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Singing in Style

Singing in Style: A Guide to Vocal Performance Practices

Martha Elliott
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Singing in Style
    Book Description:

    The first historical overview of vocal performance practice and style ever published,Singing In Styleprovides an introduction to how such issues as ornamentation, vibrato, rubato, portamento, articulation, tempo, language, and accompaniment with period instruments have been handled since the seventeenth century. Each chapter presents a historical period and gives background information on the singers and composers, the vocal repertoire, and the stylistic conventions of that time. Specific repertoire examples are discussed as well, to show how to use the music itself as a context for making stylistic choices. Each chapter also has an extensive reference list arranged by topic, so the interested reader can pursue a particular subject in more depth.

    Covering the Baroque period to the present, Elliott casts a wide net, bringing together information from historical treatises, personal accounts from composers, performers, historians, critics, and current scholarly commentary into one convenient handbook for the student and the amateur and professional performer who want to learn more about how vocal works were sung in their day.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13808-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This book introduces the issues of historical performance practice as they relate to singers and vocal repertoire. It also investigates the elements that contribute to the style in which an individual work of music, from a specific period and by a particular composer, should be sung. Most important, it explores the working relationships between singers and composers from the seventeenth century to the present and traces how their collaboration shaped changing trends in style. The early music movement and the accompanying explosion of interest in historically informed performances have produced a tremendous amount of information on performance practice. Most of...

  5. Chapter 1 The Early Baroque
    (pp. 5-52)

    This chapter presents an overview of seventeenth-century vocal music and practice in Italy, England, and France. (Germany will be discussed in chapter 2.) In addition to considering issues of compositional development over the course of the hundred years in question, it will also review differences in national style. It will explore the imprecise nature of Baroque notation, the changing relationship of text and music, pitch in different geographical areas, instrumental accompaniment, and the development of figured bass. Difficult questions without easy answers must also be considered: What did the singers sound like? What was their approach to technique? What kind...

  6. Chapter 2 The Late Baroque
    (pp. 53-91)

    This chapter examines music from the first half of the eighteenth century, including works by J. S. Bach, Handel, and Rameau. It discusses the development of vocal music and singing styles in Germany, France, and England and considers how they were affected by the overwhelming popularity of Italian opera and the fame of Italian singers. It reviews how the relationship between words and music continued to develop, and it discusses different national approaches toward ornamentation. Issues presented in chapter I, such as scores and notation, figured bass, early instruments, vibrato, pitch, rhythmic alteration, dance forms, and the relationship between composer...

  7. Chapter 3 The Classical Era
    (pp. 92-125)

    This chapter considers the vocal style of the Classical era, including the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The term “Classical” was not coined until after 1830 and was not used by the composers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Both performers and composers of the time continued many of the traditions of the late Baroque, while adapting their musical style to fit new social and artistic circumstances. Charles Rosen’s landmark bookThe Classical Styleindicates 1750 as a boundary marking the end of the high Baroque and 1775 as an important transition point for Classical music.¹ Sandra...

  8. Chapter 4 Italian Bel Canto
    (pp. 126-159)

    This chapter discusses the Italian vocal style of the early nineteenth century, including music by Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. This repertoire is commonly called bel canto, a term with a tangled web of meanings and associations. Literally, it means “beautiful singing,” which is probably how it was used in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century vocal treatises. In the mid-nineteenth century the term took on a larger significance. The 1838 publication of a collection of songs by Nicola Vaccai entitledDodici ariette per camera per l’insegnamento del bel canto italianomay have been the first time the term was seen in print in...

  9. Chapter 5 German Lieder
    (pp. 160-193)

    This chapter discusses the German lied and its development through the nineteenth century. It will consider songs by Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Hugo Wolf, and Richard Strauss, as well as by Louis Spohr, Liszt, Wagner, and others. The lied was first viewed as a marginal form in such compositions as Mozart’s “Das Veilchen” and “Abendempfindung” and Beethoven’s “Adelaide” and his song cycleAn die ferne Geliebte.In the hands of Schubert, the lied and the song cycle began to realize their greater potential. Many composers considered their lieder insignificant in comparison with their larger symphonic compositions. This smaller form, however,...

  10. Chapter 6 French Mélodies
    (pp. 194-221)

    This chapter surveys the French art song of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, beginning with the romance of the mid-nineteenth century and focusing on the mélodies of Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc. It also includes the contributions of such prominent singers as Reynaldo Hahn, Mary Garden, Jane Bathori, Claire Croiza, Charles Panzéra, Maggie Teyte, and Pierre Bernac. Chapters 1 and 2 noted the importance ofle bon goût(good taste) and the sanctity of the French language in music of the Baroque. Matters of taste and language continued to play a significant role in the nineteenth-century development of the mélodie,...

  11. Chapter 7 Second Viennese School
    (pp. 222-250)

    This chapter discusses works by Arnold Schoenberg and his students Alban Berg and Anton Webern. These three composers, commonly known as the Second Viennese School, ventured beyond the increasing chromaticism of late nineteenth-century music to explore a new realm of atonal and twelve-tone composition. In addition to demanding new techniques for singing and for solo instrumental and orchestral playing, Schoenberg and Berg refined the use of melodrama, or speaking over music, into the more exacting art ofSprechstimme,also known asSprechgesang,fully exploited in one of the most important early twentieth-century works, Schoenberg’sPierrot lunaire.

    All three composers wrote...

  12. Chapter 8 Early Twentieth-Century Nationalism
    (pp. 251-285)

    This chapter considers nationalistic trends in the first half of the twentieth century in Russia, Spain, England, and the United States, focusing on vocal music by Musorgsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Falla, Rodrigo, Britten, Ives, Copland, and Barber. It investigates cultural and political issues as well as the folk heritage that contributed to the distinctive musical flavor of each country. It also examines what motivated these composers to write vocal music as well as some of the singers who inspired and championed them; Fyodor Chaliapin, Maria Olenina-d’Alheim, Galina Vishnevskaya, Victoria de los Angeles, Peter Pears, Eleanor Steber, and Leontyne Price. It...

  13. Chapter 9 Working with Living Composers
    (pp. 286-306)

    This chapter explores the working relationships between American singers and composers over the last thirty years. It draws from conversations with several well-known singers, including sopranos Phyllis Bryn-Julson and Benita Valente and tenor Paul Sperry, who have worked with composers such as Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti, David Del Tredici, George Crumb, Daron Hagen, and William Bolcom.¹ It also includes anecdotes from Cheryl Bensman’s years as a member of the Steve Reich ensemble,² as well as my own experiences from twenty years of working with composers at Princeton University and various new-music groups.

    Most of these stories have parallels in earlier...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 307-326)
  15. For Further Reading
    (pp. 327-346)
  16. Index
    (pp. 347-356)