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Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano)

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See: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf - Short Biography

 

An Elisabeth Schewarzkopf Fan

David Cozy wrote (May 30, 2001):
On another list to which I belong someone claimed (perhaps with tongue in cheek?) that when Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was on "Desert Island Discs" she chose for the eight discs she could take with her to the island eight of her own recordings.

Is this true?

Alan Moss wrote (May 30, 2001):
[To David Cozy] Yes. And not only is it true, it is well known and has become a sort of locus classicus.

Virginia Knight wrote (May 30, 2001):
[To David Cozy] I believe it is - at any rate every article about the programme that I've ever seen has claimed that it is. I haven't listened to the programme for ages (Michael Parkinson put me off and I never restarted) but I also recall at least one conductor being allowed to choose not recordings, but scores to take with him.

Tony Duggan wrote (May 31, 2001):
[To Virginia Knight] I think that was Erich Leinsdorf.

Jane Erb wrote (June 2, 2001):
[To Virginia Knight] Unless I misremember badly, Andre Previn said he would include a good book on carpentry.

Deryk Barker wrote (June 17, 2001):
[To David Cozy] Although I didn't hear the original broadcast, I believe it to be so.

 

Schwarzkopf / Schwarskopf in BWV 51

Thomas Braatz wrote:
Mentioning, as Bradley does, Distler and Schwartzkopf in the same breath (who is Schwartzkopf? Possibly the latter is a non-entity in the musical world because he is not listed in either the MGG or the New Grove) as Nazi collaborators without offering proof (...)

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 21, 2003):
The Nazis had a 2000-page file on Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and she's definitely no "non-entity" in the musical world:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1555532721

I think I'll listen to her recordings of Bach's cantatas BWV 51, BWV 199, and BWV 202 right now....

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 21, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, thanks for clarifying Brookshire's misspelling of such a famous name!

Thanks also for the reference to the book on Amazon.com. Based on what I could determine from the table of contents and excerpt from the book, Schwarzkopf's connection with the "Orgelbewegung" is truly non-existent. This is why it did not occur to me that this misspelled name actually referred to a singer who had very little to do with setting performance standards for Bach's music. Aside from singing 2 Bach duets at the end of 1935, there is nothing in the time frame (1933-1945) to connect her with the "Orgelbewegung" mvt. She did sing and record a few arias from the SMP (BWV 244) ("Blute nur" etc.) (wasn't this already after the war?); and the cantata recording which you pulled out so readily, if you read the notes carefully, were done and the request of Legge, who even had her attempt to sing the same cantata on a later occasion with little or no improvement. What does that tell you? She simply was not 'cut out' to sing Bach arias properly (all of this was already discussed on Aryeh's site.) Her rendition of a simple song, "Bist du bei mir," became for many years the only recording of this piece the local FM station would play. It also displays an aspect of her voice that is not engaging since she probably had sung it too many times as a 'warm-up' song at many of her Lieder recitals. Do I like her voice in some of her other non-Bach categories? Definitely yes, but not Bach! If she had not had important post-war connections in the recording industry, she would probably not have been singing Bach in the first place. It is not her metier.

I simply do not see how Kater (or Brookshire) make a meaningful connection between Schwarzkopf and Distler, or any other musically significant 'members' of the "Orgelbewegung." Connect the dots for me please....

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 21, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Yes, Tom, I did read the booklet notes carefully...I presume you're talking about the same CD issue I have, which is EMI 67206. Did you happen to notice that the French essay in that booklet is not the same one as the English and German?

And I think she sounds terrific in the cantata BWV 202, the live performance with the Concertgebouw and Klemperer, 1957. What a tone, and what expression!

The writer of those French notes, Andre Tubeuf, concurs:

"(...) se disait qu'elle avait rarement fait aussi bien, -- en style, en tenue, en expression. Le mot est important. Revoyant ses photographies, reecoutant ses tests, quand il s'agit d'autoriser des publications, presque immanquablement ce qui decide Schwarzkopf desormais c'est cela: l'expression. La correction, le respect de la lettre, la justesse, tout cela doit pouvoir etre tenu pour acquis (et s'agissant de photos, est-il besoin de le dire, la beaute). Ce qui fait la difference, c'est l'expression. Et Schwarzkopf est peut-etre bein la seule artiste qui en Bach, au-dela de l'education selon la forme, au-dela du style et de la discipline, la gymnastique pourrait-on dire, quotidienne, eux aussi d'abord tenus pour acquis, voit dans Bach ce que personne n'y voit: une ecole d'expression; la representation des passions humaines, des affects (ou _affetti_) la plus epuree et chatiee, certes, qui certes transfigure l'emotion mais jamais ne l'empeche de vibrer. Un Bach jamais eteint, ni du point de vue du sentiment ni du point de vue du vibrato. Un Bach comme Racine. (...)"

