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Owen Jander


A textless vocal exercise or concert piece to be sung to one or more vowels. The vocalise derives from two traditions. One dates from the early 19th century, when it became customary to perform and publish solfeggi and essercizi with piano accompaniment (e.g. Domenico Corri, The Singer's Preceptor, 1810; Manuel García, Traité complet de l’art du chant, 1840–47/R); by the middle of the century there were numerous publications of this kind. The singing instructor Heinrich Panofka, for example, published during his years in Paris five volumes of vocalises. The idea was that with a piano accompaniment even the most mechanical exercises would be performed in a more artistic manner. The other tradition was that of using existing compositions as vocal exercises without words. In 1755 Jean-Antoine Bérard provided, as a supplement to his L’art du chant, 20 compositions by Lully, Rameau and others, selected for the technical problems they offered (‘pour les sons tendres, légers, maniérés, majestueux’ etc.), and he added specific instructions as to how these problems were to be solved. In the 19th century most instruction manuals for the voice included original compositions specially composed for the same purpose: ‘melodies without words, offering the pupil a union of all the difficulties of song’ (García). Unlike the accompanied ...