautiful even scale, how to commit to the drama in a song and how to bake bread!   I remember how shocked she was that I didn't know the first thing about kneading bread and how she took it upon herself to rectify it. What a time we had!  She also made me aware of how artists could play a vital role in examining and addressing social issues. Once, she brought me along to a political demonstration in Central Park with her friend and colleague, mezzo-soprano, Betty Allen.  At the rally, she introduced me to Ozzie Davis and Ruby Dee.  Studying voice with Miss Rippy was not only about singing, I also learned about life, life's struggles and political activism, and how music was tied to all of these.  
Composer, author, and music critic Tom Manoff, who was head of theory, composition, the teacher training program and community based efforts at the Third Music School Settlement when Rippy and Hollister taught there, remembers them both with great affection and had this to say:
"Carroll was a first-rate musician whose depth of musical understanding complimented Beatrice Rippy's radiant voice.  Together, they represented both decency and professionalism in a time when society expected musicians to take stands on issues of the day."  
I recently came across this beautiful recording of Robert Merrill and Carroll Hollister performing Handel's Ombra mai fu. It was a piece I had studied with Mr. Hollister and Miss Rippy.  I can remember everything they taught me to this day.  I include it here in honor of a rare and beautiful artist and human being.  
Handel: Ombra mai fu, Robert Merrill, baritone, Carroll Hollister, piano  
May you rest in peace, Miss Rippy. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Singer/Song of the Day" Month

Last year, I devoted a series of posts to the month of February called "Singer of Day" Month. This year, in keeping with the tradition, I'd like to highlight the Song, Lied and Mélodie. Hopefully, it will yield some great singers, examples of great music from the song repertoire and perhaps some unknown gems.

So far we've had:
February 1: Descúbrase El Pensamiento from Canicones Amatorias (Enrique Granados)
February 2: Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 (Villa-Lobos)
February 3: Du liebst mich nicht (Schubert)
February 4: Havanaise (Viardot)
February 5: Moi genie, moi angel, moi drug (Tchaikovsky)
February 6: Ging heut Morgen übers Feld (Mahler)
February 7: Schäfer's Klagelied (Schubert)
February 8: Non,Je Ne Regrette Rien (Charles Dumont)
February 9: Von Ewiger Liebe (Brahms)
February 10: Haugtussa (Grieg)
February 11: The Sound of Freedom (Moustafa Fahmy, Mohamed Khalifa, and Mohamed Shaker)
February 12: Mutya ng Pasig (Nicanor Aberlando)
February 13: Eri già tutta mia (Monteverdi)
February 14: Lied von der belebenden Wirkung des Geldes (Hanns Eisler)
February 15: Stripsody Cathy Berbarian
February 16: Youkali Kurt Weill
February 17: Berceuses du Chat Stravinksy
February 18: Berceuses du Chat Stravinksy
February 19: Berceuses du Chat Stravinksy
February 20: Berceuses du Chat Stravinksy
February 21: Como quieres que adivine? Guridi

Como quieres que adivine (Guridi)

My apologies for not having posted in the last several days. I will continue and try to caught up.

Spanish composer, Jesús Guridi (1866- 1961) wrote a set of six songs, which are quite beautiful and can be a great addition to any song recital. They are entitled Seis canciones castellanas/ Six Castilian Songs

This one is exquisitely sung by Carmen Bustamente.

Como quieres que adivine? /How do you expect me to guess?

Friday, February 18, 2011


Here are 4 pieces since I didn't post yesterday and won't be able to post again for a couple of days. These four pieces will be for February 17, 18, 19 and 20!

Music: Igor Stravinksy
Poem: Charles Ramuz
I. Spi kot (On the stove)
II. Kot na pechi (At home)
III. Bai-bai (Dodo)
IV. U kota, kota (The cat has)

After Stravinksy's final trip to Russian, he returned full of ideas connected to Russian folk music. These pieces are based on Russian Folk song.