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 21, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Give her a simple Bach lullaby-like melody like "Schafe können sicher weiden" (BWV 208) and she will produce some fantastic notes. You will forget about the text and hear simply the beautiful voice, but don’t let the aria begin to jump around as in the following aria, "Mein gläubiges Herze." Now her voice sounds strained and even a bit angry although the text demands a very different emotion. So much for the ‘affetti’ which lose their attraction when her voice has to struggle with Bach’s more difficult passages. Give her the slow section of an arioso, as in BWV 51/2, and everything is fine, but when she gets into the coloraturas, things suddenly become difficult for her. In the following slow aria, BWV 51/3, she becomes rather tenuous, opting for sotto voce through most of this aria, and not singing in full voice, “Höchster.” She is singing in an audio studio to a microphone and not to a congregation in church. Of course, someone might say this is due to ‘interpretation.’ She may be imitating a little child? The simple chorale in the next mvt. she treats as if it were an opera aria, which it is not. The chorale should be effortlessly suspended above the marvelous double concerto going on in the orchestra, but with Schwarzkopf it is anything but that. At times her trills are the equivalent to the strong vibrato in her voice – it is hard to tell the difference. What kind of singing is that? Listen to the unpleasant vocal sounds she makes in the final ‘alleluja.’ The coloraturas are unpleasant and difficult for me to listen to.

Brad, try listening for some of these things and see if you don’t concur.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 21, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] I never said I liked her rendition of cantata BWV 51. (And I don't.) I said I liked her cantata BWV 202.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 22, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Schwarzkopf with Gellhorn/Philharmonia in BWV 51:

Tom, I dislike this performance for pretty much the same reasons you do, as stated below. I've had it for about 20 years on the ubiquitous Seraphim LP 60013 (backed with the Mozart "Exsultate, jubilate" with Susskind)...and again on CD, evidently the same EMI you have.

And I've seen your 9/25/01 review of 16 different recordings, archived on
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV51-D.htm
Your review has your typical thoroughness and thoughtful consideration...but it also has your three typical Braatz-signature traits in it (**). Knowing the tendencies in your writing, your review gives a good suggestion of what those recordings actually sound like, and that's the mark of a good informative review. (Any review says as much about the reviewer as it does about the subject matter, even if that wasn't the intention...and when one can piece together the reviewer's own predilections/background/expectations, the review has a clear context.) I'm not saying it's bad to have "signature-traits" in one's writing of reviews; I'm sure I myself have dozens that regular readers could list, and could probably cite as strong prejudices. I'm simply pointing out that you have some, too.

What do you think of Kirkby with Gardiner in this piece, if you've heard it since your survey? It's not in your list. That's one that I enjoy.

=====

(**) I'd characterize these "Braatz-signature traits" as follows:

- (1) You hate just about everything Harnoncourt (your pet "whipping-boy") does with Bach cantatas, and miss no opportunity to bash him or blame him for anyone else's interpretation that you dislike, if it in any way resembles Harnoncourt's sound. That's especially so in the area of performing the notes shorter than they appear on the page...even though that is neither Harnoncourt's original idea, nor one that he is directly responsible for among musicians active today. (That is, many of us would be playing/singing that way anyway even if Harnoncourt the man never existed, because (a) it's musically effective, and (b) there is plenty of evidence for it historically.)

- (2) You clearly dislike what you characterize as "half-voices", which is a quite harsh and prejudicial dismissal of anyone who has one (or who ever uses that effect musically). Everyone is born with a whole voice, are they not? Maybe "half-voice" is just a very unfortunate choice of words, and you could sometime come up with a more fairly objective way of saying what it is you don't like in that sound.

- (3) "Precision" to the score, and specifically a rendition that is as close to the NBA's "Urtext" as possible, as a very high goal.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 22, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks, Brad, for your honest evaluation. I am aware of some of the deficiencies which you mention. But first to your question:

>>What do you think of Kirkby with Gardiner in this piece, if you've heard it since your survey? It's not in your list. That's one that I enjoy.<<
No, I still have not heard it since my survey of BWV 51.

