Discussion:
Historical Singers.
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j***@outlook.com
2015-09-06 21:12:51 UTC
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I threw on the stereo the Seattle Ring yesterday. While I was at it I looked up some ring reviews. It struck me, and I know this issue has probably been brought up before, but it seems that present day singers are not just competing with others of the same age group and active. As Siegfried Vinke doesn't just compete with Gould, but Windgassen, Melchoir and Ernst Krauss for that matter. I remember reading Stereo Review and the Cycles of Boehm, Karajan and Solti being compared unfavorably with the great singers of the pre-war era. Now THOSE recordings are added to the "urtext" of great Wagnerania by my generation of "old men".
I've got two 21st Century rings. They are not my favorites. They are pretty good, But I wonder if as the reviewers in the '70s were hearing the new recordings with ears plugged into the '30s, if I and others in my age group are listening to new recordings with attitudes set in the 70's?
Just a question
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-06 22:21:42 UTC
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Post by j***@outlook.com
I threw on the stereo the Seattle Ring yesterday. While I was at it I looked up some ring reviews. It struck me, and I know this issue has probably been brought up before, but it seems that present day singers are not just competing with others of the same age group and active. As Siegfried Vinke doesn't just compete with Gould, but Windgassen, Melchoir and Ernst Krauss for that matter. I remember reading Stereo Review and the Cycles of Boehm, Karajan and Solti being compared unfavorably with the great singers of the pre-war era. Now THOSE recordings are added to the "urtext" of great Wagnerania by my generation of "old men".
I've got two 21st Century rings. They are not my favorites. They are pretty good, But I wonder if as the reviewers in the '70s were hearing the new recordings with ears plugged into the '30s, if I and others in my age group are listening to new recordings with attitudes set in the 70's?
Just a question
Well we do not live in an age of great Wagnerian performance, at least from the aural standpoint, and whereas it is advisable to listen to bygone singers in the Italian and French repertory, it is absolutely necessary in the case of Wagner, for it gives us a measuring stick and an insight into how these works can sound in the hands of great artists.
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-07 18:20:41 UTC
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Post by j***@outlook.com
I threw on the stereo the Seattle Ring yesterday. While I was at it I looked up some ring reviews. It struck me, and I know this issue has probably been brought up before, but it seems that present day singers are not just competing with others of the same age group and active. As Siegfried Vinke doesn't just compete with Gould, but Windgassen, Melchoir and Ernst Krauss for that matter. I remember reading Stereo Review and the Cycles of Boehm, Karajan and Solti being compared unfavorably with the great singers of the pre-war era. Now THOSE recordings are added to the "urtext" of great Wagnerania by my generation of "old men".
I've got two 21st Century rings. They are not my favorites. They are pretty good, But I wonder if as the reviewers in the '70s were hearing the new recordings with ears plugged into the '30s, if I and others in my age group are listening to new recordings with attitudes set in the 70's?
Just a question
One more reviewers should ask themselves, IMHO. It's always been my impression that they do tend to stick to what they first heard. In my experience this resulted for a long time in Toscanini's Falstaff, for example, being recommended heavily over anything subsequent, and one of the Fischer-Dieskau Fliegende Hollanders being recommended over Klemperer's and later ones. When I first came to hear these I was deeply disappointed; the Toscanini is good, but not *that* good, some of the singing is stale, and the sound of course no longer acceptable except historically. Furthermore it souds studio-bound. The F-D Hollander is also pretty thin even by contemporary standards. Sometimes it is fixed judgement, based on what the reviewer first came to love, which is forgiveable but annoying when he's supposed to be advising others. But equally often it's sheer laziness and prejudice, they don't actually bother to listen comaparatively but rely on their memories of what they think they heard in the earlier recording. Real experts like John Steane, who compiled EMI's classic Record of Singing sets (likely Warner will ever release them?) have a much more balanced approach; in the 1990s, for Gramophone, he chose eight or nine singers once who were revelatory for him, changing his ideas of singing throughout his long life. He began with Galli-Curci and ended with Sir Thomas Allen.

It's a breadth of vision, or the auditory equivalent, I believe in, and try to listen as honestly as I can when I review. It's my impression that vocally the post-war period did represent some kind of -- not a peak, exactly, but a balance in the quality of singing, and Wagner singing especially. Before WWII there were tremendous voices, but they weren't always used at their technical or expressive best. Friedrich Schorr seems much better than Hotter, but on some live recordings you can hear him being very free with line, rhythm and much else, sometimes more or less declaiming. Melchior was even worse at this; no wonder they didn't like him at Bayreuth. On studio recordings he's ok, but live... Kirsten Flagstad is superb, but to my ears impossibly matronly; I much prefer Brigit Nilsson, but find her rather unfeminine also, and still more I like what someone called the "pinging" but less strident tones of Rita Hunter and Helga Dernesch. Post-war seemed to introduce, for whatever reason, a much greater emphasis on musical knowledge, technical security and minutia of expression, too much so perhaps in Fischer-Dieskau's imitators, but still an advance.