These are wonderful pieces if you are a mezzo looking for some great chamber music to program. It's scored for voice and three clarinets (Eb,Bass and A ). It can also be sung in French. The pieces are quite short. All four take under 4 minutes to perform. But every note is golden. Cathy Berberian is the singer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Youkali (Kurt Weil)

Teresa Stratas is a beguiling performer and Youkali is a song equally as beguiling. This video is an excerpt from the film September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill, directed by Larry Weinstein. It creates an atmosphere of nostalgia, sensuality and longing. The poem tells us that Youkali is "in every human heart, the deliverance we await for tomorrow... Youkali is the land of our desires
Youkali is happiness, pleasure. But it is a dream, a folly. There is no Youkali.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stripsody (Cathy Berberian)

Ahead of her time, like no other. She could sing anything. She was a phenomenon!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lied von der belebenden Wirkung des Geldes (Eisler)

I love it when composers sing their own music, even when or especially because they don't have attractive instruments. There's something that always comes through. You can here the essence of the piece. This is one of those rare moments. Hanns Eisler sings his Lied von der belebenden Wirkung des Geldes/ Song of the Invigorating Effects of Money

There are many excellent pieces written by Eisler in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht. Many have an overt or hidden political message.

Lied von der belebenden Wirkung des Geldes
Music: Hans Eisler
Text: Bertolt Brecht

Niedrig gilt das Geld auf dieser Erden
Und doch ist sie, wenn es mangelt, kalt.
Und sie kann sehr gastlich werden
Plötzlich durch des Gelds Gewalt.
Eben war noch alles voll Beschwerden
Jetzt ist alles golden überhaucht
Was gefroren hat, das sonnt sich
Jeder hat das, was er braucht.
Rosig färbt der Horizont sich
Blicket hinan: der Schornstein raucht!"

Ja da schaut alles gleich ganz anders an.
Voller schlägt das Herz. Der Blick wird weiter.
Reichlich ist das Mahl. Flott sind die Kleider.
Und der Mann ist jetzt ein andrer Mann."

English Translation

The value of money is low on earth.
And yet it's cold, if there is a lack of it.
And it can be very hospitable
Suddenly, through the power of money.
A minute ago everything was full of complaints
Now everything is tinged with gold.
What has frozen, is now basking in the sun.
Everyone has what he needs.
The horizon is rose colored.
Gaze upwards: the chimney smokes!

Yes, soon everything looks completely different.
Full of heart beats. The gaze goes onward.
Generous meals. Stylish clothes.
And the man is now another man!

(Translation: Milagro Vargas)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Eri già tutta mia (Monteverdi)

Just over a year ago, Hugues Cuenod died at the age of 108. I didn't get a chance to post his obituary at this site. This post is a belated tribute to a great singer.

With an angelic, pure toned and unpushed instrument, he sang publicly into his 90's. He was self effacing about his gifts, telling the NY times in 1987, “I never had a voice, so how could I lose one?” But he did have a great voice, a voice with exquisite diction, sophisticated musicianship and that clean, pure, angelic tone.

Here, he sings Eri già tutta mia but Monteverdi. Pure poetry.

"Eri già tutta mia",
Music: Claudio Monteverdi- 1587-1643
from Scherzi Musicali
Poet: Anonymous

Eri già tutta mia,
Mia quel' alma e quel core,
Chi da me ti desvia:
Novo laccio d'amore?
O bellezz' o valore,
O mirabil constanza,
Ove sei tu?
Eri già tutta mia;
Hor non sei più.
Ah, che mia non sei più.

Sol per me gl'occhi belli
Rivolgevi ridenti,
Per me d'oro i capelli
Si spiegavan a i venti.
O fugaci contenti,
O fermezza d'un core,
Ove sei tu?
Eri già tutta mia;
Hor non sei più.
Ah, che mia non sei più.

Il gioir nel mio viso:
Ah che più non rimiri.
Il mio canto, il mio riso
È converso in martiri.
O dispersi sospiri,
O sparita pietate,
Ove sei tu?
Eri già tutta mia;
Hor non sei più.
Ah, che mia non sei più.

English Translation from Lied and Art Song Text Site (see side bar for link)

You were once all mine,
mine were your heart and soul.
Who turned you away from me?
The lure of a new love?
O beauty, O valor,
O admirable constancy,
where are you now?
You were once all mine,
but no longer, no longer,
alas! you're mine no longer.

