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Thread: Verdi baritones

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonetan View Post
    I'm going to start by saying something blaspemous. I think the 'King of Baritones' was probably a tenor who chose to sing baritone.
    I can see why you'd say it - there's that limited low range - but timbrally I hear a baritone. There are of course "intermediate" voices: tenors with baritonal timbres (Caruso, Melchior) and bright-voiced baritones. The technology of recording then couldn't reveal the full depth and resonance of voices, and some voices recorded better than others. I'm guessing that Battistini had a brilliant quality we can't hear, but also more depth to the tone than recordings reveal.

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    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    I've read the same comment about Leonard Warren and Heinrich Schlusnus.
    I'm not as familiar with Schlusnus but I think Warren probably was tbh

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    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I can see why you'd say it - there's that limited low range - but timbrally I hear a baritone. There are of course "intermediate" voices: tenors with baritonal timbres (Caruso, Melchior) and bright-voiced baritones. The technology of recording then couldn't reveal the full depth and resonance of voices, and some voices recorded better than others. I'm guessing that Battistini had a brilliant quality we can't hear, but also more depth to the tone than recordings reveal.
    There's a whole section on his voice classification in the book about him. I was able to read it online if anyone cares for the link. Here's a quote from Battistini on the matter in Mattia Battistini: King of Baritones...whenever he was asked if his voice was a tenor or baritone, he would reply with a mysterious smile, "Tenor or baritone, I'm Battistini."

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonetan View Post
    I'm going to start by saying something blaspemous. I think the 'King of Baritones' was probably a tenor who chose to sing baritone. But what a stylish & elegant singer he was. I can't get enough. Thanks to Wooduck, Wkasimer, Viva, & others for influencing me to do my homework on this fine artist (I've also become a big Stracciari fan thanks to this thread).
    One of the best reproductions of Battistini's voice I know of is this marvelous recording of Tosti's Ideale:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnkB1eS2sjI

    This is an object lesson in style and technique as practiced by singers trained in the 19th century. The ease, security and consistency of tonal emission allows him to create a full range of dynamic gradations wherever he chooses to employ them, and to darken and brighten the sound at will (we can hear this expressive covering and opening of the tone in many singers of that era; his fellow baritone Pasquale Amato loved the effect). The voice is clear as a bell; there's no artificial darkening or weighting of the sound, no boominess or woofiness, no slowing and widening of the vibrato from excessive force. Diction is crystal clear, the words floating independent of the vocal mechanism, neither having to distort to accommodate the other. The technical freedom makes possible a freedom of style - the superb legato, the rhythmic impulsiveness never in thrall to the bar line, and that wonderful "Battistini snarl" that drives the pitch microtonally sharp and turns his quick vibrato into a shiver of excitement - which 19th-century musicians and listeners valued and expected. What we hear is a direct expression of emotion, made possible by the immediate response of an impeccably schooled vocal mechanism to the singer's every impulse, and limited only by his imagination.

    When I was a young man just getting to know opera and singing, I heard singers like Caruso, Schipa, Battistini, Amato, Chaliapin and others from their era doing things with their voices and making music in a way that the singers of my day did not. That was in the 1960s, a time many young people now regard, because of the vast heritage of complete opera recordings, as a "golden age." Listening to a Battistini or a Patti, people for whom the music of Verdi was new and their very own, must be a nearly incomprehensible experience for the operagoers of today.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-05-2020 at 21:48.

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  8. #320
    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    One of the best reproductions of Battistini's voice I know of is this marvelous recording of Tosti's Ideale:



    This is an object lesson in style and technique as practiced by singers trained in the 19th century. The ease, security and consistency of tonal emission allows him to create a full range of dynamic gradations wherever he chooses to employ them, and to darken and brighten the sound at will (we can hear this expressive covering and opening of the tone in many singers of that era; his fellow baritone Pasquale Amato loved the effect). The voice is clear as a bell; there's no artificial darkening or weighting of the sound, no boominess or woofiness, no slowing and widening of the vibrato from excessive force. Diction is crystal clear, the words floating independent of the vocal mechanism, neither having to distort to accommodate the other. The technical freedom makes possible a freedom of style - the superb legato, the rhythmic impulsiveness never in thrall to the bar line, and that wonderful "Battistini snarl" that drives the pitch microtonally sharp and turns his quick vibrato into a shiver of excitement - which 19th-century musicians and listeners valued and expected. What we hear is a direct expression of emotion, made possible by the immediate response of an impeccably schooled vocal mechanism to the singer's every impulse, and limited only by his imagination.

