Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Conductors of Vocal Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Singers & Instrumentalists

Elly Ameling (Soprano)
Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions


Recordings under her name
Other Recordings, see: Short Biography


Ameling - the Power of Charm

Janos Gereben wrote (March 18, 2003):
Elly Sara Ameling, bless her, came to the SF Conservatory of Music tonight to give a master class, and she presented in "real life" exactly what she has given us in concerts and on record.

Hers is a silvery, bright, lithe, pure voice, used with uncanny expressive power, one that goes straight to the heart and stays there. Ameling, the teacher, has a delightfully light touch, but she commands attention, makes points economically and memorably, and she gets results.

At 70 - looking not a day over 50 - the soprano is gloriously alive: focussed, purposeful, energetic, no-nonsense (she is Dutch, you see), funny, witty, and she charms the paint off the walls without any effort at all.

As she always has with audiences, Ameling makes immediate, intense contact with the students. When Kindra Scharich, a mezzo working on Faure's "Clair de lune," nods vigorously, the teacher says, with mock resignation, "you say yes, yes, but will you do what I say?" Scharich no longer expresses agreement, but concentrates on correcting the phrase.

The young student has a fine voice, but the delivery is mechanical, "heavy." Ameling explains the nature of that 19th century garden party, and that "it's elegant, charming, but not real love like Brahms would express." Scharich's phrasing changes, lightens.

"Not too heavy," Ameling says, "it's French-sad, lighter than German sadness." She holds the microphone away and she sings the phrase in a voice surprisingly, delightfully young and clear. The diction is incredible. When Ameling sings or speaks French, your high-school memories suddenly intensify to qualify you for performing Moliere.

She advises "soft singing" on occasion, although not to compensate for tempo correction: "softer is not slower," but she reminds the students that audiences tend to pay more attention: "soft singing opens the ears."

Ameling briefly but forcefully outlines the cultural context of the song, mentioning paintings by Jean-Antoine Watteau and poems by Paul Verlaine, urging the student to bring more nostalgia and yearning into the performance. Listen to great performances, she says, Gerard Souzay above all.

When a tenor makes a stab at Duparc's "Le Manoir de Rosamonde," Ameling asks for more intensity, drama. "This is opera," she says, "don't think in lieder we cannot sing loud and with drama." (I wonder if she heard Karita Mattila's Rachmaninoff on Sunday - that was opera, no, operissimo.) It's a bit surprising to hear that from Ameling because in her long, illustrious career, she appeared in only one opera, "Idomeneo."

Ameling counsels against making both wovels and consonants too soft: "when you do that, the word just disappears." Legato, she says, should be not only a "bound line," but it must be sung evenly, without "little bellies" sticking out of the phrase.

She notes the excellent German of soprano Yoosun Park, who is singing Schubert's "Im Fruhling," and when the student says she has made a special study of the language, Ameling laughs: "You must have listened to the right recordings."

She tells the singer and the accompanist that they are both best friends and competitors, investing the pianist with the responsibility for dynamic changes because "from Bach to Schubert, composers never marked the singer's scores, putting all the p's and f's into the instruments' parts." I wonder what young singers make of that, coming from a singer, as it is.

When Park makes "one of those magic changes to A major," Ameling frowns on the effort. "When you make an effect, make it 150%," she says. Ameling is a teacher who follows her own advice.

Roger Bogda wrote (March 21, 2003):
Hers is a voice which never fails to melt my heart.


Singers who strike a balance

Joan M. Thomas wrote (July 28, 2003):
If we are speaking of lyric sopranos who, in Baroque repertoire, sing, or sang, with a combination of clarity, expressiveness, and mastery of their entire range, what about Elly Ameling? To my mind, the beauty of sound and expression that emanates from her Bach and German Renaissance recordings still far exceeds the soprano output in most of what I have heard of the more recent versions of Bach's vocal works. I hasten to reiterate that all this is only the voicing of a personal opinion, not the assertion of an incontrovertible fact. Alwys, I am eager to hear new voices, and hope for a blend of expressiveness and evenness of projection sustained throughout the vocal range with the clarity of line that seems to be associated with "HIP" performances. In this respect, currently active singers such as Deborah York and Lynn Dawson--(spelling?)--give me hope.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 28, 2003):
[To Joan M. Thomas] Joan, I'm an Ameling fan too. Her "Behold and See" in Marriner's first Messiah is breathtaking.

I'm even more fond, though, of Augér. Her BWV 51 with Rilling, and her "Come Unto Him" with Schwartz are transcendent. Have you heard these.

I don't know Deborah York. Which of her recordings do you particularly recommend?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 29, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] Another Ameling fan here. My favorite album of hers is a CD of 9 Schubert Lieder and 19 by Schumann, recorded in the mid 1960s. Demus plays a period piano. Since the pitch is lower, they use a modern A clarinet in "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" (instead of a Bb), and it's a beautiful blend.


Recommending Deborah York

Joan M. Thomas wrote (July 29, 2003):
With regard to other Ameling recordings, there is a quite wonderful LP of German Renaissance Christmas music that came out, courtesy of Musical Heritage Soceity, in the very early '70's. Elly Ameling is one of a quartet of singers, and the accompaniment consists of a consort of viols, tenor and soprano records, and one of those big lutes. Ravishing! Unfortunately, so far as I know, it has never been reissued on CD, but you may, at some point, find someone who has it and can give you access to it.

Johan van Veen wrote (July 31, 2003):
[To Joan M. Thomas] If you like Elly Ameling you should look out for a rare recording of her's with baroque music in HIP performances - a double-LP set with the complete Pathodia Sacra et Profana by Constantijn Huygens. It was released in the 1980's by EMI, but hasn't been reissued on CD, as far as I know. It is a very good recording, in which Ameling manages to sing very stylish, little vibrato, good ornamentation and a very good realisation of the text. I am pretty sure that her interpretation is highly 'directed' by the players on that recording - Anneke Uittenbosch (harpsichord & organ) and Jaap ter Linden (viola da gamba) (and perhaps also the other singer, no less than Max van Egmond), but still - she manages to realise it. Hopefully that recording will be reissued some day.


Elly Ameling: Short Biography | Recordings under her name | General Discussions

Conductors of Vocal Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Singers & Instrumentalists


Back to the Top

Last update: Saturday, June 17, 2017 23:34