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Subject: Re: orchestration and tuning (diapason)
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Wed, 21 Jun 2017 13:17:11 -0400
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I'm not a purist when it comes to transposition - neither were the 
composers, for that matter - and I would prefer to hear something 
like "Che gelida manina" with a well-sung high B rather than a strained, 
uncomfortable high C.  But the fact is that transposition CAN affect music 
adversely.  Two examples from Joan Sutherland's later career will suffice.  

At the Centennial Gala in 1983, she and Bonynge transposed "Dolce 
pensiero" from "Bel raggio lusinghier" down a half step, in order to take a 
solid (if a bit tight) high D at the end, rather than an E-flat.  The effect was 
like putting a thick blanket over the music (which apart from the unwritten 
interpolated high note is written rather low), and it put the piece in an 
uncomfortably low and mushy area of Sutherland's voice.  

A few years later, in her final run of "Puritani" at the Met, Sutherland 
transposed "Vien diletto" down a half step - again, to allow her to take a 
lower high note at the end.  Same problem: the transposition robbed the 
music of sparkle and brilliance and put it in an awkward register for 
Sutherland.  

I certainly don't object to a tenor taking "Di quella pira" down a half step.  
But sung in C, it has a special excitement and brilliance that is missing in 
the lower version.  (Just compare Corelli's performances transposed - how 
he usually sang it - and in the original key.)

MDW

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