=====

>>(**) I'd characterize these "Braatz-signature traits" as follows:
- (1) You hate just about everything Harnoncourt (your pet "whipping-boy") does with Bach cantatas, and miss no opportunity to bash him or blame him for anyone else's interpretation that you dislike, if it in any way resembles Harnoncourt's sound. That's especially so in the area of performing the notes shorter than they appear on the page...even though that is neither Harnoncourt's original idea, nor one that he is directly responsible for among musicians active today. (That is, many of us would be playing/singing that way anyway even if Harnoncourt the man never existed, because (a) it's musically effective, and (b) there is plenty of evidence for it historically.)<<
In tracing the performance practices that I hear when I have a large number of Bach cantata recordings of the same cantata available on record, I follow what I consider the most reasonable method for tracing this HIP sound back to its earliest recorded source. Invariably, the earliest major change to the HIP sound in the available recordings begins with the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series on Teldec. If you know of any earlier recorded sources where most of these major changes are present than this set which begins in the early 70's, let me know so that I might be able to listen to it and change my assessment regarding Harnoncourt. Does the Deller recording of some Bach cantatas, which you recently mentioned and I do not have, demonstrate all these traits?

I remember that in a previous year you were very helpful in steering me to Harnoncourt's writings (as sparse as his musicological references were) where I found out why Harnoncourt used the short accompaniment in secco recitatives, a definite 'Harnoncourt-signature trait.' I have not found anyone (on recordings) who actually recorded recitatives this way before his cantata recordings. It was for this reason that I singled out Harnoncourt as the 'originator' of this style in actual recorded performances. If you know of a yet earlier recording pioneer who demonstrates this and many other traits of HIP, please let me know. Until I hear otherwise from you, or anyone else, on this matter, the early Harnoncourt cantata recordings are the watershed, the actual noticeable split from the performance tradition that had existed until that time. It is one thing to trace musicologically the shortened secco recitative accompaniment back to its source in Arnold Schering in the early 1930's, but quite another thing to hear a trait such as this actually put into practice.

>>- (2) You clearly dislike what you characterize as "half-voices", which is a quite harsh and prejudicial dismissal of anyone who has one (or who ever uses that effect musically). Everyone is born with a whole voice, are they not? Maybe "half-voice" is just a very unfortunate choice of words, and you could sometime come up with a more fairly objective way of saying what it is you don't like in that sound.<<
I am quite uncomfortable with this term myself. In this day and age, even using the descriptive adjective 'small' might appear quite harsh and prejudicial. How about 'volume & range-challenged' voices? The term "half-voice" frequently goes hand in hand with sotto voce singing because these voices seem to be singing sotto voce most of the time, so you will really have at least 3 things take place simultaneously: half the amount of normal volume that a solo voice ought to have ('sotto-voce' singing), half the range of a fully-trained voice, and half of the ability to lend sufficient expression to the voice (if the voice has limited volume and range, it almost follows directly that the ability to express the words will be 'cut in half.' These are serious limitations in a voice that attempts to sing a Bach aria. The result is almost always less than it should be, if conveying the music and text to the listener in a meaningful, yet enjoyable way.

>>- (3) "Precision" to the score, and specifically a rendition that is as close to the NBA's "Urtext" as possible, as a very high goal.<<
Yes, I do sincerely believe that a performance should begin as close to the NBA's "Urtext" as possible. I do not understand why performers would want to disregard Bach's notation and articulation, where we know that he conscientiously went to great effort to write out everything as specifically as he was able. He did not want to leave these aspects to chance, and, also, if he lent a cantata to another cantor, the latter would quickly understand the composer's unambiguous intentions. Does this prevent an artist performer from expanding upon these indications? No! If a performing group had studied certain cantatas very thoroughly and had also performed these same cantatas on a number of different occasions at different times, then I might relent to a change or a 'bending' of Bach's original intentions. This usually does not happen with Bach cantatas because they are so numerous and very different one from the other. I can understand how a keyboard player who has really lived with a Bach keyboard composition over a period of years might make meaningful changes or 'bend' certain aspects of the "Urtext" in such a way as you have described. The keyboard player is truly living or reliving his/her internalized vision of this music. Incomparison, the Bach cantatas have an even greater number of variables to deal with, variables which really require a stricter adherence to the original score just because they are so infrequently performed and have not been internalized the same way that keyboardist has absorbed and worked through all the intricacies of a particular composition.

