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Biancamaria Brumana

(b Florence, 16 July 1804; d Paris, 20 Aug 1863). Italian composer and singing teacher. He settled in Paris about 1830, the year when Antonio Pacini published a collection of six romances dedicated to Maria Malibran. Known as the ‘Bellini of the romance’, Masini wrote over 400 works in this genre intended for the high Parisian society of the July Monarchy. His works were often collected in luxurious albums offered as a gift on the first day of the year. Among Masini’s favourite poets to set to music are Émile Barateau, Amable Tastu, and Laure Jourdain; only a single Masini romance is based on a text by Victor Hugo (Le papillon et la fleur). The success of his romances (published mainly by Latte, Meissonier, and Colombier) was enhanced by the collaboration with famous illustrators such as Jules David and Achille Devéria. The latter provided lithographic illustrations for the editions’ frontispieces, conceived in harmony with the texts and musical settings. Masini’s melodies are elegant, transparent, and light-hearted. They give voice to a Romanticism tinged with melancholy and delicate hues (as one can appreciate in ...

Article

Claire Levy

(b Haskovo, 29 June 1896; d Sofia, 31 July 1978). Bulgarian singer, internationally famous as a schlager performer, nicknamed the ‘Knight of the Upper F’. As a child he was a solo singer in the church choir in the town of Stara Zagora. Later on he went to the military school in Sofia and in 1920 took professional vocal lessons. In 1923 Leshnikoff went to Berlin, where he received a scholarship at the Sternischen Konservatorium. In 1927 he was appointed at the Grosses Schauspielhaus – a review theatre – and in 1928 joined Comedian Harmonists, a newly formed male vocal sextet, to perform the first tenor part. Becoming one of the most popular groups in Europe before World War II, Comedian Harmonists developed a style, based on aspects of German schlager, bel canto opera singing, pleasing tunes influenced by traditional lyrical songs, and Afro-American-derived patterns associated with the blues, gospel, and close harmony vocal techniques. Their records were released by labels including Odeon, Electrola, Columbia, and His Master’s Voice. In ...

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Donna Arnold

(b Makaryev, Kostroma Province, Russia, 20 March/1 April 1896; d Lakewood, NJ, 9 Oct 1985). Russian émigré choral conductor, founder of the Don Cossack Choir. He studied at Moscow’s Synodal School of Church Singing, and afterwards joined a Don Cossack regiment in the Russian Civil War. Defeated by Bolsheviks and exiled from Russia in 1920, his regiment was interned at a miserable camp near Istanbul. Ordered to found a choir to raise morale, he arranged repertoire from memory and, remarkably, transformed 36 amateur singers into a world-class ensemble. Once liberated, the Don Cossack Choir began a high-profile international career that spanned six decades.

Its concerts, sung in Russian, comprised Russian Orthodox liturgical works and folk, traditional, and soldier songs. Jaroff arranged most of the music. Conducting with minimal hand movements and penetrating facial expressions, he evoked extremely expressive rubatos and dynamic changes that enthralled audiences. The Don Cossacks were particularly renowned for their brilliant technique and superb octavists (whose vocal range extended to an octave below the bass) and falsettists. Jaroff’s unusual inclusion of falsettists was crucial to the choir’s compelling signature sonority and made mixed-choir masterpieces from the Russian canon feasible. Extra-musical factors, especially the very short Jaroff’s strict control of his Cossack giants, fascinated and delighted their fans....