Author Topic: Prodigies  (Read 11799 times)

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Offline jochanaan

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #40 on: July 30, 2008, 06:48:09 AM »
That does sound like a bad scene, zamyrabyrd.  And here in the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave" (don't even get me started on how ironic those words are!), we have an opposite problem, at least in the public schools, of an "anything goes" attitude where peer and social pressure actively DIScourage children and young adults from musical or even academic excellence.  We actually have bumper stickers here bragging, "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student!" :o :-X  And heaven help the school administrators who actively reward excellence by allowing gifted children to skip ahead!  All the other parents will march on the school to demand equal treatment for their favored brats.  I cannot imagine how many potential prodigies here were destroyed before anyone even knew they had world-class musical gifts. :'( 
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #41 on: July 31, 2008, 03:59:25 AM »
Fly in the face of public opinion (global warming is a myth, the war in Iraq is unjust) and you'll be howled down by the masses who slavishly adhere to the popular cause.

Don't forget evolution. That's another thing those stupid scientists with their Ph.D.'s and years of education, training, and experimentation are all wrong about.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Renfield

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #42 on: July 31, 2008, 08:35:04 AM »
Don't forget evolution. That's another thing those stupid scientists with their Ph.D.'s and years of education, training, and experimentation are all wrong about.


11. Classical music listeners also excel in philosophy, theology, sociology and psychology by default.

13. Non-specialist discussions on the above are far preferable to the lies specialist discussions give birth to.

8)

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #43 on: July 31, 2008, 11:09:44 PM »
8)Quote from: Renfield on July 30, 2008, 12:14:32 AM

11. Classical music listeners also excel in philosophy, theology, sociology and psychology by default.

13. Non-specialist discussions on the above are far preferable to the lies specialist discussions give birth to.


Don't forget about self-reference, or quoting oneself.
“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

Renfield

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #44 on: August 01, 2008, 02:09:39 AM »
Don't forget about self-reference, or quoting oneself.


That is no less than an essential quality, in this age. ;)

Offline Pierre

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #45 on: August 01, 2008, 02:39:12 PM »
Just to say I'm back from a much-needed week's break in Paris, and will be addressing some of the solipsistic opinions if only to defend the reputations of some very fine artists for the benefit of more innocent and unwary readers of this thread. However it's very late here (forty minutes past midnight - or 1.40 in the morning Paris time) and I'm just 'popping in' for the time being while waiting for some hot water for a wash: a proper reply to follow later this weekend.

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #46 on: August 02, 2008, 01:21:49 AM »
Just to say I'm back from a much-needed week's break in Paris, and will be addressing some of the solipsistic opinions if only to defend the reputations of some very fine artists for the benefit of more innocent and unwary readers of this thread. However it's very late here (forty minutes past midnight - or 1.40 in the morning Paris time) and I'm just 'popping in' for the time being while waiting for some hot water for a wash: a proper reply to follow later this weekend.

Please don't keep us in suspense...
“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 Holden

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #47 on: August 02, 2008, 01:59:43 AM »
In my previous post I wasn't going to mention any of the current crop of young pianists but now feel obliged to do so. When I look at who has made the current grade I am appalled at their apparent lack of musicianship yet they are touted by their record companies as the best thing since sliced bread. The only thing I am grateful for is that the advertising hype hasn't promoted them as the new Horowitz/Rubinstein/Richter/etc. The Lang Langs, Yundi Lis and Rafael Blechaz's just leave me cold.

Yet I am also aware that there is a new breed of pianists out there who aren't going through the competition circuit. They are recognised in their own countries as exceptional pianists and have their own voice. Lesser recording companies are happy to promote their music making.

Two come immediately to mind (and you could probably add others).

Yevgeny Sudbin is an outstanding talent with the courage to be an individual. His Scarlatti and Tchaikovsky/Medtner recordings are as superb as they are individual in conception and the BIS label is carrying the flag for this amazing musician.

Lise de la Salle now has 3 CDs on the Naive label, the best of which (IMO, as they are all exceptional) is the one where she combines Liszt with Bach.

Neither of them have gone down the competition route and this must have major benefits for their playing and interpretations.