To me alone you turned
your lovely smiling eyes,
for me alone you loosed
your golden hair to the wind.
O fleeting happiness,
O steadiness of heart,
where are you now?
You were once all mine
but no longer, no longer,
alas! you're mine no longer.

Pleasure on my face, alas!
you'll gaze upon no longer;
my song, my laugh
are changed to torture.
O scattered sighs,
O vanished pity,
where are you now?
You were once all mine
but no longer, no longer,
alas! you're mine no longer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mutya ng Pasig (Nicanor Abelardo)

Here's one in keeping with the theme of lesser known pieces. I don't know about you, but until my student brought this song to me, I wasn't at all familiar with Filipino art song. This piece is a "kundiman", the Philippines signature love song. In the lexicon of the Tagalog (the official language of the Phillipines,) the word "mutya" means, literally, "pearl" and, figuratively, "gem", "charm", and "amulet." In the Tagalog folklore, the mutya is a woman, a maiden goddess of the rivers, lakes, springs, seas and oceans - in short she is the "Mother of Waters."

This is a beautiful performance by soprano, Mimi Kater and pianist, Christina Yue. The style contains elements of European romanticism mixed with more traditional folk sounding melodic lines and textures. This beautiful Kundiman portrays a lost kingdom and a mythical past.

Mutya ng Pasig
Music: Nicanor Aberlando (1893-1934)
Text: Deogracia A. Rosario

A brief translation:

On a night when the moon peeks from the heavens, when the gentle breeze tries to awaken her from her slumber. A vision of purity, her hair flows like a wave. She is the Mutya of Pasig, whose every gesture is song and poetry. (the muse speaks) "I was once a princess in the kingdom of Love. When love died so did my kingdom. My strength has gone and now lives in your hearts. If you want me to live again, give me back my love!"

Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: The Sound of Freedom/Moustafa Fahmy, Mohamed Khalifa, and Mohamed Shaker.

Just minutes ago, Vice President Sulieman annouced that President Mubarak has stepped down!

The people of Egypt have won their freedom from 30 years of a dictatorship. The sound of freedom is a glorious thing.

Good luck to the people of Egypt and continued strength in the days ahead.

The Sound of Freedom by Moustafa Fahmy, Mohamed Khalifa, and Mohamed Shaker.

"I went down and I said I am not coming back, and I wrote on every street wall that I am not coming back.

"All barriers have been broken down, our weapon was our dream, and the future is crystal clear to us, we have been waiting for a long time, we are still searching for our place, we keep searching for a place we belong too, in every corner in our country.

"The sound of freedom is calling, in every street corner in our country, the sound of freedom is calling..

"We will re-write history, if you are one of us, join us and don't stop us from fulfilling our dream.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Haugtussa (Grieg)

This performance is from Grieg's "Haugtussa, op 67 (The Mountain Maid), 8 songs in Norwegian. Swedish mezzo, Anne Sofie von Otter singing, Bengt Forsberg, piano.

It's a repeat of an earlier post, but it bears repeating because Scandinavian music is also somewhat neglected by singers in America, perhaps due to the fact that Norwegian and Swedish aren't part of the standard German, French and Italian taught at conservatories.

Haugtussa is a beautiful song cycle to poems by Arne Garborg (1851-1924). "Grieg himself maintained that the 'Haugtussa' songs were the best he ever composed. The cycle is a richly varied poetic work which nonetheless possesses a high degree of unity. The poems are centred around Veslemoey, a visionary young herd girl from a wilderness area in southwestern Norway. Rejected by her lover, she tries to escape life's harsh realities and the indifference of those around her. In her visions she comes into contact with nature itself and the powers of the underworld."

This the fourth song in the cycle:
Møte, n°4 (The Enounter)
text in Norwegian (Nynorsk)

Ho sit ein Sundag lengtande i Li;
det strøymer på med desse søte Tankar,
og Hjarta fullt og tungt i Barmen bankar,
og Draumen vaknar, bivrande og blid.
Då gjeng det som ei Hildring yver Nuten;
ho raudner heit; - der kjem den vene Guten.

