Author Topic: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson and vocal techniques  (Read 16630 times)

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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson and vocal techniques
« on: July 26, 2011, 06:22:58 AM »
I thought there was a Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson thread but couldn't find it here. Maybe it is in the old GMG.  So hope it is OK to post this here. Anyway, the subject came up yesterday about male poets and composers, so I gave the FLL as an example and went straightaways to youtube to find some links for her to listen to.

What a revelation to have found Lieberson in this cycle! Other vocalists sing this work, even well, but they don't LIVE it.  I don't prefer sopranos either but as much as Della Casa may be fine for instance or others, this recording is on a totally different level. The pianist, Julius Drake is also very sensitive to the fine nuances.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RzxRcSPFx4&feature=related

Some don't like the very slow tempo for the last song, but it captures so much the first hurt after all the previous exuberance, as though she were immobilized in shock.

ZB
« Last Edit: August 06, 2011, 07:34:32 AM by knight66 »
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline knight66

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Re: Re: Schumann's "Frauenliebe und Leben" - Sung by males?
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2011, 10:32:28 AM »
I listened to about 90 seconds and went onto a site and ordered it. I have about 10 versions and despite Hunt Lieberson being a particular favourite of mine, I really did not think I was going to add yet another version. But as with so much she latterly sang; she refreshes and makes unique whatever she turned her attention to.

Mike
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Re: Schumann's "Frauenliebe und Leben" - Sung by males?
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2011, 02:09:43 AM »
I thought there was a Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson thread but couldn't find it here. Maybe it is in the old GMG.  So hope it is OK to post this here. Anyway, the subject came up yesterday about male poets and composers, so I gave the FLL as an example and went straightaways to youtube to find some links for her to listen to.

What a revelation to have found Lieberson in this cycle! Other vocalists sing this work, even well, but they don't LIVE it.  I don't prefer sopranos either but as much as Della Casa may be fine for instance or others, this recording is on a totally different level. The pianist, Julius Drake is also very sensitive to the fine nuances.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RzxRcSPFx4&feature=related

Some don't like the very slow tempo for the last song, but it captures so much the first hurt after all the previous exuberance, as though she were immobilized in shock.

ZB

Maybe there ought to be a Hunt Lieberson thread. She certainly deserves one. As Mike says, she makes everything she sings so new and so personal. I was first aware of her in a TV Proms broadcast, singing Elgar's Sea Pictures, and was totally bowled over by her radiance and her natural way with the text. Till then Janet Baker's performances (both the studio Barbirolli and the occasions I had heard her sing it live) had spoiled me for all others, but here at last was a singer who could bring those songs newly to life. They are not easy to get right. The last performance I heard (I won't say who it was because I'm not sure) was dead as ditchwater!

Here too, in the Schumann, Hunt Lieberson communicates so much so naturally, as if the words had newly sprung from her lips. This is a gift vouchsafed to few. Baker had it; so too did Callas. Amongst contemporary singers, David Daniels is one of the singers who springs to mind. Hunt Lieberson was indeed very special.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Re: Schumann's "Frauenliebe und Leben" - Sung by males?
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2011, 09:05:40 AM »
As long as we're on the subject of Frauenliebe und Leben, there was a series of masterclasses more than 20 years ago with rather a famous singer (not German) who said she couldn't stand the snide remarks of those she was teaching the cycle, so she stopped. It could be that radical feminism reached its peak in the 80's - not a fan of it, myself. I was just reminded of that when reading that Mike has 10 versions and now is going for his 11th! What a treat to know that the recording is on the Naxos Library.  I was wondering where to search up the Brahms on the same record. Thanks.

ZB
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Re: Schumann's "Frauenliebe und Leben" - Sung by males?
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2011, 10:00:55 PM »
Maybe there ought to be a Hunt Lieberson thread. She certainly deserves one. As Mike says, she makes everything she sings so new and so personal. I was first aware of her in a TV Proms broadcast, singing Elgar's Sea Pictures, and was totally bowled over by her radiance and her natural way with the text. Till then Janet Baker's performances (both the studio Barbirolli and the occasions I had heard her sing it live) had spoiled me for all others, but here at last was a singer who could bring those songs newly to life. They are not easy to get right. The last performance I heard (I won't say who it was because I'm not sure) was dead as ditchwater!

Here too, in the Schumann, Hunt Lieberson communicates so much so naturally, as if the words had newly sprung from her lips. This is a gift vouchsafed to few. Baker had it; so too did Callas. Amongst contemporary singers, David Daniels is one of the singers who springs to mind. Hunt Lieberson was indeed very special.