The SIPC is currently in progress and while a couple of the 6 finalists sound quite good, none of them really capture my imagination with their playing. They are technically excellent and boringly conservative!
Cheers

Holden

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #48 on: August 02, 2008, 03:18:42 AM »
I should think that 20 years would be a reasonable age to consider a "prodigy" already a "young musician". After all, the Artur Rubinstein Competition admits from the age of 18. So the above mentioned, while they may have had a head start, are already in that league, Sudbin himself already pushing 30.

Just today I stumbled upon a book on amazon about a promising Hungarian pianist in his childhood but was ill equipped to take on the real world as he was apparently used to gushing praise, etc., like pop stars seem to be these days. It's funny because during my childhood and adolescence, I was dying to have the abnormal environment of making music all the time instead of being pushed into other things I had no interest in. Having a balanced healthy environment for gifted kids surely is devoutly desired.

Extraordinary talent, though rare, is a fact. After teaching for many years the bell curve usually emerges by way of statistics. Most students fall in the middle somewhere but the very talented and those who are almost completely oblivious are the rare extremes. It's nice when the former crosses your path.

But to use an analogy, if you're not headed for the Olympics, it's no reason not to do sports. When the focus is on "fantastic" talents the younger they get, or rather the star system, everything else is blinded out. Being note perfect in competitions is a given and it does crowd out other considerations.

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 Yeorge

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #49 on: August 02, 2008, 06:59:33 AM »
In response to:

Vishnevskaya might have been good in Russian music but this typical heavy, strident production to my ears is unbearable in any other style or language. I could think of a character on the Muppet Show that she reminds me of here as Marguerite in Faust: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLOoewstxUw
I can't listen anymore--QUICK, get me Sutherland!!!!
ZB

This is awful too, mashed potatoes in her mouth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iOlPgrXlTo

And:

More horrors: Borodina in "O Don Fatale" (I curse you, my BEAUTY!!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwSX3DG1l-o

Not convincing at all as Deliliah, she should have stuck to singing it in Russian:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7KjSQec4aE&feature=related

The FUNDAMENTAL difference with these two women and world class sopranos is singing atcha, in other words aggression as production, and of course "ME ME ME, I'm the prima donna".

Whereas REAL prima donnas can be that AFTER they float the tones, don't place themselves above the need for perfect diction, draw you in, not blast you away. UGH.

ZB

And:

Hi Jochanaan,

I don't know if we spoke about this before (or might do it in another thread, although "prodigies" might be as good as any) but I heard from a flute teacher that the idea is to do the maximum with the minimum amount of air.

This would be "floating the tone" for singers, the most beautiful type of production. A voice teacher of mine more than 20 years ago would say, "less is more and more is less", a kind of zen pronouncement.

But the truth is, once you get the balance of the tone just sitting on the air, it does feel mystical, suspended in space as it were. This is supposed to be the basis of bel canto. That's why to sing Western art music over the past 400 years with any other technique simply doesn't work. But it's not only technique, but a heartful, non-aggressive approach to music.  Is it the same or similar with flute?

ZB

I was intrigued to hear this music and then read your comments – my dear husband found these for me to listen to. 

Firstly, my bug bear.  Please!  Bel canto is a musical style, not a singing method.  There is beautiful singing in all musical styles of all periods, including jazz and soul, and I do hope that no-one with ears would gainsay that. 

As a singing teacher myself, I find it very tiresome when the whole ‘bel canto’ method thing comes up.  What ‘bel canto’ usually means when used as a technical approach, is endless hours of old fashioned exercises, founded on instrumental practice,  which don’t work for singers, often combined with a blindness to what is new and exciting and explanatory in the world of voice science, and an unquestioning acceptance that the glory of singing is in the past.  It’s a cop out. 

Over the last 25 years, the field of voice science has developed exponentially, with the advent of the videostroboscope, which allows us to see what the vocal folds are actually doing, for example.  It’s complicated and fascinating, but far more certain than the old-fashioned approach to voice teaching which involved telling students to imagine ‘floating’ a sound or singing ‘into the mask’.
 
When the evidence uncovered by voice science supports the old ways, that’s great because it gives an insight into what those old singing teachers with their non-equivalent, image-based terminology might have actually been talking about.  I’m not saying that machines can ever supercede ears as measures of voice quality, but sometimes voice science proves that what we thought we were doing, well, we weren’t actually doing that but something else.  Good.  So let’s float the tone.  Bah! 