This had a lot to do with coaching methods. For example, many pre-war singers were mediocre musicians and learned line by line, by the words alone, with a private coach and repetiteur. This was even more true of the generation before. Post-war teaching increasingly moved away from private teachers to academic conservatoire and university courses, and the emphasis shifted to learning the lines first, as a vocalise, and pasting the words on afterwards. This is considered to improve technique, which is probably true, and to underline the musical detail which must influence the expression; that, to me, is more arguable. That is of course one aspect only of the changing influences upon today's singers; others include the dearth of company "apprenticeships", and the pressure to move up through the ranks to larger roles which may not suit them so well, but allow them to make the real money more quickly -- and given what they've been earning till then, it's hard to blame them. Also, conductors and intendants pressure them to take roles, often with very little consideration of whether it would suit them vocally or temperamentally. One advanced on Jill Gomez, a very pure Mozartian kind of soprano, very early in her career, with the cry of "You're my new Carmen!" Gomez's striking looks would certainly have qualified her, but absolutely not her voice, and she had the sense to refuse rather than risk a severely shortened career; not all would. A sort of Peter Principle often applies; singers go on taking bigger and bigger roles, and more performance till they reach ones they can't actually sing properly, take the money and run. So it's really very hard to compare today's generation with earlier ones, when conditions were so different.

I think we often get better interpretations and certainly much better acting, but worse music. Vinke is the kind of good middle-ground heldentenor there's always been a few of around, not very interesting but entirely tolerable vocally, but he looks reasonable and is actually a pretty good actor, with a welcome touch of humour. Meillor is probably overparted as Brunnhilde, but not by much; at times she sounds fine, but at others not so -- more of a natural Sieglinde, IMHO. If the Seattle Ring had been video'd, instead of that overbearing in-your-face sound recording, I think we might have judged it differently.

Unfortunately there's far more that can be said, but I'd better leave someone else to say it!

Cheers,

Mike
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-07 18:22:34 UTC
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On Monday, September 7, 2015 at 7:20:42 PM UTC+1, Mike Scott Rohan wrote:
I much prefer Brigit Nilsson, but find her rather unfeminine also

Jaysus! Bridget Nilsson begorrah. Sorry.

Mike
j***@outlook.com
2015-09-07 20:40:12 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
I much prefer Brigit Nilsson, but find her rather unfeminine also
Jaysus! Bridget Nilsson begorrah. Sorry.
Mike
I'm thinking, now that it's getting colder outside, I could do a little research and put together a spreadsheet, of sopranos who were Brunhilde since the beginning of commercial recordings, 1899. Brunhilde, because it's a problematic role and also, perhaps the smallest data base, so I don't get discouraged right off.
Between a history of the festivals and the albums I have, I could catch just about everybody through about 1960. Then compare dates of career length. Then I could tell if they overlap. Flagstad,Traubel & Lawrence were all active at the same time, but how many years did they overlap, and were they all in their prime at the same time?
I would postulate that prime years were ages 30 thru 50. Activity before or after those ages, not relevant.
Then I could tell, going back to the beginning of the 20th century, if there was a "Golden Age" with great Wagnerian sopranos falling over one another of if it was more that as one aged, another filled the gap.
If either you or Mr. Kauffman have any suggestions on parameters other than the ones I mentioned, please let me know.
The worst would be that I would have to purchase a couple more ring cycles:-)
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-08 00:18:06 UTC
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Post by j***@outlook.com
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
I much prefer Brigit Nilsson, but find her rather unfeminine also
Jaysus! Bridget Nilsson begorrah. Sorry.
Mike
I'm thinking, now that it's getting colder outside, I could do a little research and put together a spreadsheet, of sopranos who were Brunhilde since the beginning of commercial recordings, 1899. Brunhilde, because it's a problematic role and also, perhaps the smallest data base, so I don't get discouraged right off.
Between a history of the festivals and the albums I have, I could catch just about everybody through about 1960. Then compare dates of career length. Then I could tell if they overlap. Flagstad,Traubel & Lawrence were all active at the same time, but how many years did they overlap, and were they all in their prime at the same time?
I would postulate that prime years were ages 30 thru 50. Activity before or after those ages, not relevant.
Then I could tell, going back to the beginning of the 20th century, if there was a "Golden Age" with great Wagnerian sopranos falling over one another of if it was more that as one aged, another filled the gap.
If either you or Mr. Kauffman have any suggestions on parameters other than the ones I mentioned, please let me know.
The worst would be that I would have to purchase a couple more ring cycles:-)
Opera magazine did a pretty good Ring discography in the 1970s which was published with others in a book, which I think was called Opera on Record, like the articles. Unfortunately I'm three hundred miles and many cardboard boxes away from my library at the moment, so I can't give you the details, but hope to do so soon. Of course there are many others on line, but these were critical articles by William Mann, who despite his perversely plonking translations of the Ring and other Wagner was pretty sound on voice history. Might be an interesting research asset, therefore. But it's difficult to compare the very earliest acoustic recordings with even the first electrical ones. The appalling conditions of acoustic recording undoubtedly influenced the sound -- read Gerald Moore's autobiography. The singers were often forced to bellow at full volume with their upper body jammed right into a huge accoustic horn, unable to even see their accompanist, and sing at a pace which would fit the limited wax side. And standards of vibrato, maintaining pitch etc have undoubtedly changed; portamento was far more extensive even into the 1950s. The result of this and much else is that singers like the famous Finnish soprano Aino Akte, whom Strauss himself described as "the one and only Salome", sound pretty grotesque to our ears. And the notorious "Bayreuth bark" is vastly exaggerated, especially as many of the early singers were distinctly past it by the time recording arrived. As with period performances, we can enjoy the sound but we can't, in the end, listen with period ears.