    When I was a young man just getting to know opera and singing, I heard singers like Caruso, Schipa, Battistini, Amato, Chaliapin and others from their era doing things with their voices and making music in a way that the singers of my day did not. That was in the 1960s, a time many young people now regard, because of the vast heritage of complete opera recordings, as a "golden age." Listening to a Battistini or a Patti, people for whom the music of Verdi was new and their very own, must be a nearly incomprehensible experience for the operagoers of today.
    That is really exquisite singing. I will be coming back to this often...here's something I think about though. People say "where are the great singers like this today?" But if a singer sounding exactly like this auditioned to sing Verdi today he would not be considered. Who is to blame for this? Why did the style change?

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    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Battistini, Schlusnus, Bechi, and a few others all have lighter timbres than, say, Stracciari, but I consider them all baritones. I don't think not having the lowest baritone notes makes you a tenor, any more than Helen Traubel not having a consistent high C makes her a mezzo. Same for baritones having high notes and sopranos having low notes. What's important is what tessitura the singer is comfortable, healthy, and excels at singing in on a regular basis. All these baritones had great high notes, but I doubt they would have been comfortable with the tenor tessitura. The only way to know for sure would be to be in the room with their teachers, but we have their verdict since they were all trained as baritones.

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    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonetan View Post
    That is really exquisite singing. I will be coming back to this often...here's something I think about though. People say "where are the great singers like this today?" But if a singer sounding exactly like this auditioned to sing Verdi today he would not be considered. Who is to blame for this? Why did the style change?
    It changed in music generally. This is Opera! did an interesting video comparing 19th century piano players, trained by Chopin's students, to modern Chopin performers. Similar stylistic differences can be observed: not as strict with meter and rhythm, more dynamic contrast, independence of melody from accompaniment etc.. Battistini also uses portamenti in a way that would get him laughed out of a conservatory. I love it.

    The same changes have taken place in singing. I think it's also a technical issue. I think modern singers just simply can't do legato like Battistini even if they wanted to because they are so constricted. Battistini's voice is released, and so the voice is a constant stream. Modern singers often sound like they're being choked and having to tear the sound out of them.

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  13. #323
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    Battistini also uses portamenti in a way that would get him laughed out of a conservatory.
    Do you think so? I'd like to think that people staffing conservatories are as aware as we are of what's missing in today's singers. They have access to the recordings, and awareness of 19th-century performance practice is increasing.

    Schumann once said (I paraphrase): "What matters in performing Romantic music is not the notes themselves but how we get from one note to another." Musicians of that era didn't worry about bar lines, which were merely a guide, like everything else in a musical score. I think it was Caruso who first alerted me to the fact that notes and phrases are not goals; great performers sing through them, not on them. When he sang, you didn't think or care about notes; they just got carried along in the flow, like birds in the wind. He always sounded completely spontaneous and uncalculated, as if the music were something he had just thought up and felt compelled to communicate. But in order to convey this the voice has to be free to do whatever strikes the singers fancy. As you say,

    I think it's also a technical issue. I think modern singers just simply can't do legato like Battistini even if they wanted to because they are so constricted. Battistini's voice is released, and so the voice is a constant stream. Modern singers often sound like they're being choked and having to tear the sound out of them.

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    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    Battistini also uses portamenti in a way that would get him laughed out of a conservatory. I love it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Do you think so? I'd like to think that people staffing conservatories are as aware as we are of what's missing in today's singers. They have access to the recordings, and awareness of 19th-century performance practice is increasing.
    I think Viva is correct. Conservatories, teachers etc seem only concerned with the practices of the moment. Battistini as we know him wouldn't be allowed to exist today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    HFT will be happy to have full opera not isolated arias, soprano Mercedes Capsir is of the Galli Curci school with extra vocal ornaments light canary like tone (very unlike Callas) not well known today......
    I love this Rigoletto, I think I'm on record saying that Stracciari's performance is my favorite on record. I was pretty excited to see that Pristine did this remaster, but after sampling it, I found I preferred the sound on my old Arkadia set.

    Now that you mention it though, my favorite overall performance of Rigoletto is one of Pristine's remasters--the Warren/Sayao/Bjorling Met performance. This used to be in too poor sound for me to really rate in my old Naxos version, but the Pristine version is much more listenable. Warren isn't nearly so flawless as Stracciari but I've never heard a more gripping and moving performance.
    Last edited by howlingfantods; Mar-06-2020 at 07:32.

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  19. #326
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    It changed in music generally. This is Opera! did an interesting video comparing 19th century piano players, trained by Chopin's students, to modern Chopin performers. Similar stylistic differences can be observed: not as strict with meter and rhythm, more dynamic contrast, independence of melody from accompaniment etc.. Battistini also uses portamenti in a way that would get him laughed out of a conservatory. I love it.