Juozas Rimas wrote (February 22, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< following aria, " Mein gläubiges Herze." Now her voice sounds strained and even a bit angry although the text demands a >
I've listened to a sound sample of Schwarzkopf's BWV 51 first trumpet aria online. I expected to hear something really good but it turned out to be almost barking-like: "JAUCH... zet! JAUCH...zet!" Check yourself:
http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921594515&ft=&upc=&clink=

I've also heard her arias from Klemperer's SMP (BWV 244): the control is great but the voice is too squeezed to my taste ("strained", as Thomas puts it, is perhaps a better word). Something similar to Kooy's squeezed when he sings loudly. "Aus liebe" was the only aria from the set that made an impression on me. Schwarzkopf's voice never loses control in the SMP (BWV 244) recording though - something modern sopranos often cannot cope with, however the constriction of voice makes her no match compared even to Dieskau's Jesus part in that Klemperer SMP set, let alone his Bach's singing as whole. It wasn't her kind of music apparently.

Donald Satz wrote (February 22, 2003):
[To Juozas Rimas] I also find Schwarzkopf's voice to have a 'squeezed' quality, but I think that her expressiveness is the element that makes her performances memorable.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 22, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] Yep, that squeezed quality. Her trait that bothers me most is her tendency very often to sing extremely sharp in pitch (in any repertory)...but even with that, I like her performances, mostly.

Santu De Silva wrote (February 24, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] This (from Brad Lehman) says pretty much what I feel! I've begun not to read Tom Braatz's postings exactly because this wholesale writing off of Harnoncourt is so excessive.

Pete Blue wrote (February 25, 2003):
[To Santu De Silva] I don't pretend to be able (or willing) to follow the intricacies of the scholarly if heated debate on Harnoncourt , but I question whether it is warranted to dismiss Tom Braatz as some kind of maverick and to imply that Harnoncourt's champions represent a postion of unassailabe logic and universal consensus.

IMO the answer lies in the real world of Baroque performance practice.. Have Baroque specialists of equal or greater reputation than Harnoncourt flocked to his irresistible ideas? Or are they all so misguided or ignorant as to conclude that his secco approach does not, except occasionally, make for better music-making?

Santu De Silva wrote (February 26, 2003):
[To Pete Blue] Oh, I concur. While I do not think Harnoncourt is faultless, I don't think he needs to be so systematically denigrated.

 

RIP Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Chris Stanley wrote (August 4, 2006):
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/classical/schwarzkopf.shtml

Noteworthy is that the biography link on the BBC website is to the BC website.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 4, 2006):
< http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/classical/schwarzkopf.shtml >
One of the greats!

Putting on her classic set of cantatas BWV 51, BWV 199, and BWV 202 this afternoon. Then maybe the Strauss "4 Last Songs", with Ackermann and then with Szell.

There was also an appreciative feature article about her husband (producer Walter Legge) in last month's issue of BBC Music Magazine; I haven't got to the library yet to look that up, but plan to.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 4, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Putting on her classic set of cantatas BWV 51, BWV 199, and BWV 202 this afternoon. Then maybe the Strauss "4 Last Songs", with Ackermann and then with Szell. >
Although I believe that the REAL stars of that recording are Szell and the Cleveland. The final ritard in "Abendroth" which is achieved almost imperceptibly is one of the greatest performances ever recorded. No other recording comes close.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 5, 2006):
"Dame" Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

[To Douglas Cowling] I am sorry to suggest that I have never heard any recording by this "British Dame" (I guess one can be a Nazi and lie about it and become titled in Great Britain) that did not nauseate me.

Whether her Bach or her Mahler or her Berlioz and so forth which I have tried, I leave with a sick feeling of syrupy singing that lacks life and any beauty. Obviously this is a matter of taste.

Of the vastly overrated VLL (my opinion obviously) I have her Ackermann (with the Capriccio scene) and not the Szell. I frankly have little use for Strauss and certainly am not going to get a 10th recording of these songs of a foolish and insipid old man who never understood the meaning of the regime of which he proclaimed that "Life was good in the Third Reich where one received royalties from 80 opera houses" (slight paraphrase but an accurate report of his his reaction).

