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J.B. Steane

When a syllable is sung to more than one note, some singers are in the habit of inserting a light aspirate, as in ‘Cele-heste Aida’. In Italy, Spain and Latin America this appears not to be considered a major stylistic fault (if one at all), but in Britain and, on the whole, the USA and Germany the practice is generally condemned. Gramophone records suggest that in standard operatic work the habit grew during the first half of the century, and that criticism has subsequently had some effect: Domingo and Pavarotti, for instance, are not habitual aspiraters, unlike their predecessors such as Gigli and Pertile. More insidious are the means used to ‘separate’ notes in the florid music of Baroque composers, where on the one hand they are defended as ensuring greater clarity, and on the other attacked as the makeshift devices of a defective technique....

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John Rosselli

As applied to a singer, the term crept into opera bills and contracts with the general inflation of titles that set in towards the end of the 18th century. In theory it meant ‘unique’: a particular singer was the only member of the company engaged for a season entitled to be called prima donna (or ...

Article

Trena Jordanoska and Dimitrije Bužarovski

(b Glišikj, Kavadarci, Republic of Macedonia, 1918; d Skopje Sept 25, 1976). Macedonian folk singer. His lyric tenor voice, with its distinctive timbre (simultaneously light and warm), was recognized soon after his first performance in Radio Skopje in 1948, and it was established as a model for the male vocal repertory of traditional Macedonian music. He sang softly, with richness, in a narrow piano dynamic spectrum, and with delicate use of vibrato and ornaments. He became an idol among Macedonian audiences worldwide and has been adored by Balkan audiences as well, taking tours in Europe, Canada, USA, and Australia....

Article

J.B. Steane

A term used to characterize a particular type of Baritone voice. It owes its origin to (Nicolas-)Jean-Blaise Martin (1768–1837), a baritone with a remarkably extensive upper range, sufficiently famous and distinctive for his name to continue in use long after his death to denote a high, lyric baritone, almost a tenor, usually bright of timbre and light of weight, but with a free, unthroaty production characteristic of the French school. Jean Périer, the first Pelléas, was probably typical, with Gabriel Soulacroix a distinguished predecessor and Camille Maurane (...

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Bass  

Owen Jander, Lionel Sawkins, J.B. Steane and Elizabeth Forbes

The lowest male voice, normally written for within the range F to e′, which may be extended at either end.

Italian composers in the late 16th century often wrote highly ornate parts for the bass voice, and this continued into the first three decades of the 17th. In opera, however, where bass roles were few and generally unimportant, ornate writing was relatively rare; the emphasis lay rather on dramatic portrayal. In the surviving operas of Monteverdi the bass already appears in some of what were to be its most important historical role types: as a god (particularly a god of the underworld: Pluto in ...

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The succession of the lowest notes in a passage (or composition) which ‘support’ the other parts and are mainly responsible for the harmonic progression. See Bass.

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The Muse of heroic poetry and of playing on string instruments; see Muses.

Article

J.B. Steane

A term that is used in two connections (leaving aside the anatomical conditions under which the chest voice functions): the lower part of the female vocal range and the upper part of the male. In both instances it applies to a certain type of voice production and its resulting sound, which is quite distinct from that of the head voice (...

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Chants sung on certain feasts at Mass in the Mozarabic rite; see Mozarabic chant, §4, (vi).

Article

J.B. Steane

Although ‘open’ and ‘covered’ would seem to be layman’s terms and their manifestations in singing easy to recognize, the technique of ‘covering’ and the need for it are probably understood properly only by singers themselves. As voices ascend in the scale, reaching the higher notes of the singer’s range, the method of voice production is gradually modified, partly so as to ensure a musically pleasing sound rather than a shout, partly to protect the voice, and also to secure a greater concentration of tone. This may involve modifications of the vowel sound, shading the brighter vowels towards those that are ‘darker’ and less open. It will also be a difficult exercise, during the course of which the singer seems to him or herself to be producing thinner, less powerful and excitingly resonant sounds in the upper notes than would otherwise have been possible. A further difficulty lies in the areas of the voice called the ...

