Christa Ludwig has been called “the Earth Mother of all singers”, and the designation is fitting in every possible way—the arresting beauty of the sound itself, the reassuring strength of her technique, and the intense expressiveness of her singing, wed to a disarming simplicity and directness that sets her apart from some of her famous contemporaries. That lack of pretentiousness is a hallmark of her offstage personality as well, for which she is adored by fans and colleagues alike.
As a teacher, Ludwig sets exactly the right tone by asserting herself firmly as the person in charge, yet with an inviting warmth and charm. She is not shy about bestowing compliments when warranted, but she is an exacting teacher, not reluctant to cut off a singer after two or three notes to correct an errant rendition.
In short, Christa Ludwig is everything that a professional singer should be, and the fact that she was able to sing for so long with such excellence is perhaps the highest tribute of all.
This according to “The listener’s gallery” by Gregory Berg (Journal of singing LXV/1 [September–October 2008] pp. 119–24).
Today is Ludwig’s 90th birthday! Above, in 2015; below, singing Mahler’s Urlicht.
In 2007, as he neared the completion of his recordings of the full cycle of Mahler’s symphonies with the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas discussed what makes these performances unusual.
“My perspective has always been to encourage sections of the orchestra—as well as soloists with the orchestra—to feel a great deal of freedom of inflection in the music, with a great awareness of the source of the music’s inspiration.”
“[That source] might be cabaret music or military music or Jewish music or folk music from different parts of the world. Or religious music, maybe, or something very beautiful and burnished or something quite rangy and grotesque.”
“Artists in an orchestra can sometimes feel, in their relationship to the general situation of the orchestra or even to some conductor who is there, that they must show a certain amount of restraint….So it has been part of a larger process—a process of their having the confidence that I was, indeed, asking them to do something that was ‘outside the lines’—which involves the artists taking the lead in creating the particular color or the particular direction or the particular sound of the music.”
Quoted from “Outside the lines” by David Templeton (Strings XXII/3:152 [October 2007] pp. 52–59).
Today is Thomas’s 70th birthday! Below, he leads the SFS with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the Urlicht movement from Mahler’s second symphony.
An assistant editor at RILM just accessed our 750,000th record, bringing our database to (and now beyond) three-quarters of a million bibliographic entries!
The milestone record is “Pierre Boulez: ‘One cannot refer to the biography to explain the music’”, an interview included in Gustav Mahler: The conductors’ interviews (Wien: Universal Edition, 2013, pp. 38–47).
Below, Boulez conducts Mahler’s second symphony.
Filed under RILM, RILM news
What could a late–19th-century Viennese symphonic genius and an early–21st-century African American pop star have in common? A blood line, according to recent research that has led to the conclusion that Beyoncé Knowles is Gustav Mahler’s eighth cousin, four times removed.
This according to Why Mahler? How one man and ten symphonies changed our world by Norman Lebrecht (New York: Pantheon, 2010). Below, Beyoncé’s Green light—a title that suggests a line of descent from Mahler’s Urlicht.