Posts Tagged ‘Birthday’

Happy birthday, Kathleen Ferrier

April 22, 2012

Today would have been the 100th birthday of the wonderful English contralto Kathleen Ferrier. She had one of the most distinctive and affecting, if not most conventionally beautiful, voices of the century.

Her singing career, which lasted only just over a decade, was curtailed by her untimely death, from cancer, in 1953.  Her recorded legacy is of small compass, but highly treasurable. She is perhaps best known for her (to my ears, somewhat lumbering) renditions of English folk songs, but in Mahler she was, if not quite unequaled, at least unsurpassed.

One really should spend the entire day listening to her, but, as a start, here are two short songs. The first is “O Waly, Waly”, which shows off her appeal in the homespun English repertoire, and the second is her heart-breaking version of Mahler’s “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”. This last, especially, is what used to be called a “classic of the gramophone” — one of the finest treasures from a century of recorded sound.

Happy birthday, Kathleen Ferrier.

Happy birthday, Arvo Pärt

September 11, 2010

Today is the 75th birthday of Arvo Pärt, my favourite living composer.  I fell in love with his music about ten years ago when I heard Kanon Pokajanen, his setting of the Orthodox Church’s Canon of Repentance, and I have since sought out pretty much all of his pieces that have found their way to recordings.  On this, his birthday, I’d like to share a couple of my favourites.

Pärt’s music falls into two chronologically sequential parts: the before part, when he composed in an aggressive modernist idiom, and the after part, when he composed in a remarkably simple and pure style he calls ‘tintinnabulation’.  It is the latter part that is most beloved by me.  Here is Es sang vor langen Jahren (text and translation), an early piece in his second period that nicely illustrates how he makes something beautiful from the slenderest materials.  The imagery in this video is from Tarkovski:

Pärt has composed quite a lot of choral music in English, and for this we can be grateful.  Among my favourite pieces is I Am The True Vine, a setting of John 15:1-14.  He does something lovely with the voices, having them intertwine very much like the branches of a vine:

Finally (and I am cutting this cruelly short), here is an excerpt from that piece that first caught my attention: Ode IV from Kanon Pokajanen (text and translation):

Happy birthday, Mr. Pärt.