Are you sure you don't mean Music Makers? The proms database shows no record of her singing Sea Pictures

Here's the Music Makers

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/2MsE0WtQVhM" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/2MsE0WtQVhM</a>

Agreed, BTW, about the Wigmore Hall Frauenliebe und Leben
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Re: Schumann's "Frauenliebe und Leben" - Sung by males?
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2011, 11:30:02 PM »
Are you sure you don't mean Music Makers? The proms database shows no record of her singing Sea Pictures

Here's the Music Makers

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/2MsE0WtQVhM" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/2MsE0WtQVhM</a>

Agreed, BTW, about the Wigmore Hall Frauenliebe und Leben

My memory is obviously faulty. It must have been The Music Makers then. I remember it being Elgar and music that Janet Baker had sung in the past.





\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2011, 12:41:15 AM »

Here's the Music Makers

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/2MsE0WtQVhM" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/2MsE0WtQVhM</a>


This is simply stunning!!! The words to the complete poem can be found here (usually it is truncated to three verses): http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-281108.html

You shall teach us your songs new numbers,
and things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers
and a singer who sings no more.

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2011, 05:14:16 AM »
Two other nice examles which together seem quite representative of her art

First Peter Lieberson's Neruda song Ya eres mia, which she sings so tenderly

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/HnmJw6q1Jsk&amp;playnext=1&amp;list=PLB59038657E7CECA4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/HnmJw6q1Jsk&amp;playnext=1&amp;list=PLB59038657E7CECA4</a>

The other is the dramatic/tragic Princesse, c'est sur vous que mon espoir se fonde from Charpentier's Médée

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/46E1zp97EKI" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/46E1zp97EKI</a>



« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 09:02:02 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline ccar

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Re: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2011, 01:27:49 PM »


                                      “It wasn’t the trained voice so much that impressed me _ it was the soul behind it.” 
                                                                                                                                                                    Peter Lieberson




                                       <a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/SYa8_6iaqZM&amp;playnext=1&amp;list=PLB59038657E7CECA4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/SYa8_6iaqZM&amp;playnext=1&amp;list=PLB59038657E7CECA4</a>      <a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/hlg6STQw7vc&amp;feature=BFa&amp;list=AVTGnpyrBl25z4yMYaz2t0nkRQIW3kq0hj&amp;index=4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/hlg6STQw7vc&amp;feature=BFa&amp;list=AVTGnpyrBl25z4yMYaz2t0nkRQIW3kq0hj&amp;index=4</a>

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2011, 02:45:35 AM »
This is simply stunning!!! The words to the complete poem can be found here (usually it is truncated to three verses): http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-281108.html

You shall teach us your songs new numbers,
and things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers
and a singer who sings no more.


So beautiful. As usual, Hunt Lieberson has that ability to go beyond the words to find a deeper truth. The more I hear of her work, the more she impresses me.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2011, 04:27:51 AM »
What I find outstanding in Lieberson's singing, is similar to what is usually attributed to Callas, a rich palette of vocal color. As contrasted to other performers of the Frauenliebe und Leben, what impresses me the most is her ability to swell and color individual notes.  Some of these in this recording were downright uncanny, an attribute also usually associated with Callas - how does she get it so right? Other singers reach the peak of the phrase, get to a long note, even sing it beautifully, for instance, but don't necessarily do anything special while they are there.

I would even go as far to say that hardly any soprano or mezzo-soprano can claim that characteristic. I know people will hate me here for saying this, but monochromatic is most of the time what I find in Baker's singing.

ZB
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline knight66

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2011, 08:26:09 AM »
'Hate' is of course use pejoratively; but that kind of remark about Baker's singing certainly makes me wonder about your ears. I have often said that people hear the same voice differently, but you are in a minority of one on your opinion not just here; but in terms of endless reviews I have encountered on Baker over 30 years. Your idea is a new one on me.

I learned how to colour words by listening to her. Many singers leave off expressive singing where she starts.

Mike
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 09:05:06 AM by knight66 »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2011, 12:24:26 PM »
'Hate' is of course use pejoratively; but that kind of remark about Baker's singing certainly makes me wonder about your ears. I have often said that people hear the same voice differently, but you are in a minority of one on your opinion not just here; but in terms of endless reviews I have encountered on Baker over 30 years. Your idea is a new one on me.