Burt vil ho gøyma seg i Ørska brå,
men stoggar tryllt og Augo mot han vender;
dei tek einannan i dei varme Hender
og stend so der og veit seg inkje Råd.
Då bryt ho ut i dette Undringsord:
"Men snille deg då, at du er så stor!"

Og som det lid til svale Kveldings Stund,
alt meir og meir i Lengt dei saman søkjer,
og brådt um Hals den unge Arm seg krøkjer
og øre skjelv dei saman Munn mot Munn.
Alt svimrar burt. Og der i Kvelden varm
i heite Sæle søv ho i hans Arm.

English Translation

One Sunday she sits pensive on the hillside,
while sweet thoughts flow over her,
and her heart beats full and heavy in her breast,
and a shy dream wakens within her.
Suddenly, enchantment steals along the hilltop.
She blushes red; there he comes, the boy she loves.

She wants to hide in her confusion,
but timidly she raises her eyes to him;
their warm hands reach out for one another,
and they stand there, neither knowing what to say.
Then she bursts out in admiration:
"My, how tall you are!"

And as the day moves softly into evening,
they turn to each other full of longing,
their young arms wind around each other's necks,
and trembling mouth meets mouth.
Everything shimmers away, and in the warm evening
She falls blissfully asleep in his arms.

This is Lynni Treekrem singing a beautiful composition by Ketil Bjørnstad, a composer I came across it by chance. It's actually hard to pin the style, straddling folk and a more modern idiom. I thought it would be interesting to hear what this rich poetry would sound like in the hands of a contemporary composer.

This is the prologue of the Haugtussa, Text: Arne Garborg (1851-1924) Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a translation.

Til deg, du Hei og bleike Myr
med Bukkeblad,
der Hegre stig og Heilo flyr,
eg gjev mitt Kvad.

Til deg, du visne Lyng um Haug,
der Draumar sviv,
eg gjev min Song um Dimd og Draug
og dulde Liv.

Eg kjenner deg, du Trollheim graa,
du Skugge-Natt!
Eg rømde rædd; men stundom maa
eg sjaa deg att.

Eg kjenner deg, du Havsens Marm,
med Galdre-Song;
du gauv meg Gru i rædde Barm
so mang ein Gong.

Eg kjenner Striden tung og sein
mot Trolldoms Vald.
Gud hjelpe oss for brotne Bein
og Mannefall!

Eg kjenner deg, - eg kjenner deg,
som ikkje vann! --
Eg saag din Strid, eg veit din Veg
i Skugge-Land.

Eg røynde sjølv den Striden stygg
i mange Aar,
med ville Mot, med bøygde Rygg,
med svære Saar.

Du um meg sviv, du hjaa meg sit,
du arme Aand!
I meg du enno riv og slit
i dine Baand.

Eg veit det væl: dei sterke Troll,
den Vilje rik;
ein Baat i Foss, eit Kvad i Moll,
sløkkt i eit Skrik. ­--

Men Lerka stig fraa gløymde Grav
med Sigers Ljod;
og Vinden stryker inn av Hav
so frisk og god.

Og um me kjenner Graat og Gru
og Saknad saar,
so maa me Lerkesongen tru,
som lovar Vaar.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Von Ewiger Liebe (Brahms)

Brahms (1833-1897) wrote 196 art songs. This is one of his masterpieces.

Fassbaender's recording was the one I listened to, many years ago — along with Fischer Dieskaus's — when I first learned this piece. Fassbaender is a great singer, who sings with commitment, passion, beauty of tone, great phrasing and attention the text. Never sentimental, she tells the story in the most direct and compelling way. I can't think of a better recording of this great piece. Irwin Cage plays beautifully.

It is important to note that the text has been falsely attributed in many additions to Joseph Wenzig. The error was made by Brahms when the piece was published and has been passed down by subsequent editions, but the text is from August Heinrich Hoffman von Falersleben's Gedichte of 1837 and is a free transcription of a translation from the Wendish by Leopold Haupt.

Von Ewiger Liebe/ Eternal Love

Dark, how dark it is in the forest and field!
It's already evening; now the world is silent.
Nowhere anymore light and nowhere anymore smoke.
Yes, and the lark is now silent too.

