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Interview with the Baritone Barry McDaniel

By Aryeh Oron (April-June 2002)

Feedback to the Interview

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 6, 2002):
Thanks to both Barry and Aryeh for providing an insider's view on the world of singing. I heartily recommend reading this review carefully. There are some amazing insights as well as great wisdom from a life dedicated to music to ponder over and enjoy.

Jane Newble wrote (July 6, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you so much for that interview, and for all the trouble you have taken in making it available to us. I found it extremely interesting, and listened to some of my Werner cantatas (with Barry McDaniel singing) while reading it.

I was touched by his love and gratitude to his parents. He mentions singing in the Flemish Matthäus Passion. I remember Wim Huisjes writing to me about that once, and about the amusing way some of the arias like 'Blute nur' were translated. Dick Wursten might know if there is a recording available?

I liked his comment about the 'abstractness' of counter-tenors as opposed to the human-ness of female altos, which is what I have also felt for a long time.

It was amusing to read his account of Böhm, and quite moving to read how he experienced singing Christ.

His comments about 'singing from the heart' made me feel happier about contributing to the weekly cantata discussion, as I ususally write not in a scholarly way, but 'from the heart.' There might be a place for that after all.....

Andrew S. Jongsma wrote (July 6, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thanks so much for that wonderful interview. As a retired conductor and Bach lover I recognized most of the names mentioned in the interview - and even knew a few personally.

Mr McDaniel and many of the singers mentioned were so much part of our musical life in Germany at that time.

Thanks again,

Charles Francis wrote (July 6, 2002):
Barry McDaniel stated:
"I am sure, however, that Bach would have been the happiest of all, if he had had the instruments, which are available today. The development over 300 years has not been backwards. He didn't have any choice."

This perspective, although self-evidently correct, doesn't quite capture the modern public's taste for the 'authentic'.

Dick Wursten wrote (July 8, 2002):
Jane NEWBLE wrote
1. about a "Flemish Matthäus Passion, in which Barry MacDaniel made his first appearance as Christ... "
2. and about "the amusing way some of the arias like 'Blute nur' were translated"
3. She asked: "Dick Wursten might know if there is a recording available?"

1. I possess a textbook of the 14th performance of the Mattheus Passion in Flemish/Dutch (8/4/1939) with the 'Chorale Caecilia' under the direction of Lod. de Vocht (Aryeh: please correct his name in the interview in loco; Lod. is short for Lodewijk). The famous Jo Vincent was sopranosoloist and both a clavecimbel and organ were used I noticed. Whether the fact that is was sung in Dutch is something extra-ordinary or more common practice I don't know. (I am curious to hear about this practice) AFAIK in Germany in those days French operas also were sung in German [and even till today all foreign-language films are 'dubbed' in German. Don't the English and the American do the same?]

That 'some of the translations are amusing' is a statement I find a little cheap. Many people say the same about the original (then it could be a compliment). I checked Blute nur, Erbarme dich and Am Abend da es kühle war and I was much impressed by both the 'sound-quality' of the translation and the 'closeness to the original'. It showed respect for both the text- and the musical language. Chapeau! (Perhaps it was done by Lod. de Vochts brother, the poet Jos. de Vocht. Together they contributed to the roman-catholic hymn singing in Flemish, which in Belgium is a double effort: Latin and French were dominating, resp. the cult and the cultural in those days).

3. Whether there are recordings of these Flemish Passions, I don't know. The practice of singing in Dutch must have stopped soon after the maidentrip into this language of Barry.. But I will ask around and let you know if I find anything.

Philippe Bareille wrote (July 8, 2002):
Thanks Aryeh for this extensive interview. I have only one Bach CD recording with Barry McDaniel which is the Christmas Oratorio with the collegium Aureum. Warmly recommended thanks to an outstanding cast of soloists including Barry McDaniel and Theo Altmeyer. A recording that captures marvellously the wonder and mystery of Christmas even for a non-believer/non Christian like me.

B McD says that he doen't know other American singers like him who left the US to live in Germany with the exception of Helen Donath and Keith Engen. I think the American barytone Thomas Hampson lives in Austria (Ok it is not Germany) and married an Austrian girl and his repertoire is mainly German. He recorded a few cantatas with Harnoncourt.

Jane Newble wrote (July 8, 2002):
Dick Wursten wrote:
< That 'some of the translations are amusing' is a statement I find a little cheap. Many people say the same about the original (then it could be a compliment). I checked Blute nur, Erbarme dich and Am Abend da es kühle war and I was much impressed by both the 'soundquality' of the translation and the 'closeness to the original' . >
Thank you for the information. I cannot remember how the translation was, as I did not see it myself, and was just told a few lines, which I have since forgotten.

Perhaps there was more than one? There seem to be several different ones in English, as there are also English sung cantatas, some better than others.

Pete Blue wrote (July 8, 2002):
[To Philippe Bareille]Thank you for reminding me of the (uniquely?) all-male 1973 recording -- "warmly recommended" indeed -- of the Christmas Oratorio featuring not only Barry McDaniel but also the now-peerless Tolzer Knabenchor conducted by Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden, who has become a great choral conductor but 30 years ago sometimes drew sloppy ensemble and sour intonation from his early-HIP forces.

This delightful recording -- is it still available on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi? -- is one of only three COs I know with that "tent meeting" quality I find indispensable in this work, which needs to be performed with the same feeling of naivete, of communal participation, as its soulmates the SJP and the SMP, but the feeling of the CO being one of rejoicing rather than suffering. My other two favorite COs are: (1) the bumptious Enoch zu Guttenberg (on the German label Farao), unfavorably reviewed by Classics Today but unfairly so -- it's irresistable, and the choral work is virtuosic; and (2) the vital John Eliot Gardiner, whom I consider the Georg Solti of HIP -- most of the time I find he conducts like a pig, sacrificing everything to propulsion and drama, but frequently he is saved,almost, by his soloists and his choristers, and occasionally he scores a bullseye, his CO being one of those occasions.

Kostas Lialiambis wrote (July 9, 2002):
[To Philippe Bareille] There are definitely quite a few US artists that have been dealing with European culture so extensively that, sometimes, comes as a big surprise to realise that they are not Europeans but Americans. Think of William Christie, for example! He has done so much for baroque French opera that I could hardly believe that he was born in Buffalo!

Dick Wursten wrote (July 9, 2002):
[To Jane Newble] Question, simply don't know the answer:
Did the famous Bachconductor Anthon van der Horst never perform in Dutch? Passions and cantatas ?

Jane Newble wrote (July 10, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] I would love to know the answer to this, too. From when I was 12 I used to go to the SMP every year (in Holland), but never heard it in Dutch. It wasn't until I came to England that I heard Bach performed in English, and I did not like it at all.


Barry McDaniel: Short Biography | Interview: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Discography


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