True, many singers have come to prominence with teaching based on some very dodgy ideas, but many, many more have foundered by the wayside and ended up in voice clinic because they don’t know what they’re doing, the whole thing being obfuscated by vague terms such as ‘float the tone’.  Singing teachers the world over, unlike other professionals, use a very individuated approach to terminology.  We end up disagreeing about what to call a thing because singing is complicated, and simple solutions to the complicated problems of voicing are often wrongheaded.

Singing is effortful, artistic, spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological.  The singer brings all of these, plus their language and culture, to the fore when interpreting music and poetry.  That’s what makes it such a fascinating area to work in.  Sometimes, the very extraordinary nature of someone’s individuality, including the hurt they have suffered, makes the voice almost unbearably beautiful, even when it has been damaged.

In the classical singing world, good singers take risks, not with their voices, but with the music.  Mirella Freni, for example, is quite capable of singing with dramatic intensity and a hard tone when the drama calls for it, without a care for the beauty of each note.  The music is intact and is deepened by her disregard for the ‘bel canto’ ethic voiced by one of my students, talking about previous lessons with another teacher, as ‘always beautiful singing in my studio’.  Boring. 

When a singer becomes habituated to singing in a particular way, often without obvious emotional connection, he or she becomes static and boring, even when the tone is well balanced and ‘beautiful’.   The ‘pearls on a string’, ‘bel canto’ school of singing teaching often produces such singers.  Renée Fleming could arguably be considered one of these.  Always the same.  You know what you are getting with her, but do you really want it any more?

Borodina is just magical in her rendition of songs which I love by Borodin and Balakirev, and these old telebroadcasts you’ve linked to don’t even do the orchestra justice, let alone the singer.  Here she sings Italian music with Russian vowels, and I agree that this doesn’t work but there’s a big jump between singing with overly dark vowels and being some sort of musical sadist on a mission.  Where is that coming from?  Listen to some of her later recordings and be charmed and delighted as I was. 

Vishnevskaya’s voice is full-bodied and deliciously treacly at its best, and this recording of ‘Apres un Reve’ is probably not for the Fauré connoisseur.  The orchestration lets the singer down, drowning the thrumming of the heart, which sets the song up immediately in the piano version, in string soup.  The phrasing is not Fauré’s, and most of the melismatic longing is missing, yet there is passion here, and I am glad I heard it because I love that communication in a singer.

Good singing transcends technique. Vishnevskaya doesn’t sing Faure here, but she sings Vishnevskaya, and such an extraordinary singer is worth listening to even in what might be the wrong repertoire and the wrong arrangement of it, for the sake of the communication and for another glimpse of what makes that voice tick.

Offline Pierre

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #50 on: August 02, 2008, 07:23:00 AM »
Erm, my wife's beaten me to responding to ZB's posts in which she casts aspersions on the ability of some of Russia's leading singers. I would just add that even if one professes to love bel canto singing, it seems absurd to suggest it's the only style of singing appropriate to Western music from the past 400 years: what about Schubert Lieder? - and where does singing Ives, Britten, Wagner and Berg fit into this world-view? I'm afraid that's what made me suggest some of ZB's previously expressed opinions were solipsistic.

ZB: here's my angle on Vishnevskaya and Borodina. I first heard Vishnevskaya when I was extremely young (less than four), in a recording of Musorgsky songs. I was deeply haunted by the music and Vishnevskaya's singing of it - one of my earliest memories is wandering into my parents' room in the middle of the night and asking to listen to the record. Bel canto it ain't, but I find her singing expressive, powerful and even beautiful. No, I don't like her Gounod either, but I happen to like her Fauré - the Youtube link for that gives a fair representation of her style and I guess you either like it or you don't. But simply because you don't like Vishnevskaya's style doesn't make it less than great singing. (btw, re some of your points, Sutherland is certainly not above criticism when it comes to communicating the text! And Schwarzkopf was in a league of her own when it came to diva-ish behaviour - I must confess,too, I'm not a fan of her terribly self-conscious style of singing and her smeary tone, but I admit that's a matter of taste.)