Dame Lizzie's contributions to Bach are to me most unappealing.I guess that she was the perfect Strauss soprano as his silly women, always seeking "Der richtige" while the world burned were, it would seem, written for this "British Dame", oh woe.
http://tinyurl.com/qwbvp

The NY Times (registration required) has a very thoughtful review of her abilities and her mendacity.
http://tinyurl.com/qwbvp

I repeat that I was never intrigued by her abilities and, when I heard her Mahler lieder, I almost vomited. Her balls to even think of singing the works of this composer who faced Judenhass of a racial nature all his career. Mahler of course was a Catholic and so the Judenhass was purely racial. Schwarzkopf was simply a liar. I know that some, many persons deeply appreciated her art. I cannot imagine anyone who approves of her mendacity.

The fact that she is not dead does not make her the saint that some suggest. BTW there are many singers of the Reich whose art I find of the most magnificent sort. Dame Lizzie is not one.

These are my honest opinions and I strongly commend the NY Times article to all.
Spare me any hate mail.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 5, 2006):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I know that some, many persons deeply appreciated her art. I cannot imagine anyone who approves of her mendacity. >
History is full with great artists who were not the nicest of people. Also full with mediocre artists who were not much fun to live with. Isn't it fair to acknowledge the passing of an artist, whatever their human frailties?

In the case of a musician, it seems especially appropriate to play a recording. Performance is so transitory. At least with recordings, it is a way of saying: your art lives beyond you. If the deceased happened to be a jerk, there will be plenty of people saying that as well. You can count on it.

< Spare me any hate mail. >
This is friendly mail, hoping to head off the other sort.

Julian Mincham wrote (August 5, 2006):
Re comments on Schwarzkopf, just to say that many similar things might be said of Gieseking, Karajan and a number of others.

Might I humbly suggest that this list is not the place to go down that particular road?

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 5, 2006):
[To Julian Mincham] I would very much like to see some kind of historical "statute of limitations" employed when condemning the deeds of entire nations/generations. History as way of keeping track of things that went wrong. P, however, are by definition a part of their time and it's difficult to ignore this fact when assessing their lives.

I suppose I'm dating myself but I remember when former American sports commentator (and a force of nature for nearly 20 years) Howard Cosell did a televised obituary for onetime heavy weight champ Sonny Liston. He recalled that Liston had come from appalling circumstances and expressed sadness in that regard. He also told his audience that Liston had almost certainly thrown a championship fight, cavorted with gamblers and represented everything bad about his sport. RIP Sonny. Frankly I thought Howard's remarks were on the mark.

If Schwarskopf was honored by the British crown as well as adoring audiences around the world after lying about membership in the Nazi Party (comparing Party membership with joining a union was a bald faced lie) and perhaps entertaining the Waffen SS to keep up the morale, she, like Sonny Liston, represented the worst about a important group of people - artists in the 3d Reich. (At least Karajan didn't deny it.) Are we seriously suggesting that people like Furwangler, Karajan and Lenni Riefenstahl, regardless of artistic accomplishment, didn't carry their past associations to the grave? So RIP Elizabeth: the woman our local PBS DJ called the "Nazi Diva."

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 5, 2006):
>>Re comments on Schwarzkopf, just to say that many similar things might be said of Gieseking, Karajan and a number of others. <<
I'll venture an opinion....

One either likes her singing, or doesn't, on a case by case basis. In some repertoire it might work well and in some it might not. For different listeners!

Assessments of her artistry tied to her politics can tend too easily toward ad hominem (dismiss the person on personal characteristics, instead of the work done)...or to be more technically correct here, ad feminem. Did her political party commit atrocities? Yes, obviously. Was that her fault actively, or did it somehow make her musicianship evil? I'd say no. I try to keep all that stuff separate from musicianship, the ability to deliver the composition lucidly and beautifully. Notes and words are notes and words, and one can either bring them out well in performance or badly.

Personally, I tend to like the way she italicized the sung texts so strongly (even to the detriment of melodic line sometimes...). But, I'm not so happy with her tendency to sing sharp (where I tend to be a hypersensitive person about intonation). Generalizations here. One thing that sharpness accomplishes, for better or worse, is to hold attention on that line! Similarly for the scooping and swooping; the irregularities focus attention.

