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Thread: So... What was the deal with Ernst Kozub?

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    Member JoeSaunders's Avatar
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    Default So... What was the deal with Ernst Kozub?

    This might seem like a niche topic, but I can't seem to find any reliable internet sources on this neglected tenor. For those not in the know, Ernst Kozub was a postwar heldentenor who mostly performed during the 50s and 60s. But the outline of his short career on Wikipedia is downright mysterious in its lack of information! If anyone knows answers to the following questions, or has any other interesting details, I'd be most grateful:

    1) Do we know precisely why Kozub was replaced by Windgassen on the Solti ring cycle? I've read at least one article which states that he was basically incapable of learning the role and quite undisciplined, and his Wikipedia article claims there was some secret illness which prevented his mastering of the role. Does anyone know the full story? It just seems a bit odd they he couldn't learn the role when he was performing in other Wagnerian operas all the time.

    2) What was the mysterious illness that supposedly made it so hard for him to learn Siegfried? Other pieces I've read hint at a secret ailment he had throughout his performing life, but none specify its exact nature. Furthermore, is it linked to his early death or was that caused by something else entirely?

    Anywho, I wouldn't want to dwell on these negative aspects of Ernst Kozub's career since his instrument was mighty fine. Perhaps his interpretations lacked personality, but his strong, resonant delivery more than make up for it in my opinion. Here's a clip of him doing that singing thing he liked to do:



    And see 39:24 here for a very good "Ein Schwert verhieß mir der Vater":


    Cheers!

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    It's an impressive basic voice, but based on these examples his musicianship was pedestrian and sometimes crude. I'm sure he could have mastered the notes of Siegfried, but mastering such a complex role requires much more than that. The veteran Windgassen unquestionably knew his way around the part.

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    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    John Culshaw, the producer on the Solti “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” explains it in the book “Ring Resounding,” that he had not learned the roles he was supposed to record. I’m sorry I don’t remember what exactly the reason was, but Culshaw seems to have blamed it on Kozub’s unreliability - but he thought Kozub’s voice was the Wagnerian voice they were all waiting for. In these excerpts he seems to have a beautiful sound and the heft and ringing top needed for Siegfried.
    Last edited by MAS; Mar-16-2019 at 22:17.

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    One comment on an informed German opera forum, possibly based on reading liner notes from the various CD releases, mentions leukemia as the cause of his untimely death

    #22 in
    https://www.tamino-klassikforum.at/i...mie#post332746
    Last edited by joen_cph; Mar-16-2019 at 22:58.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Culshaw's memoirs tend to cast certain singers in a negative light. I remember reading or hearing that Kozub was in great demand for the roles that he knew, and didn't take the time to learn Siegfried. But I think that illness is the more likely explanation, since he died quite young, at age 47.

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    Solti in his memoirs says the same about his unability to learn the role, they had to go through every little detail all the way

    #9 - in German - in
    https://www.tamino-klassikforum.at/i...mie#post332746

    To this should be added stage fright. No drinking was involved, however.
    Kozub's damaging traffic accident was later, in 1967.
    Last edited by joen_cph; Mar-16-2019 at 22:59.

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    Member JoeSaunders's Avatar
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    Thanks the pointer MAS, I'll see if I can grab a copy some time, it Looks like a very interesting document. I definitely agree that his tone is just right for the role, such a shame he wasn't able to deploy it correctly for recordings.

    Interesting thread there, joen_cph! Reading Solti's description of trying to get Kozub to learn the part is very curious - a particularly bad affliction for a singer, and makes me wonder how he learned the parts he did know so well in the first place. And I didn't even realise there a traffic accident, poor fellow.

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    Member JoeSaunders's Avatar
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    Hmmmm, I looked through that thread joen_cph posted and somebody mentioned a profile by a guy called Klaus Ulrich Spiegel. His website doesn't seem to work at the moment, so I looked on the wayback machine and found this:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20160725...k-bis-p/kozub/ (it's readable when put through a translation browser extension)

    He doesn't mention his sources, which is disappointing, but it does seem to provide an overall account of Kozub's life and an evaluation of his singing - much in agreement, as it happens, with Woodduck's earlier assessment.

    But it does say he died of a cardiac arrest, and was troubled with a lifelong heart condition. This seems to contradict the post claiming leukaemia as cause of death, but I have no idea which account is correct!

    The mystery continues!?
    Last edited by JoeSaunders; Mar-17-2019 at 00:21.

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeSaunders View Post

    And see 39:24 here for a very good "Ein Schwert verhieß mir der Vater":


    Cheers!
    Yet another recording I have but haven't got around to hearing! Must remedy that soon.
    Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate!

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    A prominent person was in my local bookstore in March 1996. I asked him about 'our Siegfried '. He was there to sign his book called Opera 101. He told me the tenor was not Earnst Kozub but Jan Vickers. Looking back on his response, it made sense. After all, Vickers was still alive while Kozub was long gone. I heard Vickers sing in Philadelphia in 1976 as Siegmung. My next question was if Vickers could sing Die Walkure, what was his problem? I was told Vickers thought the character of Siegfried was immoral when in fact Siegmund was the immoral one. I think there were two reasons why Vickers would not sing it. First, he was probably afraid he would ruin his voice if he sang it. Also, Solti said in his autobiography that Vickers seemed afraid of him when conducting. Also, Nilsson said, "His nerves were outside the skin...not inside the skin". If you do some research, you will find out that Vickers seemed to always find some reason to cancel his appearances. In January 30th, 1974, Vickers canceled his appearance with Nilsson. She told the Met that if Vickers was not going to sing, than neither would she in Tristan and Isolde. Guess what? He appeared for that performance. To summarize, Vickers of 'our Siegfried ' fame was afraid of his own shadow. He was a great singer. We will miss him.

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    It was not Kozub. The mystery Siegfried was Jan Vickers.

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    The mystery Siegfried was Jan Vickers, not Kozub.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveK View Post
    It was not Kozub. The mystery Siegfried was Jan Vickers.
    Vickers was never a mystery Siegfried.

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    The mystery Siegfried was Jan Vickers.

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    It WAS Vickers. The author of Opera 101 told me so in March 1996. Vickers was always cancelling performances. He found Siegfried to be an immortal character. Why, we will never know. Nilsson said he wore his nerves on his skin, not beneath them. Believe what you like but I will always believe it was Vickers.

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