Ferrier, Kathleen (Mary)
- Alan Blyth
(b Higher Walton, Lancs., April 22, 1912; d London, Oct 8, 1953). English contralto. She intended to become a pianist and it was only in 1937, after winning the contralto class at the Carlisle Festival, that she considered a career as a singer and studied with J.E. Hutchinson and then Roy Henderson. During the war years, touring the provinces and singing with the Bach Choir in London, she established herself among England’s leading concert artists. She made her stage début as Lucretia in the first performance of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at Glyndebourne in 1946, and the following year sang Gluck’s Orpheus there. These remained her only operatic roles.
Ferrier soon became known in Europe and the USA. Her appearances in Das Lied von der Erde at the Edinburgh Festival in 1947 and at Salzburg in 1949 were specially notable, and her recording of the work with Bruno Walter (and Julius Patzak) remains a classic. She also gave lieder recitals in Edinburgh and London with Walter as her partner. Though she did not always manage the degree of nuance appropriate to lieder, Walter wrote that ‘No summit of solemnity was inaccessible to her, and it was particularly music of spiritual meaning that seemed her most personal domain’. She also had a close artistic relationship with Barbirolli, and her performances as the Angel in ...