Friday, April 06, 2012

A man of sorrows


   
This aria sums up all I would want to say today.


  
Image – part of Dali’s painting Christ of Saint John of the Cross


45 comments:

  1. Oh thank you, Perpetua! My favourite singer of all time - she died, far too young, when I was in my teens and just starting to realise that I had a voice that might be worth training, and I was heartbroken, as I'd just discovered what singing could be through listening to her. And, this very morning, I was grumbling to myself that Classicfm had played 'For unto us a child is born' from the Messiah, and wishing they'd chosen this (and this recording) instead! (Mind you, they did play the whole of Pergolesi's 'Stabat Mater', which was wonderful!)

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    1. So glad it meant so much to you, Helva. I grew up hearing of Kathleen Ferrier from my parents and to me her recording of this glorious area is incomparable. No words of mine can match it and the painting.

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  2. I have stood in front of this painting which hangs in the Kelvingrove museum and art gallery in Glasgow and I was so mesmerised and moved by it. Combined with this beautiful aria - this makes a great post!

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    1. Thanks, Harriet. I haven't seen it for myself, but have looked long and hard at reproductions and can imagine its power. It seemed to fit with the aria so well.

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  3. This was a gifted way to begin my Good Friday here, Perpetua. Thank you.

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    1. You are so welcome, Penny. It's a day almost beyond words.

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  4. Thank you Perpetua - Perfect for Good Friday afternoon or Velký pátek (Big Friday) as it is known in Czech. Today is not a public holiday (unlike in the UK) so we have a service this evening as many from the congregation will have to be their various work places during the daytime.

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    1. Thanks, Ricky. I find it a moving combination of image, words and music. Our Good Friday service will also be this evening, though not for the same reason as yours. Mind you, many people are working on Good Friday in the UK, now that shops and some other businesses no longer close to mark the day.

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  5. That's striking.

    It's beautiful but still conveys a real sense of dreadfullness.

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    1. Absolutely, EF. The painting I find haunting and the music moves me every time I hear it.

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  6. This is beautiful Perpetua. I dont know exactly which part of Lancashire you are from, but I love the idea that you have posted this magnificent version of the most beautifully soulful part of the Messiah, sung by another Lancashire woman. (who I know sang in the Blackburn High School choir...so maybe not too far away from you, just a generation earlier). I grew up listening to Kathleen Ferrier, as my father adored her. Thankyou for giving me the chance to listen to her today. Janice

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    1. You are very welcome, Janice. It's an unforgettable rendering, even though it's now 60 years old. As it happens I was born in the neighbouring town, so grew up with her too and among a lot of girls named Kathleen in her honour.

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  7. Hello Perpetua:
    This is such a beautiful aria and so wonderfully sung by Kathleen Ferrier, who has to be one of the most talented mezzo sopranos of all time. She died far too young and this all serves to remind us of cherishing the essentials of Life. A perfect post for Good Friday.

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    1. Thank you, Jane and Lance. I have always loved Kathleen Ferrier's voice and never more than in this recording. You are so right to draw the inference that this should remind us of what really matters in a world too full of inessentials.

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    1. Which is why I used so few, Fly.

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  9. When we were newly married, and living in Glasgow, Dali's painting was a new discovery for me. As Harriet previously mentions, she was moved and mesmerised by it, and I totally recognise her experience.

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    1. Rosemary, you and Harriet have convinced me that one day I must visit the Kelvingrove Gallery and see this painting for myself. No reproduction ever does full justice to the original.

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    2. Dear Perpetua - it is a very large painting, and when I visited it was hanging high up so that it appeared to be looking down on you. The lower part of the painting shows the little seaside bay of Cadaques, the small Mediterranean village where Dali lived.

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    3. Thanks for this, Rosemary. It makes me even more interested in seeing the original. For some reason I'd thought of it as quite small, like a lot of the mediaeval and Renaissance portrayals of the Crucifixion.

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  10. Thankyou so much for this lovely aria Perpetua. I have just got back from our Good Friday Solemn Liturgy and am completely 'sung out'.
    That didn't stop me singing along with the wonderful Ferrier.
    There has never been another contralto like her, and I doubt there ever will be.
    Perfect!
    Blessings Ray.

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    1. Ray, I'm a long way from anywhere where I could attend the full Good Friday liturgy, so this was my substitute and I have been listening to it all day. I guessed you would be another who loves Kathleen Ferrier's extraordinary voice and technique. Thank goodness for the art of recording.

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  11. How beautifully somber, and the perfect selection for such a Holy Day. I didn't know the history of Kathleen Ferrier's breast cancer and loss of life at such a young age. Sobering as you hear her voice immortalized with such a piece. Blessings to you and yours today and with the Easter celebration. You said it all with this moving piece of music. Debra

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    1. Debra, knowing her history makes Kathleen Ferrier's interpretation of this even more moving if that is possible. It is music I always listen to at this time of year and it always speaks so powerfully to me. A very blessed Easter to you and yours also.

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  12. A lovely combination. Perfect for Good Friday.

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    1. Thank you, Niall and Antoinette. Art and music say things so much better than I can.

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  13. Goldenoldenlady posted (and I inadvertently deleted) as follows:

    As you know, Big Sis, I have sung the alto arias in Messiah many times, in many places. "He was despised" was the Big Sing (especially if the middle section and da capo are done) and an honour even to attempt. Our father rated Ferrier so highly, but he didn't let that stop him from applauding my young efforts - if anything it enhanced his appreciation.