Article

John Koegel

(b San Antonio, TX, May 16, 1883; d New York, NY, Dec 12, 1943). American operatic tenor and recitalist of Mexican and German heritage. He was the most prominent Mexican American opera singer of his day, although perhaps to advance his career he used the Italian-sounding first name “Rafaelo,” and press reports sometimes identified him as Spanish instead of Mexican American or Mexican. Díaz attended the German-English School and the West Texas Military Academy (now Texas Military Institute) in San Antonio. He studied piano with Amalia Hander, a local music teacher, and at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. After vocal studies with Vincenzo Sabatini in Milan, he returned to the United States and in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

A type of soprano voice. The term admits a wide variety of repertory and voice type. Any claimant to it must possess a powerful voice and a style capable of energetic emphasis; yet at one end of the spectrum is the singer whose best roles may be, for example, the respective Leonoras of ...

Article

Falcon  

J.B. Steane

Term for a type of voice, presumed to have been exemplified by Cornélie Falcon , the dramatic soprano who sang Rachel in the première of La Juive (1835) and Valentine in that of Les Huguenots (1836). Her voice was exceptionally powerful, dramatic in quality and ample in the middle register. Mainly in France, or in association with the French repertory, ‘falcon’ has survived as a word which denotes a soprano of this type. Félia Litvinne and her pupil Germaine Lubin, both of whom sang Wagnerian roles such as Isolde and Kundry, would come under this heading. As Falcon herself sang last in ...

Article

Flos  

Mary Berry

A species of vocal embellishment. Jerome of Moravia (late 13th century) gave this definition: ‘est autem flos armonicus decora vocis sive soni celerrima procellarisque vibratio’ – an ‘ornamental vibration of the voice, or a very rapid rippling of the sound’ – that is, a shake. He described three types of ‘flowers’: long, open and sudden. ‘Long flowers’ resemble a slow vibrato, taking the note a semitone above the note to be graced. ‘Open flowers’ are slow, taking the tone below. ‘Sudden flowers’ begin slowly and gradually gather speed, using the interval of a semitone. Describing these ornaments in connection with plainchant, the author warned against applying them indiscriminately. Five notes are singled out for embellishment: the first, last and penultimate notes to be graced with long flowers, the second note of the first syllable with open flowers, and the long plica with sudden flowers. Singers may insert several short notes between this ornamental plica and the next note ‘to make the melody more elegant’....

Article

J.B. Steane

A term widely used to denote quiet (‘soft’) singing in the upper range, or register, of the voice. The singer aims the sound high in the face (or ‘mask’) and may experience it as in the head itself, the opposite of the Chest voice . In practice, what seems like a simple piece of nomenclature can describe very different things, particularly in tenors and baritones, where reference to an ‘exquisite head voice’ may mean nothing more than a pleasant ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b New York, NY, March 30, 1858; d Kansas City, MO, Sept 23, 1935). American bass and comedian. He was expected to follow his family tradition and become a lawyer, but after his father’s death he abandoned his studies and used his inheritance to form his own acting company. The company failed, partly because, being exceptionally tall, Hopper towered comically above the rest of his troupe. He then studied singing (he had a fine bass voice), and struck huge success in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

Term for an old man’s role sung by a high tenor. In the later part of his career as an haute-contre, Jean-Louis Laruette of the Opéra-Comique specialized in comic roles for elderly gentlemen, which came to be known as ‘laruettes’. As early as Mozart and Rossini old men’s roles were generally for a bass rather than a high tenor, but the tradition survived in ...

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J.B. Steane

Typical roles for the light soprano are Despina, Susanna, Norina and Nannetta, as well as Sophie (both Der Rosenkavalier and Werther). The lightness in volume of such a voice is usually matched by a brightly produced, freely carrying tone, which in the Italian and French schools tends to be of a more sharply edged, forward quality than with the Germans or British. The term ...

Article

Lirico  

J.B. Steane

The term, meaning ‘lyric’, is used in English writing generally to describe a singer whose voice is lighter than that required for more dramatic roles and which suits a smooth, melodic style rather than a more declamatory form of utterance. In Italy, the tenore lirico...

Article

J.B. Steane

This is the central, ‘standard’ type of soprano voice, one whose range covers the two octaves from c′ to c ‴ with something over at either end, whose power and fullness are sufficient to take her out of the class of Light soprano while not extending to the demands of heavy roles open to the ...