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Subject: Wretched Singing-Janowitz-Evans
From: Greg and Kathy Berg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Wed, 19 Aug 1998 22:34:21 -0500
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Bergitas here.   I hope I'm not guilty of the worst sort of sacrilege
when I say that the PBS telecast of Nana Couskouri's Concert for Peace
featured some of the most wretched singing I have ever heard over the
airwaves.   (And yes, water is wet.)  I know this singer has many
admirers around the world and I've seen her beaming face on many an
album cover over the years,  but this was my first encounter with her
singing voice - and I was left bewildered.   Could this lady sing a
decent phrase in tune, once upon a time?  Now,  about 90% of the notes
seem to rest comfortably in the cracks (mostly flat) and the tone itself
slides clumsily from chest to head and back again - sometimes on a
single sustained note!  (Which is quite a feat, when you think about
it!)  The sound of her voice was not appealing to me either.  Is this
what Enya is going to sound like in 40 years?  The problems were most
acute in anything "legit" that she attempted - such as Schubert's Ave
Maria.  (She had to breathe between those two words - and the phrase
still sounded strained and unsupported.)  The theme of the concert was
certainly to be admired - and for all I know this lady is a great human
being - but I was truly appalled by what I heard.  And these comments
are coming from one of the more "look at the bright side" members of
this list.  But when there's no bright side to look at. . .

I post this because every so often we need to hear singing like this in
order to better appreciate what we too often take for granted. . . the
strong, confident,  secure singing of true professional singers, some of
whom have painstakingly studied their craft and who use their voices the
way Heifetz used his violin.   Now I feel like taking back every
negative thing I said about Denyce Graves' Christmas concert or Dwayne
Croft's Billy Budd.   My complaints about them seem petty and
insignificant compared to the litany of disasters I could relate about
tonight's concert.   Heck,  I'm ready to join the fan clubs of Dorothy
Kirsten, Zinka Milanov and Licia Albanese - which is saying alot.  As
the closing credits rolled,  I was hungry to hear someone - almost
anybody - REALLY sing.  (I feel the same way about figure skating.  I
think one can only fully appreciate the skill of a Michelle Kwan or an
Elvis Stojko if at least sometimes you first  endure the attempts of
Ludmilla Lorki, who falls on more jumps than she lands.   The 12th place
finisher may end up giving us a sour stomach, but he or she puts the
first place finisher in much clearer perspective.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *

I am not a big Gundula Janowitz fan  (I made the mistake of initially
hearing her in the Karajan Walkure, where I think she sounds like Minnie
Mouse next to the wall-rattling Siegmund of Jon Vickers)  but I have
long admired - as does most of the civilized world - her DG recording of
the Strauss Four Last Songs.   I recently came into possession of a LIVE
Four Last Songs with Janowitz as soloist and the fascinating figure of
Sergiu Celibidache on the podium (1969) - and find myelf further drawn
to this soprano.  Does anybody else own this CD and want to comment?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *

It was fun to see Anne Evans the other night on PBS' Last Night at the
Proms;  aside from some snips here and there,  I had not really heard
her - and certainly had not seen her.   (She's in a Ring video from
Bayreuth under Barenboim, is she not?)   I thought she both looked and
sounded like she's getting on in years (how old is she, anyway)  but she
still managed some lovely moments in Leise, Leise - and then had some
fun with Brunnhilde's Battle Cry,  complete with helmet and spear.  (But
boy,  I sure didn't get the impression that she's still up to this role.
. . if she ever was, that is.)   The overall concert was enjoyable, by
the way - although I found conductor Andrew Davis (the new music
director of the Chicago Lyric Opera) to be rather obnoxious in his "look
at me" style of conducting.  Maybe he was just carried away by the good
spirits of the evening. . . and in the confines of the Lyric's orchestra
pit,  I don't imagine he'll be much of a distraction, anyway.

Greg Berg   Racine, WI
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