I learned how to colour words by listening to her. Many singers leave off expressive singing where she starts.

Mike

The odd thing, Mike, is that I hear so many similarities in the singing of Baker and Hunt Lieberson, that I find it strange someone can enjoy one, but not the other.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Harry Powell

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2011, 05:18:19 PM »
I tend to agree with zamyrabyrd about Baker's singing. I think the reasons for her lack of colours were technical. A soprano who couldn't find the right placement on the upper range, she had to cope with low mezzo tessituras where her voice didn't have the required timbre (a matter of fullness and vibrations). I have further doubts about her breadth support and, accordingly, her ability to invest her singing with true modulations. She might have had verbal acuity, but the real variety of colors and intensities comes from the messa di voce.

Italian critics have been very indifferent to her Mozart singing, if it serves as another example.
I'm not an native English speaker, so please feel free to let me know if I'm not expressing myself clearly.

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2011, 06:52:31 PM »
I tend to agree with zamyrabyrd about Baker's singing. I think the reasons for her lack of colours were technical. A soprano who couldn't find the right placement on the upper range, she had to cope with low mezzo tessituras where her voice didn't have the required timbre (a matter of fullness and vibrations). I have further doubts about her breadth support and, accordingly, her ability to invest her singing with true modulations. She might have had verbal acuity, but the real variety of colors and intensities comes from the messa di voce.

Italian critics have been very indifferent to her Mozart singing, if it serves as another example.

Wow, I was just waiting for the lynch mob...
By way of explanation, however, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a great singer but his basic material was monochromatic.
What you say about messa di voce is right on.
There is something else about the abandon of Hunt-Lieberson (that you don't get with too many classical singers but are abundant in pop) like she is being moved by the music and not the one always in control (although she is of course, but the impression the listener gets is experiencing the music together with the performer).

ZB
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline knight66

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2011, 09:14:21 PM »
Well unless we don't have a common understanding of mezza voce I have heard her deploy it many times. In large halls she fined her voice to almost nothing but projected it to the back of the hall. Many of her recordings show her utilising a half voice and I don't relate to the suggestion she was using insufficient support to deploy that technique.

ZB and I disagree on a great deal. For example, I think Crespin often sang just under the note, but that is not how she is inevitably heard by others. But on this part of the board there have never been lynch mobs.

Most singers are to my ears monochromatic: Felicity Lott for example, Emma Kirkby, Heather Harper, David Daniels. What you hear in the first 20 seconds is what you get all night; with variations in volume and phrasing and acuity of words being their expressiveness. Two of those are among my favourite voices, so I am not determining a wide tone palate as vital. But I still find the suggestions that Baker was deficient in that respect eccentric.

If I give no further reply, it is not because I am ignoring points made; I will be away now until late Thursday.

Mike
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I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2011, 12:17:41 AM »
As usual, you and I are in complete agreement, Mike. I too have been in the hall when Baker has managed to make the quietest of pianissimi heard all around a huge auditorium. Listen to her Mahler, with Barbirolli, her Elgar, her Berlioz - well anything really. Compare her versions of Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Ete with Crespin, and it is to find that it is actually Baker who has the wider tonal palette. Crespin's vocal colour stays virtually the same throughout. Actually I've always found her recording with Ansermet widely overpraised, much of the singing being earthbound and laboured. I can think of any number of performances I would prefer, amongst them Baker, Hunt Lieberson, Steber, Te Kanawa, De Los Angeles and David Daniels, who, with intrinsically the wrong voice, still manages to convey more of the fluctuating emotions within these lovely songs.

Harry, you say Italian critics have been very indifferent to her Mozart singing, but forgive me if I point out that Italians have rarely, with some notable exceptions to be sure, been at the forefront of Mozart singing and style. Here is an example of Baker using a wide range of tone colour in a concert performance of Sesto's Parto. Parto from La Clemenza di Tito. It is sung with piano, but even without the help of a full orchestra, her range of expression is wide (and the triplet section at the end is tossed off with an easy virtuosity).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7YMmVDVHvs


\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2011, 01:03:30 AM »
Disagreements frequently happen when people are not talking about the same thing. So I am not sure what Mike and I disagree on, much less if they are a great many issues.  That said, I would like to clear up some points and try to see if our definitions are the same. Also, musical discussions many times revert to emotional likes or dislikes that one can slide into without being aware. I will add here my own preferences which may not be those of others but can serve as some kind of reference.