The lad is coming from the village,
He escorts his sweetheart home.
He leads her past the willow bushes,
Talking so much, and of so many things:

"If you suffer shame and if you grieve,
If you suffer disgrace before others because of me,
Then our love shall break apart as quickly as we came together.
Depart with the rain and depart with the wind,
As we were once united."

The maiden says, the maiden says:
"Our love cannot be torn asunder!
Steel is firm and iron very much so,
Yet our love is firmer still.

Iron and steel can be reforged.
But our love--who will transform it?
Iron and steel can disintegrate;
Our love, our love must endure eternally!"

Translation: Milagro Vargas

Here's Alexander Kipnis' version with Gerald Moore playing the piano for an excellent version with a male voice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Non, Je ne regrette rien (Charles Dumont)

Composed by Charles Dumont, with lyrics by Michel Vaucaire, it was written in 1956, and is best known through its 1960 recording by the legendary Édith Piaf. The sound of her voice is unmistakable. She was the greatest popular singer of her time.

Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
C'est payé, balayé, oublié
Je me fous du passé

Avec mes souvenirs, j'ai allumé le feu
Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs, je n'ai plus besoin d'eux
Balayées les amours, avec leurs trémolos
Balayées pour toujours, je repars à zéro

Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie car mes joies
Aujourd'hui, ça commence avec toi

English Translation

No! Absolutely nothing...
No! I regret nothing
Neither the good that I've done nor the bad
All this is much the same to me!

No! Absolutely nothing...
No! I regret nothing...
It is paid, swept away, forgotten
I don't care about the past!

With my souvenirs
I lit a fire
My sorrows, my pleasures
I need them no more!

Swept away the love affairs
With their tremors
Swept away forever
I leave with nothing ...

No! Absolutely nothing...
No! I regret nothing
Neither the good that I've done nor the bad
All this is much the same to me!

No! Absolutely nothing...
No! I regret nothing...
Because my life, because my joys
Today that begins with you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Schäfer's Klagelied (Schubert)

If you're an Aksel Schiøtz fan, this will be a treat. If you aren't you should be.

Here he performs three Schubert Lieder--Halt! Eifersucht und Stolz and Schäfers Klagelied with Gerald Moore, piano.

Nothing more to say--one of the great Lieder singers of our time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ging heut Morgen übers Feld (Mahler)

Fischer Dieskau is heard here singing the second song in Mahler's orchestral song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.

The text was written by Mahler himself. The performance is quintessential Dieskau. He sings here with abandon, beautiful phrasing and great attention to color and the text It dates from the year 1960. The cycle tells the story of a young man who takes a journey, having lost his love to a another.

The piece is a staple of singers and orchestras. But there is also a very good chamber ensemble arrangement by Schönberg, which affords the opportunity to perform the piece with smaller forces.

Ging heut Morgen übers Feld/ I walked across the fields this morning

I walked across the fields this morning;
dew still hung on the blades of grass.
The merry finch spoke to me:
"Hey! Isn't it? Good morning! Isn't it?
You! Isn't it becoming a fine world?
Chirp! Chirp! Fair and sharp!
How the world delights me!"
Also, the bluebells in the field
merrily with good spirits
tolled out to me with bells (ding, ding)
their morning greeting:
"Isn't it becoming a fine world?
Ding, ding! Fair thing!
How the world delights me!"
And then, in the sunshine,
the world suddenly began to glitter;
everything gained sound and color
in the sunshine!
Flower and bird, great and small!
"Good day,
Is it not a fine world?
Hey, isn't it? A fair world?"
Now will my happiness also begin?
No, no - the happiness I mean
can never bloom!

Translation from Lied and Art Song Texts Page (see side bar for links)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Moi genie, moi angel, moi drug (Tchaikovsky)

There is a great treasure trove of ravishingly beautiful Russian music written for the voice by composers such as Glinka, Musorgsky, Rachmanivov, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and others. American singers don't program Russian music nearly as much as we should. Naturally, the language itself poses a bit of a stumbling block. I highly recommend taking a course in Russian diction or finding a Russian friend to help because the rewards are immense.