    I have just had a pleasant evening drive up to your place (and yes the scaffolding is gone, and yes the panels, etc all look AOK, tell DH) and the sight of so many spring lambs called to mind many Agnus Dei movements of the great masses, especially the one from Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle (which is also a helluva big sing I am pleased to have had under my belt in my time!)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8Pg7Ktn20c

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    1. Apologies, Baby Sis. In trying to remove the stub of your deleted comment, I managed to delete your proper one at the same time. I didn't know Blogger does that. Sigh....

      I do wish I could have heard you sing this and the other big Messiah arias, but we were never in the right place at the right time. It's obvious from what you say that this particular aria is especially demanding, which makes the perfection of Kathleen Ferrier's performance even more striking. My love of her voice began with my childhood awareness of our father's admiration for her singing.

      Thanks for the news about the scaffolding and also for the Youtube link which I shall listen to with great pleasure as soon as DH has finished watching his film.....

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    2. The tempo Boult chose, and the size of the orchestra makes this rendition even more taxing on the breath and tone for Ferrier, but I guess at least she didn't have to do the fast double-dotted baroque rhythms of the dramatic middle section and then the da capo (!) Modern performances such as the ones I was booked to do (my last public airing of this was in 1997, when I sang the Mozart adaptation in German) usually employed smaller orchesatral forces and quicker speeds, and quite often male altos are engaged these days rather than female ones. Fashion affects classical music just as much as everything else in life, but there will only ever be one Kaff Ferrier.

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    3. BTW, although Daddy's favourite singer was Ferrier, Mummy's was Paul Robeson. She queued at the stage door to shake his hand when he came to sing in Blackburn!

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    4. Never mind about missing my Messiahs; you saw my Brahms' Alto Rhapsody in 1996...the only time I got chance to sing that.

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    5. And your Cavalliera Rusticana and your Katisha in The Mijkado!

      I don't know enough about the score and different versions of Messiah to appreciate fully the technicalities you mention, but I tend to prefer the slower tempi for some of these more meditative arias. But I so agree there will only ever be one Ferrier.

      Memory playing me false again. I thought it was Daddy who liked Paul Robeson so much. Thanks for prodding the old grey cells and for telling me the stage door incident, which I don't remember ever hearing.

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    6. I am sure both parents enthused about Robeson (how could anyone not, and there's another singer with a difficult life who never lost his dignity and poise in public) but Mummy was the true fan. She also loved a singer called Walter Widdop, a tenor or baritone, I believe.

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    7. He was a tenor, and the surname was spelt Widdop. You can hear him here;

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvaIz-vufO4&feature=related

      I suppose it in't surprising Mummy talked more to me about singing/music than she perhaps did to her other daughters. There were all those bus trips to and from my piano lessons, for starters, and then when I got into the RNCM both M&D were very excited for me and talked about singing extensively as I prepared to go.

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    8. Wandered off topic somewhat with all these reminiscences! Most Easters for me it's decisions decisions decisions between Johannes Passion and Matthaus Passion. Perhaps I need a hybrid, starting with the opening chorus of the St John and ending with the final chorus of the St Matthew, sung with gravity and grace, at this sort of speed;

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtbk2xWDYK0

      I get such a feeling of completeness when I hear it, it's miraculous music

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    9. Wander all you like when you're telling me things I never knew, Baby Sis. I was busy with DS and DD by that time and as you say, your going to music college would lead to all sorts of conversations I could never have had.

      I'm ashamed to say I'm much less familiar with Bach than I am with Handel and Mozart, so you'll have to educate me. I'll now go and listen to the clips you've given me. I know what you mean about completeness though and I too have favourites that do exactly that.

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  14. Replies
    1. Thanks, Annie. I think they chose themselves this year.

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    2. Shivers down the spine Perpetua. I don’t think I did it quite this justice when I sang it for the school Messiah aged about 14. I remember Granddad being sad that he was not well enough to come with the family to listen to me. He died of cancer of course only a few weeks later

      I noted this poignant comment on U-tube about the recording.

      ‘When Kathleen Ferrier was in the middle of recording this particular piece, she received a phone call from her doctor informing her that she had cancer. After receiving this shattering news, she went back into the studio and finished the recording. My mother who was a great fan of Ferrier's and a trained mezzo herself always maintained that the news only made her rendition that much more heartfelt. And what a professional she was’.

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    3. Oh my goodness - that is an amazing story. I had to listen to it again having read this.

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    4. PolkaDot, thanks so much for reminding me when you sang that. I knew I'd heard you do it, but couldn't remember exactly when. I must have just come home from college after my first term.

      I'm glad you noticed the YouTube comment and posted it. Like Sian I had to listen again when I'd read it. What a consummate professional and still so loved almost 60 years after her death.

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    5. So you were fourteen as well when you sang the Messiah alto arias, PolkaDot?! I did them first at fourteen and again sixteen, and when I was seventeen we did Haydn's Paukenmesse, so I sang tha alto solos in that too.

      When I was eighteen I was asked back to sing them again (and paid £5!) when I was at the RNCM, and also engaged by our teacher to do them in Blackburn Cathedral and Bolton Parish Church (super venues) with choirs he ran.

      I am sure you did a good job as you were a very natural easy contralto, being tall, and our teacher was a good talent-spotter. Seing you do them that tiome and seeing our other sister sing Purcell's Dido when she was fifteen meant I grew up thinking that singing solo classical music was just kinda what we did in our family. You were great ice-breakers for me!

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    6. "...singing solo classical music was just kinda what we did in our family."

      Except for me, Baby Sis, except for me..... :-)

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  15. A beautiful rendition. And the Dali picture is a very powerful evocation too. I remember seeing it in Glasgow and just standing staring at it for some time.

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    1. Isn't it unforgettable, Sian. Your having seen the Dali makes me even more eager to do so myself. We'll have to make a detour on one of our trips north.

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I welcome your comments and will always try to respond to them. Thank you for reading.