On Dec 16, 12:59 pm, Christopher Webber
Post by Christopher Webber Post by Mark S
If somebody dislikes a particular singer, it's enough for them to give
their reasons for disliking them, is it not? Why would you expect a
person to get into somebody else's head and figure out why someone
else likes a particular singer?
I think, unusually, that you contradict yourself, Mark. You have no
objection to hearing reasons for *not* liking a particular singer, but
every objection to suggestions from thoughtful observers as to why other
people *do* like them? It makes no sense, unless you have a terminally
closed mind, which I am sure you don't.
Good writing, and good criticism, is precisely about "getting into
someone else's head". Negativity in my head (or even yours) is
profoundly uninteresting to anyone else, especially where we lob such
crude grenades as your bald dismissals of Schwarzkopf's singing. They
communicate nothing beyond your own prejudices, I fear. I at least have
learned, in the main, to shut up about things I don't like - and
therefore clearly don't understand.
You certainly show no talent for "getting into my head"! If you had
managed that, you'd see (as I've said) that I am no particular fan of
hers, nor of many singers indeed. I am repertoire not personality
driven, and would rather hear Rimsky's "Servilia" than two hundred more
performances of "Tosca" (or even one, frankly!) - just as I'd rather
hear Franz Schmidt's 4th Symphony these days in preference to Beethoven's.
No. The question which interests me (though evidently not everyone, I
see) is "what makes so many people *like* or *love* her performances of
4LS on disc so much?" Thinking about that might help us see her work in
a stronger, more rewarding light. As it is, negativity illuminates
nothing. Not even the clubbable Mr Potter's: we could all cite three
critics who love Schwarzkopf to one who doesn't, so your appeal to "not
ordinary" authorities cuts two ways.
As you ask me, I will tell you frankly that I think Mr Potter wrote that
to demonstrate his own fastidious taste and distance from the common
herd, and not because he meant something serious by it - or anything at
all. "Ghastly crooning" is a very telling phrase, a typical piece of
lazy reviewer's cheap polemic aligning the singer with other popular
artists such as Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. Crooners, you see. Not
proper singers, of course. Not artists at all. Far too popular. And he
doesn't even name her - "a much-touted rival" = 'you know who I mean, I
know who I mean, and aren't we clever?' A low trick of smug cowardice.
Such cheap shots, I'm sure you agree, are not worth the paper it was
written on. They're below Mr Potter's usual comfortable standards.
It could be as simple as believing that Schwarzkopf and her career was
a case of the emperor's new clothes. She was a decent-to-very-good
soprano in her earliest days, such as her 1951 Mestersinger. But the
voice became laden with mannerisms over time until it devolved into
ghastly crooning. I imagine much of this can be laid at the feet of
Walter Legge, who seems to have coached her voice into a kind of
strident grasp, rather than it remaining a flowing instrument.
I happen to believe that had she stayed with her vocal production from
her early years that she would have been a better singer. But she paid
a price being married and mentored by Legge. The upside was that her
recorded career was promoted and built up far beyond her natural
talents. To me, she became the embodiment of Szell's comment of
chocolate sauce over asparagus.
I will be the first to complement Schwarzkopf's singing when I feel it
deserves praise. But I am not going to praise singing that I find to
be ghastly from my perspective as a singer and a musician, simply
because received opinion has it that she was a great artiste.
I have similar feelings about the singing of Mr Domingo, whose voice
was distinctive in the early years, and while no Corelli or Tucker,
was still quite enjoyable in many of the same leads sung by those two
artists. But at some point, Domingo started to squeeze his bridge
which served to make his high voice unreliable and generally
constricted in its emission. I don't know if that was an accident or
part of a plan to allow him to widen his repertoire, but to me, it was
a decision that made his technique the enemy of his natural talents.
Beauty of tone was replaced with a throaty and pushed sound that I
really can't abide.
As far as the phrase "ghastly crooning" - there's effective crooning -
like that done by Bing Crosby who sang with a mike, after all - and an
opera singer crooning in a theater without the aid of amplification.
The ghastliness arises from the genre of music and the venue in which
it is performed. I won't condemn all crooning, because it's OK in many
situations. But opera and the classic song repertoire doesn't present
a situation where crooning is acceptable. Crooning is akin to falsetto
singing, while the classical rep requires the ability to sing with a
voix mixte that is a balance of the falsetto and the chest voice. So,
yes, when classical singers lose the chest connection in a true voix
mixte and allow their singing to devolve into crooning, then it
becomes, well, ghastly.