Session 1

Friday 10th July, 3:15 – 4:55 pm

Dr Massimo Zicari: Early recordings of operatic arias: reconstructing a living tradition

Whether produced a hundred years ago by a pioneer of wax cylinders or yesterday by a music student willing to explore and better understand her own practicing routine, audio recordings form a source of information whose usefulness is now generally accepted. Furthermore, if we remind ourselves that many of the musicians heard on early recordings were trained in the late nineteenth century, it becomes evident how helpful these recordings can be in the reconstruction of nineteenth-century style.

However, a gap still exists between the manner in which music practitioners use recordings – and early recordings in particular – and the kind of information one can glean from them: while repeated listening – and watching – is quite common, more in-depths analytical strategies for understanding the contents of recorded interpretations seem to be much less frequent. This last point becomes all the more relevant if we consider that a vast body of academic literature now exists, which provides invaluable insight into issues of performing style and technique across different repertoires and genres.

This paper reports on an ongoing investigation that explores the recorded interpretations of Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1940). An analytical approach based on the transcription and the comparison of her modifications to the score was adopted to verify whether and to what extent her recordings can be understood as the audible evidence of what the so-called bel canto tradition sounded like at the outset of the century or if, instead, they testify to the individual style of a unique and extraordinarily talented diva.

Bio: Massimo Zicari, PhD., is Deputy Head of Research at the University School of Music (Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana) in Lugano, where he also teaches music history since 2005. In 2009 he was visiting Fellow at the Institute of Musical Research, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, for a project concerning the reception of Verdi’s Operas in London. His studies focus mainly on opera production and reception and his most recent publications in this domain include: Verdi in Victorian London. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2016; La prima recezione di Giuseppe Verdi a Londra: Henry Fothergill Chorley e l’Athenaeum” (Schweizer Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft, 2011; “Critica musicale e opera italiana a Londra: George Bernard Shaw”, (Musica e Storia, 2011); “Nothing but the Commonest Tunes: The Early Reception of Verdi’s Operas in London, 1845-1848” (Dissonanz, 2011); The Land of Song, La terra del Belcanto sulla stampa londinese nel decennio 1890 – 1900 (Peter Lang, 2008). His research areas include also the historically informed performance practice of Italian opera (“’Ah! non credea mirarti’ nelle fonti discografiche di primo Novecento: Adelina Patti e Luisa Tetrazzini,” Schweizer Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft, 34/35 (2014/2015), pp.193-222; “Expressive Tempo Modifications in Adelina Patti’s Recordings,” Empirical Musicology Review Vol. 12, n. 1-2 (2017)) and acoustics (Zicari, M., MacRitchie, J. et al. “Trumpet mouthpiece manufacturing and tone quality”, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 134 (5), November 2013, p. 3872–3886). He takes an interest also in the investigation of music teaching and pedagogy (MacRitchie, J., Zicari, M., & Blom, D. (2018). Identifying challenges and opportunities for student composer and performer peer learning through newly-composed classical piano scores. British Journal of Music Education, 1-23.

Dr Karin Martensen: ‘The phonograph is not an opera house’. Sources and analyses on the aesthetics and history of early sound recording, focussing on Edison and Victor

“The phonograph is not an opera house” – with this quotation Thomas Alva Edison recorded an important insight into the mediality of sound recording. Even the early sound recording and its tonal result differed substantially from the musical events that took place on stage. This is the case because not only the sound recording devices have a technical influence on the sound result, but also the people involved in the recording themselves. In other words: the singing voice as it appears on the medium of sound recording is developed in a diverse interaction of people and recording technology. This interaction in turn does not take place in a ‘vacuum’, but is formed and influenced by the most diverse discourses and discussions about aesthetics, technology, man and nature. On the basis of my research in the archives of Edison in New Jersey, EMI in London and Sony in New York, the aim of my presentation is to shed light on all this using the example of early sound recording in the studios of the record companies Edison and Victor.

My research is related to the project “Technologies of Singing”, which has been funded by the German Research Foundation since March 2016. This project departs from previous research on the history of singing by concentrating on the mediality of the recording. Instead of using recordings as documents of vocal practice, we interpret them as sources of an aesthetic that has been shaped by its medial conditions and that is inextricably linked with vocal practice and the history of the body.

Bio: Dr. Karin Martensen had studied musicology at the University of Hamburg. In spring 2012, she received her PhD from the School of Music in Hannover/Germany with a dissertation on Anna Bahr-Mildenburg’s prompt books about Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. From 2016 to 2019,she was the project leader of the project „Technologies of Singing: Research into the DispositifSinging – Body – Media in the Early Years of Recording“, which is (together with Rebecca Grot-jahn and Malte Kob) conducted in Detmold. In March 2019 she started a new project at the Technische Universität Berlin (“The recording studio as discursive room”), which is again funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. – Karin Martensen teaches in Detmold and Berlin and has published several articles on Anna Bahr-Mildenburg, on sound recording and on the construction of body and voice. Furthermore, she gave lectures on these topics in Germany, Austria, Swit-zerland, the UK, and the USA.

Prof. Anne Kauppala: Aino Ackté’s non-existent Salome recordings

The recording career of the Finnish opera diva Aino Ackté (1876-1944) began in 1902 with “Le Baiser” (issued by Gramophone), and the last published recording was “Salce, Salce” (Edison) is from 1913. Her other companies include Zonophone, Gramophone, Victor, Fonotipia, Odéon. The repertoire consisted mainly of the arias and lieds which she performed on opera stage or concert podium. The preserved recordings have been compiled to a CD, Aino Ackté: Collected Recordings 1902-1913, Ondine, 1996). In addition, Ackté recorded some 33 other pieces in the early 1910s, mainly for Edison, but they remained unpublished (For her repertoire, see Interestingly, no Sibelius songs can be found among her recordings.

            Ackté’s active correspondence with her family members (mother Emmy Ackté and sister Irma Tervani, both opera singers, and her husband Heikki Renvall) as well as her business letters to recording companies and impressarios allow to follow recording processes at a close range, the selection of the repertoire, settling recording dates and practical arrangements, financial issues, contracts, and even disputes. She also published a half-fictive short story on recording (in Finnish).

            The role of Salome was her greatest victory on opera stage, particularly the two London cycles with Thomas Beecham (1910 and 1913). Subsequently, she performed the Salome’s monologue in several European concert houses and made a recordings for Edison. The archive material allows many approaches but in this paper the intention is to track down the recording process from the singer’s perspective in the framework of historical music performance research: what she thought of recording, how she felt her singing in the recording instances, how she estimated the final result. Also, the non-issuing of these recordings sheds light on aesthetic preferences in the early recording industry.

Bio: Anne Kauppala has been Professor of Music Performance Research since 2005 at the Sibelius Academy, DocMus Department (Finland) and the concurrent leader of the Uniarts History Forum. Her research interests are opera, music history, musical semiotics and the cultural study of art music (including performance). She is the editor of the DocMus Research Publications and has led externally funded research projects on opera. Her output includes chapters on Aino Ackté’s Salome performance in Performing Salome, Revealing Stories(Ashgate 2013) and on Cathy Berberian’s Camp in Cathy Berberian – Pioneer of Contemporary Vocality(Ashgate 2014), ‘Staging anti-Semitic stereotypes. Wäinö Sola’s Eléazar at the Finnish Opera, 1925,’ in Grand Opera Outside Paris: Opera on the Move in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Routledge 2018) as well as ‘Barthes’s The Grain of the Voice Revisited’ in The Routledge Handbook of Music Signification (2020) and a genetic analysis of how Ackté prepared the role of Salome (forthcoming 2020).

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