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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: vocalist

Anne Sophie von Otter: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

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.


Monday YouTube Fix: Lisa Hannigan

Andrew Hitz

Last night, my wife and I saw a performance by the Irish singer Lisa Hannigan here in Washington DC.  It was simply put the greatest vocal performance I've ever witnessed and that includes the likes of Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman, and many other famous singers.  We were both truly stunned. In fact, when I looked at my wife after the very opening song she exhaled as if she had been holding her breath the entire time.  I then realized that I too had been almost scared to breathe.  The music was so ethereal and the message of the song so piercing that to interrupt it with even a breath seemed inappropriate.  The beauty, resonance, and character of Lisa's voice is impossible for me to put into words.  There is a stunning innocence with a simultaneous grit that takes your breath away.

The worst note ending of her performance was quite possibly better than the best I've ever played in my career.  Every note was hand delivered to the next with an attention to detail left the audience speechless.  I was a better musician by the end of the evening, simply by being present.  It was a master class in every sense of the word.

When people say there is no money in music I can't completely agree.  When you sing or play an instrument to the level of Lisa Hannigan you will make a living performing.  Period.  I do not know of a single exception.  She is a breathtaking talent that you should see perform at all costs.  Below is a clip from the wonderful Tiny Desk Concert series from NPR.  I think you will hear what I mean in the very first tune.