If you've never sung in Russian, I guarantee you that you can learn this piece and sing it on your next recital. This is one of Tchaikovky's earliest Romances and it is a gem.

This is a beautiful performance by mezzo soprano, Ekaterina Sementchuk
Larissa Gergieva, piano

Moi genie, moi angel, moi drug/ My genius, my angel, my friend
Composer:Tchaikovsky 1840-1893
Poet: Afanasii Afanas'evich Fet (1820–1892),

Russian Transliteration

Ne zdes' li ty ljogkoju ten'ju,
Moj genij, moj angel, moj drug,
Besedujesh' tikho so mnoju
I tikho letajesh' vokrug?

I robkim darish' vdokhnoven'jem,
I sladkij krachujesh' nedug,
I tikhim darish' snoviden'em,
Moj genij, moj angel, moj drug!

English translation

Isn't it here,
My my genius, my angel, my friend,
That you are talking to me softly,
And flying quietly around like a light shadow?

You are giving me a timid inspiration,
And healing my sweet ailments,
And giving me a quiet dream,
My angel, my genius, my friend!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Havanaise (Viardot) Cecilia Bartoli

Pauline Viardot,1821-1910, daughter of Manuel Garcia, the famous tenor and vocal pedagogue, was a major figure in her time. She was fluent in four languages by the age four, and she was an extremely gifted piano prodigy. She became a celebrated mezzo soprano and was well known for her extensive range, excellent technique and her expressive stage presence. She taught at the Paris Conservatory from 1871-1875.

Bartoli features some of her songs on her album, Chant D'Amour. This is one of the pieces on that album. It may not stand up to Schubert, Debussy or Brahms, but the melodic writing is beautiful and the piece offers the singer an opportunity for great expression,sensuality and agility. The style is a mixture of Spanish and French idioms, which are drawn from Viardot's Spanish/French background.

I'm not including a translation here because listening to the performance is all one needs to do. Bartoli is absolutely enthralling.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Du liebst mich nicht ( Schubert)

I discovered this piece in my twenties. I was fascinated by Schubert's treatment of the text. The phrase "Du liebst mich nicht/ You don't love me" is heard ten times. The modulations that emphasize the emotional text, the chromaticism and the unrelenting rhythmic figures all made the piece unique and compelling. The piece is sung here by Eileen Farrell (1920-2002) who sings it not only with her superb voice but with passion, subtlety and excellent German diction.

You'll find it as the third song of a wonderful group of Schubert Lieder. It appears at 10:05-13:50 to be precise. It's a piece that I've heard rarely in concerts. I'm not sure why. It does require a voice capable of producing both a strong dramatic quality as well as lyricism and excellent control over dynamics.

In her book, Can't Help Singing, she summed up the requirements for singing: "phrasing,rhythmic flexibility (and) the ability to tell a story in song." She does it all here.

Du liebst mich nicht

Composer: Franz Schubert(1797-1828)
Text: August von Platen-Hallermünde (1796-1835)

This poem represents the interest of poets of the time in oriental verse. Platen's poem come a volume called Ghazelen. The form originated in Arabic verse and one of the characteristics is that it contains five or more couplets and the second couplet usually ends with a repetition or refrain of of one or a few words. Here it is: Du liebst mich nicht!

My heart has been torn apart: you do not love me! You've made it very clear that you do not love me!
Although I come before you, begging and entreating,overflowing with love, you do not love me!
You've told me with your words, quite explicitly: you do not love me!

I must forgo the stars, the moon, the sun, for you do not love me!
What does it matter to me that roses bloom, or jasmine;
What does it matter that the narcissus blooms when you do not love me!

Translation: Milagro Vargas

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 ( Villa-Lobos)

In keeping with music from Latin America, listen to what is certainly considered a definitive performance of a beloved piece by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). Victoria de los Ángeles is incomparable! Also, listen to Bidu Sayão!

This is the fifth Bachiana from the series of nine suites, which constitutes the complete series Bachianas Brasileiras. This one is scored for soprano and orchestra of violoncelli (1938/45).

