Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



KATHLEEN FERRIER: Hommage à Kathleen Ferrier
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Semele – Where e’er you walk
Atalanta - Like as the love-lorn turtle
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)

The Fairy Queen - Hark! The echoing air
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)

Arianna – Lasciatemi morire
Antonio LOTTI (c1667-1740)

Arminio - Pur dicesti
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)

Orfeo – Ah diletta Euridice….
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Lachen und Weinen D777
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Sonntag Op. 47 No. 3
Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)

Love is a bable Op. 152 No. 3 [English lyrics Set Six]
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)

The Fairy Lough Op. 77 No. 2

Ca’ the Yowes
The Spanish Lady
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

St Matthew Passion – Four excerpts
Du lieber Heiland
Erbarme dich, mein Gott
Erbarmes Gott
Ach Golgotha

Kathleen Ferrier (contralto) with
Giorgio Favaretto (piano) – all items except Bach, recorded by RAI Milan 6 February 1951
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan (Bach) – recorded live 9 June 1950
TAHRA 462 [70.24]

As Tahra’s notes make clear Ferrier didn’t tour much in Italy. Her debut there was in July 1950 with Karajan and the Vienna Symphony in the Mass in B minor and she returned the following year. Her repertoire then centred on arias from Rinaldo and Xerxes and Kindertotenlieder (conductors, Antonio Pedrotti and Klemperer). The recital preserved by Tahra was recorded on 6th February by RAI Milan with accompanist Giorgio Favaretto. What will be most exciting to Ferrier admirers is that five of the items do not otherwise appear in her known discography nor, at the moment, are they known to exist elsewhere. For the record then – Semele, the Monteverdi, Lotti, the Brahms Sonntag and the traditional The Spanish Lady are all discographic firsts, and lasts, even in this imperfect form of a live radio recital.

Where e’er you walk is the only recorded example of her singing this quintessential tenor aria. There is a definably oratorio austerity to her phrasing that announces real gravity – but it can’t persuasively, I think, be argued that she was as idiomatically instinctive an exponent as her male contemporaries. Her colleague Heddle Nash, with whom she sang on numerous occasions, recorded it with such heartbreakingly floated head voice that Ferrier sounds relatively mean spirited in comparison. There is however a rather delicious air of felicitous wit in Like as the love-lorn turtle – her crisply humorous consonants, her verbal finesse, her gracious ease at slow tempo, the splendid divisions, all announce a performance of stature – and her only other known recording was a live taping in Oslo in 1949. No one would expect her contralto to be as nimble as say, Elsie Suddaby, in Hark! The echoing air but she is still more than gainly (and once more an Oslo ’49 live recital performance exists). Her Monteverdi (new to her discography) is deeply intense and expressive with a formal, interior drama that she was supremely gifted at displaying. Once again the Lotti is new – her dynamics are splendid, runs floated, no hint of unwieldiness or heaviness despite the association of this song with such as, say, Melba (who had recorded it in London forty years before). Her rubati here are master classes in how subtly to inflect repeated phrases. The Gluck of course was her signature tune, if we can permit the vulgar phrase. Her diminuendi, ritardandi and the occasional fruity portamento are all part of her expressive armoury – but she does get progressively slower in echt romantic style and there is a little pre-echo in places.

Damage afflicts the Schubert (she was to be recorded with Britten in it the following year) – thumps and gouges but the Brahms is full of affectionate simplicity and listen – in detail – to her minute vowel lengthening, her sense of metricality and the open and youthful freedom she brings. And it’s another discographic addition. Strangely her diction is rather poor in the Stanford – but her diminuendi are special as is the great cumulative feeling of delicacy and depth that she engenders (a BBC transcription with Stone exists of it as well). Ca’ the Yowes is wonderful, affecting and beautiful in equal measure – even if her tendency excessively to roll her "r" – endemic to certain British singers of that generation – might seem too pervasive. The conversational ease of The Spanish Lady is affectionate and sly – and new as well. I won’t forget her parlando phrase "catching a moth" or the quickly sly amazement of her singing of the word "feet". Small details but they succeed in expanding the canvas of the song immeasurably. The recital is rounded out by the June 1950 excerpts from the St Matthew Passion given by the Vienna Symphony and Karajan. These are much better known than the Milan recital and include Ferrier’s deeply moving Erbarme dich, mein Gott with Walter Schneiderhan’s expressive violin accompaniment.

That’s the good news, now for the bad. The acoustic in the Milan recital is so resonant that some form of artificial reverberation must have been added at some stage. The recital has in fact appeared before – on a Rococo LP – and knowing Tahra’s generally non-interventionist approach to their remastering I would be hesitant to apportion blame there (any more than I would with Rococo). The echo, however - and whenever - it was introduced, remains very problematic. In the end of course the recital’s value far outweighs sound problems. Because of the previously unissued items this will be a mandatory purchase for Ferrier admirers.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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