All round, I've enjoyed most of the recordings of hers that I've heard: which is admittedly spotty. I've focused mostly on her Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Strauss with piano; and the Bach cantatas and the Strauss "Four last songs".

Not so much in 18th-20th century opera, where I simply don't have much of an opinion, having not heard those performances of hers except for "Meistersinger" (Eva in 1951 with Karajan) and some of Strauss. I care more about that Lieder repertoire than about opera/operetta, and I gladly listen to the way Schwarzkopf sang those songs. German is not my native language, and her manner of singing very much helps me to "get" the sense of it. Clarity of delivery.

"There is nothing in the world that is anything like a dame..." (the sailors in "South Pacific")

James Spenser wrote (August 5, 2006):
Bradlwy Lehman wrote:
< Assessments of her artistry tied to her politics can tend too easily toward ad hominem (dismiss the person on personal characteristics, instead of the work done)...or to be more technically correct here, ad feminem. Did her political party commit atrocities? Yes, obviously. Was that her fault actively, or did it somehow make her musicianship evil? I'd say no. I try to keep all that stuff separate from musicianship, the ability to deliver the composition lucidly and beautifully. Notes and words are notes and words, and one can either bring them out well in performance or badly. >
What is missing from this is that this conversation started with a mourning of the passing of the person and certainly her personal characteristics are relevant to that. Her music can and should be judged on it's own terms but she personally can and should be judged by her life as a whole. Certainly, I'm not going to mourn her passing just because she sang well without considering that in other areas she was lacking. Nor however, am I going to mourn the passing of her music: it passed a long time ago.

This group is a good place to discuss the merits of her music; as someone else pointed out, I would suggest it is not the place to discuss her life as a whole.

Raymond Joly wrote (August 5, 2006):
A member of the list, discussing our attitude towards Schwarzkopf's past, wrote:
< ad hominem (dismiss the person on personal characteristics, instead of the work done)... or to be more technically correct here, ad feminem. >
It is not technically correct, it is awful. FEMINAM!!!!!!

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 6, 2006):
[To Raymond Joly] Yes, a fine point.

So, is anybody up for discussing the work: Schwarzkopf's recording of Bach cantatas?

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 6, 2006):
Latin Police [was: "Dame" Elisabeth Schwarzkopf]

[To Raymond Joly] There is a saying here in Cambridge (MA, USA): <illegitimus non carborundum>.Perhaps more widely known. It is a loose (very) translation of the AmericanEnglish: <don't let the bastards wear you down>.

Tongue firmly (permanently?) planted in my cheek.

Raymond Joly wrote (August 6, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] May I ask how you qualifiy as a bastard in Cambridge? I confess the kind of Latin quoted below as witty in those parts would go a long way towards satisfying my requirements. Mind you, I had just one year in the Thomasschule when Mr Bach was Cantor there.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 8, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< So, is anybody up for discussing the work: Schwarzkopf's recording of Bach cantatas? >
Including BWV 199, a Trinity 11 cognate of this week's BWV 113, it turns out? Apparently not.

Message: Don't die in August. No one will notice, all on vacation. Too hot anyway. Todesschweiss.

Richard Raymond wrote (August 9, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] I know three recordings of Cantata BWV 51 by Betty Blackhead, all three are technically and stylistically total failures. It is really extraordinary that Bach's musical lines suited so badly her voice, so rich in Mozart or Strauss. But she was not better in Händel...It is not really a matter of style, compared with Seefried or Danco.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 9, 2006):
[To Richard Raymond] Not long ago I uploaded elsewhere parts of Stich-Randall, Danco, and Schwarzkopf (Archipel) in BWV 51. No question how dreadful Schwarzkopf was. Stich-Randall was my preferred recording of these three. Danco always seems rather on the white side (no pun had been intended) and somewhat bland to me but certainly preferable to that horrid woman. I am sure that the vapid ladies of Strauss suited her to a tee but since I avoid Strauss, oh well,

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 9, 2006):
< I know three recordings of Cantata BWV 51 by Betty Blackhead, all three are technically and stylistically total failures. It is really extraordinary that Bach's musical lines suited so badly her voice, so rich in Mozart or Strauss. But she was not better in Handel...It is not really a matter of style, compared with Seefried or Danco. >
Well, there still might be some who like her Bach recordings rather better than that....

