Every lover of Salome should see this recording
a magnificent disc
a huge talent
2 & 21
A handsome tribute!
finest Mahler yet
Mahler 9 Blomstedt
15 September 1945 - 30 September 2019
Jessye Norman, one of the most beloved and versatile singers of her generation, has died in a Manhattan hospital shortly after her 74th birthday, as a result of complications ensuing from a spinal cord injury sustained in 2015. She was a “grande dame” in every sense of the word, invariably conveying a deep impression of massive dignity both vocally and in her physical presence; I have vivid memories of her sailing on stage at the Royal Festival Hall in the 80’s, ”stately as a galleon” and swathed in a diaphanous yellow gown, to sing Jocasta in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex; I similarly recall the impact she made as both Cassandre – her debut – and a few days later Didon at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, again in the 80’s. That physical presence became considerably attenuated in her later years, but her height and majestic manner continued to serve her well. Her slow, sonorous speaking voice with its carefully modulated vowels and impeccable diction was equally impressive even before she opened her mouth to sing and she invariably gave the impression of having brought her formidable intelligence to bear on everything she spoke or sang. Following in the footsteps of artists such as Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price, whose example she credited, as an operatic diva Norman lent her voice and time to a wide variety of good causes, especially those which addressed racism and civil rights or celebrated the Afro-American cultural legacy. She performed for royalty and presidents and received too many honours and awards to list here.
Her vocal gifts to some extent defied categorisation; she was variously described as a dramatic soprano, a soprano Falcon and, in her latter years, a contralto and a mezzo-soprano. She herself refused to be confined by any vocal definition, declaring that “pigeon holes are only comfortable for pigeons”. The warmth and amplitude of her voice in combination with formidable technique, permitted her to tackle a bewildering variety of roles and genres from Purcell to Schoenberg, and Lieder to jazz crossover. She was especially celebrated for her portrayals of the noble heroines encountered in the operas of Wagner and Richard Strauss and her recording of the latter’s Four Last Songs, with its controversially slow tempi permitting her to exploit her admirable breath control to execute long, arcing phrases of voluptuous tone, is frequently cited as a favourite recording by Strauss aficionados. Her singing was not invariably perfect; she could sometimes default into crooning and her somewhat underpowered top was “short” but in a Fach which suited her she was incomparable – and indeed unique.
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