Friday, October 29, 2010

Viva la diva

The recent passing of the diva Joan Sutherland has gotten me wondering: Which divas are left from that generation?

We are talking people born in the 1920s.

I thought of Leontyne Price, above. She was born Feb. 10, 1927. Back in the 1970s, when I was a kid, Leontyne Price was opera. It was not a real opera event until they brought out Leontyne Price, and her voice, and her Afro.

Roberta Peters ....

... who sang a heck of a Queen of the Night is still among us. She was born May 4,1930. 

Gwyneth Jones...

... being born in 1936 is a little young for our purposes.

Who else??

There must be others.

This is a question to occupy you when you are stuck for a few minutes in an elevator or a bank line.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Schubert karaoke

"I've been stuffing myself with 'An Die Musik.'" This one commenter wrote that on YouTube and it cracked me up. That is a great way to describe binge listening! Which, you know I am no stranger to that.

The commenter also pointed out that "An Die Musik" is classical music's "My Way." That is a funny way to put it but it is true. It is the song every singer wants to sing, and every singer wants in a way to make it his own.

It is emotional looking at YouTube because there are all these amateur singers stepping shyly but proudly into the spotlight: "This is me singing 'An Die Musik.'" Young people, old people, some accompanying themselves on the piano, some grabbing a friend to do it.

Just now on my 1950s stereo I was listening to Hans Hotter singing it, is what got me going on this today. It is a marvelous version, luxuriously slow, with Hotter's silken deep voice.

This Web log is no stranger to my namesake Erich Kunz but I cannot remember ever hearing his version of "An Die Musik," and I found it unusual. I listened to it three times and I am still not used to it. Taken at a fast tempo with a sort of light orchestral accompaniment, it is jubilant and extroverted -- forceful, almost -- but in a way very moving. As if he is saying that music makes everything worth it.
Here is "An Die Musik" in a dramatic scene from a movie, sung by the dapper Jose van Dam.

And an old black-and-white filmed performance by George London. Or, as one commenter puts it, the Great One, George London.

Here I am, I should be working and instead I am listening to great bass baritones singing "An Die Musik."
And a tenor, Fritz Wunderlich. With sweet pictures and a translation. So beautifully done, as my Zumba teacher Eileen would say. "So beautifully done." That is what she always says, watching us dance.

Wow, look at this! A pianist has been nice enough to post the accompaniment so anyone can: tackle singing the song.

Schubert karaoke! I just tried it. I could not help it! Unfortunately I am more of a mezzo than a soprano and I found the high notes tough going. But it was fun. You find yourself standing up, taking a deep breath.

Here are the words in case you want to try. You can be like Eula Beal, the contralto pictured above! In the picture she is singing "Erlkoenig." But you, you will be singing "An Die Musik."

Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden,
Wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt,
Hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb entzunden,
Hast mich in eine beßre Welt entrückt!

Oft hat ein Seufzer, deiner Harf' entflossen,
Ein süßer, heiliger Akkord von dir
Den Himmel beßrer Zeiten mir erschlossen,
Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür!

To Music

Oh sacred Art, how often, when depression
and life's wild circle had ensnared my space,
have you aroused my heart to love's compassion,
have you removed me to a better place!

How often has the sigh your harp created,
a sacred chord of your enchanted mood,
to heaven's better times my soul elated:
Oh sacred Art, I thank you for that!