Cheers,

Mike
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-08 00:20:53 UTC
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Tell a lie, the actual Ring chapter was by Alan Blyth. Annoying man, but also well grounded. It's OP but on Amazon, and of course the original articles are in Opera back numbers.

Cheers,

Mike
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-08 01:53:25 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Tell a lie, the actual Ring chapter was by Alan Blyth. Annoying man, but also well grounded. It's OP but on Amazon, and of course the original articles are in Opera back numbers.
Cheers,
Mike
Yes its from Opera on Record but you have to realize a whole lot of musical water has gone under the bridge in the 40 years since that article - a ton of historic material has been released since then 0 its a good star though
j***@outlook.com
2015-09-09 21:34:34 UTC
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Post by Jay Kauffman
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Tell a lie, the actual Ring chapter was by Alan Blyth. Annoying man, but also well grounded. It's OP but on Amazon, and of course the original articles are in Opera back numbers.
Cheers,
Mike
Yes its from Opera on Record but you have to realize a whole lot of musical water has gone under the bridge in the 40 years since that article - a ton of historic material has been released since then 0 its a good star though
I don't think I'll have any real issues. I've that Cosima era set, two Preiser boxes and the old Sanger auf dem Gruenen Hugel set. Plus a history of Bayreuth Festivals. As I said, I'm going to just look at Brunhilde. I'm not going to worry about critique until I've made my chart. Singers like Agnes Davis who waxed the Immolation Scene, but did little else, I'll ignore.
I think this will be fun to set down. I'm not worried about anyone knocking my work or methodology. To me, if I'm wrong, I've still learned something.
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-10 00:29:27 UTC
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Post by j***@outlook.com
I don't think I'll have any real issues. I've that Cosima era set, two Preiser boxes and the old Sanger auf dem Gruenen Hugel set. Plus a history of Bayreuth Festivals. As I said, I'm going to just look at Brunhilde. I'm not going to worry about critique until I've made my chart. Singers like Agnes Davis who waxed the Immolation Scene, but did little else, I'll ignore.
I think this will be fun to set down. I'm not worried about anyone knocking my work or methodology. To me, if I'm wrong, I've still learned something.
Yes indeed, why not? I for one would be interested to see the result, if you care to share it!