    The same changes have taken place in singing. I think it's also a technical issue. I think modern singers just simply can't do legato like Battistini even if they wanted to because they are so constricted. Battistini's voice is released, and so the voice is a constant stream. Modern singers often sound like they're being choked and having to tear the sound out of them.
    Interesting so actually playing what the score doesn’t say is the correct way of doing it to these people? Playing with their hands not together is the correct way of doing it? And the whole thing is about correctly reading the score? Funny I was taught the opposite. Of course the problem with doing things like this is that it is quite ridiculous just to get two performances of ancient and modern, present them side-by-side and say they represent ancient and modern. To actually prove a point academically you’d have to get a lot more samples.
    Last edited by DavidA; Mar-06-2020 at 08:07.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Interesting so actually playing what the score doesn’t say is the correct way of doing it to these people? Playing with their hands not together is the correct way of doing it? And the whole thing is about correctly reading the score? Funny I was taught the opposite. Of course the problem with doing things like this is that it is quite ridiculous just to get two performances of ancient and modern, present them side-by-side and say they represent ancient and modern. To actually prove a point academically you’d have to get a lot more samples.
    This is only a sample of many possible illustrations.

    Whatever "opposite" you were taught, it is simply a fact that in the Romantic era musical performance exhibited more flexibility and interpretive freedom. This was indeed considered the "correct" approach to music making. A singer who gave an audience nothing but what was in the score would have been considered a bore. The score was a foundation for a performance, not a straightjacket on it. If you had more of an appetite for old recordings, you'd discover all this.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-06-2020 at 08:53.

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  22. #328
    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    I have not been keeping up on this thread, but I see from glancing through it now that folks have mentioned one baritone I've always been curious about--Gino Bechi.

    A very fine baritone in the recordings I have (mostly accompanying Gigli, plus that one Nabucco with Callas), I was pretty surprised to learn that he was only born in 1913 and lived until 1993--I'm not aware of a single recording after 1949, and Wikipedia mentions that he was in decline by the late 50s and retired by 1965. Does anyone know what accounted for his short career?

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    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    It changed in music generally. This is Opera! did an interesting video comparing 19th century piano players, trained by Chopin's students, to modern Chopin performers. Similar stylistic differences can be observed: not as strict with meter and rhythm, more dynamic contrast, independence of melody from accompaniment etc.. Battistini also uses portamenti in a way that would get him laughed out of a conservatory. I love it.

    The same changes have taken place in singing. I think it's also a technical issue. I think modern singers just simply can't do legato like Battistini even if they wanted to because they are so constricted. Battistini's voice is released, and so the voice is a constant stream. Modern singers often sound like they're being choked and having to tear the sound out of them.
    Weird, I just saw this modern (actually very young pianist) play Chopin the other day and yet she seems to play more like Cortot (one of the "old pianists") than Kissin (one of the "modern pianists").

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rjtk...youtu.be&t=857

    Oh lordy, one of their "modern pianists" is Arthur Rubinstein. Born in 1887, the same year as Alfred Cortot, one of their "old pianists" and decades before another "old pianist" Dinu Lipatti. Two of their other "modern pianists" is Bella Davidovich and Sondra Bianca.

    I mean... this is the kind of cherrypicking and historical timeline bending that makes this channel so fundamentally dishonest to me, even when I agree with their preference for Cortot and Koczalski over Rubinstein in chopin performance.
    Last edited by howlingfantods; Mar-06-2020 at 09:46.

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  25. #330
    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    I have not been keeping up on this thread, but I see from glancing through it now that folks have mentioned one baritone I've always been curious about--Gino Bechi.

    A very fine baritone in the recordings I have (mostly accompanying Gigli, plus that one Nabucco with Callas), I was pretty surprised to learn that he was only born in 1913 and lived until 1993--I'm not aware of a single recording after 1949, and Wikipedia mentions that he was in decline by the late 50s and retired by 1965. Does anyone know what accounted for his short career?
    I read that at age 37 critics were already saying he had little voice left. Apparently he tried to mask this with "mannerisms & overemphasis".

    In Bollettino Verdi - vol.1 n.1 Venetian critic Giuseppe Pugliese had this to say:

    "Gino Bechi, in the part of Renato, uses that method of voice production which could have such a negative influence on the many baritones who might wish, ill-advised, to imitate him. An emission contrary to every vocal rule and which makes the voice ugly, sometimes unbearable...and it is in the most tiring passages that his defects show up to the greatest extent."

    I'm not exactly sure when this was written, but I think its enough to tell us that it was probably a faulty technique that lead to his early decline.
    Last edited by Bonetan; Mar-06-2020 at 13:19.

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