All instrumentalists, whether we realize or not, are trying to imitate the same thing: the human voice. I model my phrasing, vibrato, note endings and much, much more after the great vocalists. Last week I saw the great Swedish mezzo-soprano, Anne Sophie von Otter, perform for the first time. She sang the solo part in a Boston Symphony performance of Mahler's Third Symphony at Symphony Hall in Boston. I was eighth row and was absolutely blown away by the elegance and effortless power with which she sang. She stole the show.
I have seen Mahler 3 performed a number of times but she sang the solo part unlike anyone I had heard before. There was an intensity about her performance that is hard to put into words. It left me breathless.
This clip is of her singing Schubert's famous Der Erlkönig. This version is the one orchestrated by Hector Berlioz and is performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under the direction of Claudio Abbado.
She does a stunning job of changing into the different characters right before your very eyes. I firmly believe you can't teach the kind of intensity this woman has when she sings. Thanks to Spotify, I have been listening to her incredibly varied recordings ever since the concert and I'm a better musician for it.