Cheers,

Mike
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-10 01:13:00 UTC
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Post by j***@outlook.com
I don't think I'll have any real issues. I've that Cosima era set, two Preiser boxes and the old Sanger auf dem Gruenen Hugel set. Plus a history of Bayreuth Festivals. As I said, I'm going to just look at Brunhilde. I'm not going to worry about critique until I've made my chart. Singers like Agnes Davis who waxed the Immolation Scene, but did little else, I'll ignore.
I think this will be fun to set down. I'm not worried about anyone knocking my work or methodology. To me, if I'm wrong, I've still learned something.
Yes indeed, why not? I for one would be interested to see the result, if you care to share it!
Cheers,
Mike
As would I
j***@outlook.com
2015-09-10 18:33:49 UTC
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Post by Jay Kauffman
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by j***@outlook.com
I don't think I'll have any real issues. I've that Cosima era set, two Preiser boxes and the old Sanger auf dem Gruenen Hugel set. Plus a history of Bayreuth Festivals. As I said, I'm going to just look at Brunhilde. I'm not going to worry about critique until I've made my chart. Singers like Agnes Davis who waxed the Immolation Scene, but did little else, I'll ignore.
I think this will be fun to set down. I'm not worried about anyone knocking my work or methodology. To me, if I'm wrong, I've still learned something.
Yes indeed, why not? I for one would be interested to see the result, if you care to share it!
Cheers,
Mike
As would I
Just as an aside, the book in the Cosima Era set says the Gulbranson Walkure disc on the olf green hill LPs isn't her. Any idea who cut that Pathe disc?
g***@gmail.com
2015-12-05 11:18:24 UTC
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Post by j***@outlook.com
I threw on the stereo the Seattle Ring yesterday. While I was at it I looked up some ring reviews. It struck me, and I know this issue has probably been brought up before, but it seems that present day singers are not just competing with others of the same age group and active. As Siegfried Vinke doesn't just compete with Gould, but Windgassen, Melchoir and Ernst Krauss for that matter. I remember reading Stereo Review and the Cycles of Boehm, Karajan and Solti being compared unfavorably with the great singers of the pre-war era. Now THOSE recordings are added to the "urtext" of great Wagnerania by my generation of "old men".
I've got two 21st Century rings. They are not my favorites. They are pretty good, But I wonder if as the reviewers in the '70s were hearing the new recordings with ears plugged into the '30s, if I and others in my age group are listening to new recordings with attitudes set in the 70's?
Just a question
Are you familiar with WAGNER ON RECORD...:

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g***@gmail.com
2015-12-05 11:20:43 UTC
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Post by j***@outlook.com
I threw on the stereo the Seattle Ring yesterday. While I was at it I looked up some ring reviews. It struck me, and I know this issue has probably been brought up before, but it seems that present day singers are not just competing with others of the same age group and active. As Siegfried Vinke doesn't just compete with Gould, but Windgassen, Melchoir and Ernst Krauss for that matter. I remember reading Stereo Review and the Cycles of Boehm, Karajan and Solti being compared unfavorably with the great singers of the pre-war era. Now THOSE recordings are added to the "urtext" of great Wagnerania by my generation of "old men".
I've got two 21st Century rings. They are not my favorites. They are pretty good, But I wonder if as the reviewers in the '70s were hearing the new recordings with ears plugged into the '30s, if I and others in my age group are listening to new recordings with attitudes set in the 70's?
Just a question
http://www.audiophileusa.com/covers400water/113599.jpg
Or GREAT SINGERS SING WAGNER?:

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Jay Kauffman
2015-12-05 19:20:07 UTC
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Post by g***@gmail.com
Post by g***@gmail.com
Post by j***@outlook.com
I threw on the stereo the Seattle Ring yesterday. While I was at it I looked up some ring reviews. It struck me, and I know this issue has probably been brought up before, but it seems that present day singers are not just competing with others of the same age group and active. As Siegfried Vinke doesn't just compete with Gould, but Windgassen, Melchoir and Ernst Krauss for that matter. I remember reading Stereo Review and the Cycles of Boehm, Karajan and Solti being compared unfavorably with the great singers of the pre-war era. Now THOSE recordings are added to the "urtext" of great Wagnerania by my generation of "old men".
I've got two 21st Century rings. They are not my favorites. They are pretty good, But I wonder if as the reviewers in the '70s were hearing the new recordings with ears plugged into the '30s, if I and others in my age group are listening to new recordings with attitudes set in the 70's?
Just a question
http://www.audiophileusa.com/covers400water/113599.jpg
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61UA1kSBkDL._SL500_AA300_.jpg
yes

Jay Kauffman
2015-12-05 19:20:00 UTC
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Post by g***@gmail.com
Post by j***@outlook.com
I threw on the stereo the Seattle Ring yesterday. While I was at it I looked up some ring reviews. It struck me, and I know this issue has probably been brought up before, but it seems that present day singers are not just competing with others of the same age group and active. As Siegfried Vinke doesn't just compete with Gould, but Windgassen, Melchoir and Ernst Krauss for that matter. I remember reading Stereo Review and the Cycles of Boehm, Karajan and Solti being compared unfavorably with the great singers of the pre-war era. Now THOSE recordings are added to the "urtext" of great Wagnerania by my generation of "old men".
I've got two 21st Century rings. They are not my favorites. They are pretty good, But I wonder if as the reviewers in the '70s were hearing the new recordings with ears plugged into the '30s, if I and others in my age group are listening to new recordings with attitudes set in the 70's?
Just a question
http://www.audiophileusa.com/covers400water/113599.jpg
yes
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