My own personal favorites in the three cantatas here remain elsewhere BWV 199 to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, BWV 202 to Emma Kirkby, and BWV 51 to Malin Hartelius and Kirkby (each with Gardiner, years apart). That's among some others that are also f, with varied styles.

But, I still enjoyed listening to Schwarzkopf's disc of those three cantatas, several times through, last week. EMI References #67206. Sometimes it's shrill and shrieky, often too punchy in the runs and with overwhelming vibrato, but the spirit of the text still seems to come through pretty well.

These three cantatas are from three different venues and conductors in the 1950s; it really stood out to me in this juxtapositioning how stylistically different from one another the music sounds under Gellhorn, Dart, and Klemperer. Granted, these three compositions are already diverse in style and instrumentation, but here it sounds as if it's three different composers at work. Dart did the best (IMO) with the phrasing he got from his bass-line players, letting it sound like a melodic line rather than just a series of punched and equally-staccato notes. I especially disliked the way the Concertgebouw's harpsichordist (under Klemperer in BWV 202) refused to spread anything between the beats...just clank, clank, clank very loudly.

The fillers on that CD are worth hearing, too: arias from 208 and 68, and one of her "Bist du bei mir" recordings accompanied by Gerald Moore. With these smaller ensembles Schwarzkopf's voice sounds more genial, clear, and expressive. Not so much need to over-project the tone? Maybe some of that is also the miking.

Richard Raymond wrote (August 10, 2006):
Stich-Randall is divine in 1954 Vanguard and 1961 Club français du disque recordings. There is also a superb singing by Agnes Giebel, conducted by Kurt Thomas. Do you know Ingeborg Reichelt with Fritz Wener in 1956 ? Her voice was magnificent but her career was rather short. There is also Arleen Auger with Rilling and Birgit Nilsson with Klemperer - I'm joking.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 10, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< My own personal favorites in the three cantatas here remain elsewhere: BWV 199 to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson >
I don't have the Schwarzkopf, so thanks to others for providing some discussion. It did give me the initiative to order the CD (relax, Yoël, no further royalties accrue to the Dame). Incidentally, it was not readily apparent from a direct search at amazon.com that the Schwarzkopf CD is available, only by using the BCW link. Plenty of niche opportunities for high tech marketing guys still available.

I also got the initiative to give another listen to the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, which CD I only recently got around to, in response to the BCML chat at her passing. The Richter BWV 199 with Edith Mathis was also at
hand, as the result of cross references to BWV 113 (Trinity 11), which gets us back to the current week.

Mathis is expressive and accurate, worth a listen, especially since the entire Richter set is affordable and essential. But Lieberson is special. Operatic, but with more subtle vibrato than Mathis. The ultimate bonus: you
get an oboe performance by Peggy Pearson, not often enough recorded. This recording will give you an idea of why we rave about her from Boston.

Addendum due when the Schwarzkopf CD arrives. I feel obliged to say that I noticed (and chuckled at) <richardraymond> referring to <Bettie Blackhead>. Geez, man, the Todesschweiss is barely cool! Another opportunity to point out: that the quality of the person is not to be confused with the quality of the art.

On the other hand, another opportunity to point out what a decent human being Lorraine Hunt Lieberson was. Nice when it works out that way.

Thanks for the focus on the music. Music unites us.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 10, 2006):
Richard Raymond wrote:
< Stich-Randall is divine in 1954 Vanguard and 1961 Club français du disque recordings. There is also a superb singing by Agnes Giebel, conducted by Kurt Thomas. Do you know Ingeborg Reichelt with Fritz Wener in 1956 ? Her voice was magnificent but her career was rather short. There is also >Arleen Auger with Rilling and Birgit Nilsson with Klemperer - I'm joking. >
I fear that my collection is hardly as rich as yours and the only one of Stich-Randall in cantata BWV 51 which I presently have is:
Teresa Stich-Randall [C-1]
Karl Ristenpart
Le Sarre Chamber Orchestra
Soprano: Teresa Stich-Randall; Trumpet: Maurice André
Accord
Mid 1950’s ?
TT:
2nd recording of Cantata BWV 51 by T. Stich-Randall.

I am very happy with it. A while back a poster who posted here only one single time was seeking this item and I copied it for him as it is not available. He responded that it did not sound like the LP to which he was used. I cannot say as I don't have the LP and don't know whether I ever did. Thank you for noting that Nilsson was jocularly intended as I marvelled for a moment or two.

