戦前の歌謡 その307 100greatest singers7

Frieda Hempel, Soprano (1885-1955)
Gioacchino Rossini - Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Una voce poco fa - sung in german -(Recorded 1910)
My personal opinion: There´s a wellknown joke about music-critics judgement: "Bad singers" are equivalent to "alive", "good singers" means to be dead, "very good singers" are "long time dead"...
Behind every joke we´ll find a little bit truth. But is it true, all singers of the so-called "Golden Age" were considerably better?
Today we´re able to look back of more than 100 years of recording history, from Caruso up to the present day. In the times of Pasta, Malibran, Pasta, Patti, Melba and Sembrich, the audience didn´t know something about Ponselle or Callas who came decades later. Nellie Melba was the highest standard during the years of the "Fin de siècle", Giuseppe Verdi himself worked with her. But these times are over. Thousands of sopranos came after Melba, and certainly some surpassed her. Melbas legacy are her recordings, which I confess didn´t satisfy me at all. The australian Primadonna is a legend, but her recordings couldn´t confirm her reputation. Her rendition of the Mad scene from "Hamlet" is howling and squeaking, although she was only in her mid-fourtys at the time. Just hear her "Sempre libera" here on YouTube and make your own personal opinion.
A totally different impression were given by the recordings of Frieda Hempel, confirming her qualities as one of the leading coloraturas. Her "Una voce" (sung in german, "Frag´ ich mein beklommenes Herz") probably is the most unusal rendition we have, it runs approximately eight minutes! Hempel prefered her own style of Belcanto, she´d sung with grace and elegance. It was not everyone´s cup of tea; Michael Scott called it provincial, "full of notes and empty sense". Maybe he was right, but where could we find such singing today? Frieda Hempel´s singing was instrumental, full of verve and brilliance. In present time, conductors hold in their hands the scepter, singers aren´t individual. Yes, Hempel used many, many "abbellimenti", but isn´t it wonderful? Today, we have fun with Cecilia Bartoli doing almost the same! Nowadays a performance like Hempel´s would bring down the house.


Georges Thill, Tenor (1897-1984)
Charles Gounod - Faust
Salut, demeure chaste et pure (Recorded 1930)
My personal opinion: Critic and chronicler of the Met history Irving Kolodin wrote, the whole audience was disappointed when Georges Thill ended "Salut, demeure" with a high C in "voix mixte". The Metropolitan Opera brought him less reclaim and after two seasons, he disappeared. At Covent Garden he couln´t win a prize as well. What happened?
Thill was a tenor especially for the french. His diction and phonation was formed by the french language, by "singing in the masque". Thill was a very rigorous tenor with great discipline. "Canto fiorito" seemed to be a strange kind of art for him. Although he studied with Fernando de Lucia, we can hear almost nothing of ornaments in Thills performances. Probably he orientated himself indeed in direction to Toscanini. Thill was a lyrico spinto with addiction for singing Radamès and Calaf, Andrea Chenier and Canio, Samson and Don José. It´s good to hear him in verismo straight (in spirit of pure classicism), but maybe you´ll miss poetry in his Faust or Werther. As always a matter of taste. In France he´s a legend, and probably with the words of a famous german critic "the last of a great tradition", the tradition of great french tenors.
His way of singing Faust here is an example for an alternative. May I say, for me this is nearer to the context of Gounods music? I believe, many of us were much too accustomed in loud and effective music making. What´s your impression?


Pol Plancon, Bass (1851, other source 1854-1914)
Ambroise Thomas Le Caid
Enfin chemises (Air du Tambour-Major) sung in french (Recorded 1906)
My personal opinion: E la solita storia, it´s the same old story: The old school singers were much better. A prejustice or simply the truth?
It´s not easy to give an accounted answer. Many of these singers came to the record studios when they were far beyond their peak, for instance Patti recorded her first arias when she was over 60! With this in mind I listened to her and Lilli Lehmann. For this project I choose none of them, because I believe their sound legacy is insuffcicient.
Well, what about Pol Plancon? His recordings are surprising freshly. Most basses I know are inflexible. Their voices are dark, sometimes right black, but not really "alive"... That´s the reason, most basses have exactly the same sound. It´s difficult to differentiate and recognize them.
Plancon de facto was different. Here is his most famous showpiece. He begins with a dark, heavy tone and than, when the music speeds up, it seems we hear another singer. He possessed more than one voice.
He certainly was not the greatest bass, but a very flexible one and I believe his sophisticated way of singing was a pattern for many of his successors, Samuel Ramey and José von Dam for example.


Tito Schipa, Tenor (1887-1965)
Pietro Mascagni - Cavalleria Rusticana
O Lola c´hai di latti la cammisa (Recorded 1913)
My personal opinion: "His voice was small, but we all had to take a bow in front of his great art", so once said no one less than Beniamino Gigli. Schipa was one of the last tenors from the golden age of singing. His instrument was trained in belcanto lessons, and with this he even approached the verismo repertoire. He certainly influenced Bergonzi and Kraus.


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