The two movements are:
Aria (Cantilena) (lyrics by Ruth V. Corrêa)
Dansa (Martelo) (lyrics by Manuel Bandeira)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Descúbrase El Pensamiento (Granados)

This is the first of Granados' Canciones Amatorias, Descúbrase el pensamiento, beautifully sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

There is an excellent recording by Bernarda Fink available that includes all the songs. The songs are suitable for a soprano with good low notes or mezzos with a strong upper range.

These pieces are not done as often as the Tonadillas but include some of his finest writing. The folklike melodies are combined with challenging piano and vocal writing and rich harmonies with frequent modulations to distant keys, especially in this first song. The pieces should be done more often. The end is especially daring harmonically!

Descúbrase el pensamiento
Poet: Anoymous
Music by Enrique Granados 1867- 1916

Discover the thought
of my well guarded secret,
and reveal my anguish,
my passionate life.
My passion is not new;
I've already suffered endlessly.
I am servant to a lady
who has forgotten my servitude.
Her beauty made me hers,
Her polished gesture,
is engraved in my soul.
Ah! Woe is me
who gazed on her
only to live in injury,
to weep and lament
glories of times gone by.
Ah! She has forgotten my servitude.

Translated by Milagro Vargas

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK Day 2011: Let's Keep The Dream Alive

Let's keep the dream alive in all we do.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Helen Boatwright, Celebrated Soprano, Dies at 94

“I sing opera, but I am a musician,” she told The Sheboygan Press in 2004. “I teach too many crummy kids who think they’ve got to be opera singers. Opera is such a teeny tiny part in the world of music. I don’t want to be called an opera singer.”

Helen Boatwright sang early music, concert repertoire, opera and gave world premiere performances of some works by Charles Ives. She was a musician who believed that singers had the responsiblity to perform and promote contemporary music.

See NY times obituary here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shirley Verrett, 1931-2010 dies at 79

The great mezzo soprano and soprano Shirley Verrett died on Friday morning at the age of 79 of heart failure after several months of illness. She was a singer who was well known for the intensity of her performances and a voice of striking beauty and flexibility. She was part of a second generation of black opera singers who followed Marian Anderson's breakthrough at the Met in 1955. May she rest in peace.

New York Times obituary here

Go here for some examples of her singing from an earlier post.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Giulietta Simionato, 1910- 2010 dies at 99

Mezzo soprano Giulietta Simionato died on Wednesday at her home in Rome. A thrilling singer of the 50's and 60's. She was featured in February's Singer of the Day posts. Go here to listen.

Washington Post obituary here.

A great singer from a great era. May she rest in peace.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blanche Thebom-1915-2010, dies at 94

American, mezzo soprano Blanche Thebom, Star at the Met and Beyond, Dies at 94 New York Times obituary here. Although, probably no longer well known to the current generation of singers, she was the leading mezzo soprano at the Met for 22 years, creating the American premieres of many roles. Below she sings O Don Fatale from Verdi's Don Carlo Here is a lovely tribute with reminiscences from colleagues and friends. Worth the read!

She was also famous for her long hair, which used in many of her roles to great advantage as seen in this photo of Blanche Thebom as Didon in the 1957 production of Les Troyens at the Royal Opera House, London.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dichterliebe; Souzay and Cortot

A remarkable partnership. If you haven't heard this rare duo, take a listen. It will be worth it.



Sunday, February 28, 2010

February is "Singer of the Day" Month

For the month of February, I've started a series of posts called "Singer of the Day." Each day features a great singer from the past. So stay tuned. It may be someone you are familiar with or someone who has fallen off your radar for some reason. In some cases, these may be artists with whom you are not familiar at all. I hope the choices will interest you.
So far we've had:
Feb. 1- Paul Robeson
Feb. 2- Ninon Vallin
Feb. 3- George Thill
Feb. 4- Irmgard Seefried
Feb. 5- Mark Reizen
Feb. 6- Eula Beal
Feb. 7- Richard Tauber
Feb. 8- Marian Anderson
Feb. 9- Rolando Panerai
Feb. 10- Shirley Verret
Feb. 11- Gundula Janowitz
Feb. 12- Leyla Gencer
Feb. 13- Jussi Bjoerling
Feb. 14- Lauritz Melchior
Feb. 15- Giulietta Simionato
Feb. 16- Franco Corelli
Feb. 17- Sena Jurinac
Feb. 18- Tito Schipa
Feb. 19- Alfred Deller
Feb. 20- Janet Baker
Feb. 21- Kathleen Ferrier
Feb. 22- Luisa Tetrazzini
Feb. 23,24- Teresa Berganza and Hermann Prey
Feb. 25- Carla Gavazzi
Feb. 26- Aksel Schiøtz
Feb. 27- Fritz Wunderlich
Feb. 28- Maria Callas