Peter Bright wrote (August 10, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman]

Unlike others on the list, I find myself overwhelmed (in a positive way!) by Schwarzkopf's singing of Bach - although only in places. One of my favourite of all cantata recorded movements is mv III of BWV 51 (Hochster, mache deine Gute), with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Peter Gellhorn (which also features Geraint Jones on organ). Her famously 'silvery' voice arcs beautifully across this aria. Whenever I put together a selection of Bach cantata movements for friends who do not know these works, this is always near the top of the list - and it usually leaves a very good impression. Anyway, I have uploaded it to the file area of the BachCantatas group homepage ( http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/ ) and, if interested members can find it with the filename 'Schwarzkopf_BWV51_mv_III.mp3'.

Unfortunately the final 'Alleluja' movement in this cantata performance sounds so OTT it's almost amusing. But, for me, that third movement captures what I love most about Schwarzkopf's singing. I expect that others will vehemently disagree...

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 10, 2006):
Peter Bright wrote:
>>Unlike others on the list, I find myself overwhelmed (in a positive way!) by Schwarzkopf's singing of Bach -although only in places. One of my favourite of all cantata recorded movements is mv III of BWV 51 (Hochster, mache deine Gute)....<<
I generally agree with the above statement. When examining and carefully listening to numerous recordings of BWV 51 for a report to this list I found the following:
(about 2/3rds down to the bottom of the page):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV51-D.htm

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 10, 2006):
Equal volume and quality

< http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV51-D.htm >
The following several sentences from that page stopped me dead in my tracks:
"However, sometimes a soprano voice appears on the scene that seems to have it all. This would be the rare type of voice that Mozart had in mind when he composed many of his soprano arias: an extended range of notes with equal volume and quality throughout the entire range. BWV 51 also has quite a large range that a soprano voice must project with equal volume throughout, but Bach makes a further demand, that many coloratura sopranos find more difficult to fulfill: the lyrical inner mvts. of the cantata."

There's a vast gulf between these two concepts: [being ABLE TO use equal volume through the range] and [deliberately producing a generally equal volume in interpretation]. The vast difference here is: basic technique, vs artistic choice in awareness (or sometimes unawareness) of style.

Saying that another way: just because some singers CHOOSE to make the notes varied in volume, as part of their interpretation, doesn't mean they're UNABLE singers.

Nor should anyone's performance be judged by such a restrictive standard as [did they perform everything at a fairly constant volume?], on deciding ithey're capable to do their jobs.

Evenness is a rudimentary thing (and sometimes remedial thing) for beginning and intermediate musicians to work on. It's not interpretation. It's not style. It's basics. One has to be able to perform evenly, just as a matter of firm control of the instrument/voice, before choosing to perform unevenly to accomplish greater things.

Same type of principle applies in piano, violin, clavichord, clarinet, modern trumpet, any other instrument that is capable of playing a broad range of dynamics: just because players work for years to BE ABLE TO play with absolute evenness, for some music where it's appropriate, doesn't mean they should necessarily play that evenly in all music; nor should their abilities be judged as faulty, when they choose not to do so. Scales, arpeggios, trills, and the other technical exercises for evenness are to foster control of the instrument; not to constrain style as to how one should play in real music.

So, I firmly disagree with the following bit from the above, especially:
"BWV 51 also has quite a large range that a soprano voice must project with equal volume throughout (...)".
MUST project with equal volume throughout, as if it's some inherent and immutable part of the composition? Since when?

People don't speak in evenly-accentuated or evenly-paced syllables. To do so is dull, dry, deadly monotonous to listen to, and it tends to kill meaning. Similarly, good musicianship includes the art of varying the tone and the delivery, bringing out the music's syntax and meaning, and not being dull. Sameness is for the "trained birds" (as CPE Bach would put it, and did in his treatise), not for those who would bring out meaning. Perform from the heart, bring out meaning: which is put across through flexibility and expressive range. Music communicates in the same ways speech does: through interesting and carefully-controlled variation, in keeping with the grammatical and syntactical behavior of language.

And, those of us who play instruments that don't offer so much of a touch sensitivity to dynamics--such as harpsichord and organ--work for years on being able to simulate dynamics via a similarly careful control of UNEVEN articulation and timing. Deliberately. We CAN play evenly, but choose not to, because too much evenness makes the music sound dull and meaningless.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Cantata BWV 51 - Discussions Part 5

 

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