1. Messa di voce is not mezza voce. The first is "placement of the voice" a very specialized bel canto technique that involves the swelling and diminuendo on single notes, hardly known or practiced these days. This is not often stated as a description, but adding or subtracting vibrato is part of it. An example might be Callas' "Addio del Passato" that goes to a fil di voce, the barest of vocal threads. This is different from conventional "half voice" as interestingly enough, appears in Chopin's piano music.

2. Of course, one is born with a certain vocal timbre, but unlike fingerprints, with enough skill one can alter them to color texts and fit characters. A most striking example is Marni Nixon, recently added to the Opera and Vocal thread. What a clever lady! Who would have guessed without prior knowledge that she was the voice for Deborah Kerr, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood, with three very different acting styles and vocal timbres? Again, Maria Callas had the ability to subtly change her voice to become Butterfly, Violetta, Mimi or whatever role she was playing - which brings me to the next point:

3. Identification with the character speaking the text, for me, trumps musicality, although the two really cannot be separated.  Those artists who had the ability to get under the skin of a character like Anna Pavlova in dance and Magda Olivero, Claudia Muzio in singing, already start from a higher level so their technical faults like Callas' increasing difficulties in her later years are not as distracting unless one focuses attention on them. Crespin's identification with the text and ability to project it speaks to me, so I really don't care so much if now and then she is under the tone. But this is a personal preference.

4. Being or living the character is different from 'declaiming a text in music'. I don't know whether I can adequately describe this phenomenon but Beverly Sills for me was an irritating example of "when I did Maria Stuarda", without pentrating the surface of the role.

5. I had many arguments over the years with various people on this subject but I will stick to my guns.  When music trumps the words, the result can be as in strophic music, texts practically interchangeable with one another and no one would be the worse for it. One sings syllables rather than texts, frequently the case in non-native languages.

6. Control vs. abandon. Ideally a singer should be in control even if he or she projects being swept up in the music or the emotion. Fischer-Dieskau, in my opinion, evinced total control over what he was doing and not a shred of vulnerability. I believe that is a big minus for a performer, not to show human weakness that people can identify with. What I am trying to say here is the mirror image of the singer being affected by the music or by the emotion and portraying THAT, not giving the impression that "now I am singing Julius Caesar, Maria Stuart", or whatever. It is a kind of renunciation of ego as well. Schwartzkopf gave also the impression of being in control but with vulnerabilty that softened it.

Lieberson in the Neruda songs became the words and music with plenty of messa di voce. I suppose to sum up, I must say it is my preference to listen to singers who identify with the character- text- music in that order and who project being one with the music, not outside of it, with a certain degree of vulnerability and related to that elusive but palpable quality of love that Caruso said was necessary for a singer.

ZB
« Last Edit: August 02, 2011, 01:30:07 AM by zamyrabyrd »
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2011, 01:09:43 AM »
While we are on the subject of Mozart, together with Italian critics who might prefer Bartoli, well I do too:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ivp9mkywvo&feature=related

By comparison I find this recording of "Ch'io mi scordi di te" with Baker boring and colorless, an example of "declaiming the text": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uhggk9RA3eg&feature=related

ZB
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline Harry Powell

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Re: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2011, 02:28:57 PM »
Hi everybody

Thanks for sparing me the effort of explaining the difference between messa di voce and mezzavoce. I know Baker could sing mezzavoce while the tessitura was central, but she was at pains as soon as she went up the passaggio.

Good distinction between monochromatic material and singing. Baker's delivery was monochromatic due to the problems I described. As her Mahler has been mentioned, I remember I really loved her disc with Barbirolli while it was the only renditions of those songs I had. Then I listened to the Ludwig-Klemperer set and the scales fell from my eyes (ears). I think she was a good singer yet completely overrated in the UK.

As for the Mozart issue, Baker's at pains to cope with Vitellia's tessitura and is rather dull as Dorabella. Then you have to listen to her boring recitatives, including peculiar diction and prosody, but this fact might be less obvious to Anglo-Saxon audiences.

I just mentioned Italian critics, not singers, but I think it's good to remember that Mozart wrote almost always for Italian-schooled singers (either they were Italian or not). That's also the case in early recordings before WWII. In more recent times, one could recognise Italian school in the Mozart singing of Berganza, Sutherland, Taddei, Bruscantini, Tajo, Valdengo, Gencer, Valletti, Freni, Dermota, etc.
I'm not an native English speaker, so please feel free to let me know if I'm not expressing myself clearly.