Now that we've reached the final post, I have to say that the exclusion of many other worthy artists was by no means deliberate. There are so many that didn't make the list and I apologize for that. But I may pick up the theme again another time. So stay tuned.

Singer of the Day: Maria Callas, 1923-1977

Maria Anna Sophie Cecilia Kalogeropoulos was born in New York in 1923 to parents who had emigrated from Greece. Her father changed their family name to Callas in 1929. In 1937, after her parents separated, her mother took her to Greece, where she was admitted to the National Conservatoire of Athens. In 1939, at the age of 17, she made her stage debut in a student production of Cavelleria Rusticana as Santuzza.

For me, Callas was an acquired taste. As a young college student, I was introduced to her later recordings first. Some students I knew liked to play her recordings at half speed to show the wobble she had sadly developed in her later years. So while I knew she was a legend, I didn't at that time understand why. It wasn't until later that I discovered the extraordinary ability she had to convey with voice, timbre, color, phrasing attention to text and acting, the depths of the many operatic characters she portrayed. I am always struck by the rightness of her choices, the amount of time she chooses to hold a fermata, the nuanced nature of her character studies and of course the unsurpassed ability she had with the technical demands of the Bel Canto repertoire. Theatrically, she was brilliant. She changed the face of opera for the future. Her characterizations were always layered, multi-dimensional and complex. Her singing and acting, always interwined so organically that you feel this is the only way it can be performed! She is considered one of the greatest singers of the twentieth century. The acclaim is justly deserved.

Mad Scene from Donizetti, Lucia Di Lammermoor

Puccini, Tosca, Vissa d'arte

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Singer of the Day: Fritz Wunderlich, 1930-1966

Only two days left and I'm struggling with whom to include, but any list would be incomplete without Wunderlich. His impeccable singing and artistry, which covered opera, Lieder and standard orchestral fare was sadly cut short due to an accident at the home of a friend where he fell down a staircase.

Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, Tamino's Aria Dies Bildnis is bezaubernte schön

Friday, February 26, 2010

Singer of the Day: Aksel Schiøtz, 1906-1975

I wonder how many singers and pianists are familiar with Aksel Schiotz. He is well known to connoisseurs of Lieder, though I became familiar with him by chance only seven years ago. In other words, I got through my entire musical training and much of my career without once having heard of Aksel Schiøtz. A real shame because this is a superb singer who sings with such ease, style, clarity and depth of emotion. Really top drawer. We are lucky that his legacy will live on through the recordings.

Schubert Lieder- Die schöne Müllerin 1. Der Neugierige 2. Ungeduld 3. Eifersucht und Stolz 4.Die böse Farbe

Mozart, Cosi fan tutte, Un aura amorosa

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Singer of the Day: Carla Gavazzi, 1913-2008

Perhaps eclipsed by the fame and stardom of other post-war sopranos such as Tebaldi, Callas, Schwartzkopf,Sutherland and others, Carla Gavazzi was a real talent and had a very unique instrument. Her voice exudes a raw, earthy quality that is quite compelling.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Francesco Cilea Io sono l'umile ancella

Cavalleri Rusticana, Mascagni- Voi lo sapete

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Singer of the Day: Teresa Berganza and Hermann Prey

Today, we get a twofer because I skipped yesterday. Watch the lovely interaction between Prey and the brilliant Teresa Berganza. There are other examples of this superb artist at this blog if you go to the sidebar under Teresa Berganza!

Rossini, Il Barbiere de Seviglia, Dunque io son