Borodina is pretty poorly represented by those telecasts you linked to (both seem to be from the same concert). I'll be charitable, and assume you don't know her art and just chose the first links you could find (which simply demonstrates how unreliable YouTube is for discovering a singer's talent in a hurry). I strongly recommend anyone who doesn't know her art to try this album before passing judgement:

http://www.amazon.com/Songs-Desire-Olga-Borodina-Philips/dp/B0000041B4/ref=sr_1_28?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1217693948&sr=8-28

I could say more, but this thread's about prodigies (not a subject that excites me very much). I thought, though, that the dismissal of Russia's importance in training/nurturing some of the past century's great musicians should not go unchallenged. If *that* particular subject is to be continued, I suggest we might start another thread.  $:)
« Last Edit: August 02, 2008, 07:34:47 AM by Pierre »

Offline DavidRoss

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #51 on: August 02, 2008, 07:35:58 AM »
"Maybe the problem most of you have ... is that you're not listening to Barbirolli." ~Sarge

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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #52 on: August 02, 2008, 08:42:22 AM »
We can agree to disagree and/or continue this discussion on Opera and Vocal.

"Bel Canto" by Cornelius Reid is a scholarly work about the history and practice of bel canto and forms one of my back up sources. As a singing teacher myself, I do not just rely on "because I said so" or "my teacher told me". But my own experience of the DIFFERENCE in the bel canto technique is more than enough to convince me.

NO OTHER system works the way this does as it is based on going with nature and not against it. One doesn't get tired vocally. The sound is beautiful, can be dramatic but not aggressive, in other words, not pushing the breath. The theory of the registers, a pillar of the technique, is eminently useful and provides the palette of different colors that one can control depending on how much "chest" or "head" one invests in a tone. Otherwise, it is guesswork. And I teach those who sing popular and even Middle Eastern music. So the principles work for them too, even though they may emphasize different things.

For those who don't know what "floating a tone" is, that is the closest I can come to describing it in words without reference to the excellent singers who embodied it mainly from the earlier part of the 20th century. Tenors as a rule have stopped that practice and bring the chest up higher than what had been done in the past and routinely lose their voices early in their careers. Martinelli and Gigli are excellent examples of lovely high A's and B's not screeched out as is usually done. Unfortunately we may never see their like again.

I don't expect you would believe me, but just listen to what Maria Callas has to say about Bel Canto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB3gk1srEZw

I don't know where you get that somehow singers used different techniques for Lied. Schwartzkopf should be a good reference for a person who knew what she was doing. One of my teachers, Marco Rothmuller was one of the first Wozzeck's who sang well into his late 70's.

Now, about Russian singing, in general, the style is different. If you like it, go ahead. I personally find it ugly and aggressive and doesn't work very well with music that required a good bel canto technique. But I also have personal experience with at least one singer who didn't sing with potatoes in his mouth and still was able float a high f beautifully at his 90th birthday celebration.

Solomon Khromchenko studied with teachers who learned in Europe before the Revolution. When I compare the principles of what he taught me (and what his granddaughter wrote up for Opera Quarterly) they are pretty much the same that Reid described.

ZB
PS In the Fauré song, Vishnevskaya simply didn't measure out the breath to have enough for the high notes at the end of the phrase, not very professional in my opinion. As for casting aspersions, I do think their own performances speak for themselves, good, bad or indifferent. Here at GMG people are entitled to their opinions. I simply don't like her and the other one. An international star should be able to do at least one language other than their own and have a large varied repertoire. Think of Fischer-Dieskau.

PSS There is nothing really remarkable here except a young singer with an as yet healthy voice. This instance can be multiplied by a few thousand sopranos who audition for Aida every year and do just as well if not better:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGrbaxJRGXo&feature=related


« Last Edit: August 02, 2008, 08:12:16 PM 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 milk

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #53 on: December 26, 2019, 05:36:07 AM »
This discussion kind of got derailed, which is a shame. It’s an interesting topic. Who are the prodigies that went on to great success and how do they look upon their prodigy years? Are there former prodigies that have changed course in a famous way? There must be a lot of horror stories.

Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Prodigies
« Reply #54 on: December 26, 2019, 10:25:28 AM »
“Prodigy” is an overused word in the classical world ... it barely means anything
"If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it!"
- Handel