Lazy Sunday Afternoon – Mad Voices

If you enjoyed our nutty pianists a few Lazy Sundays ago, you’re sure to appreciate Mahlerman’s further exploration of musical lunacy. Here are his Mad Voices…

With the seemingly inexorable rise in the popularity of baroque-era music over the last 30 years, has come a raft of counter-tenor voices capable of expressing this music. Across the channel the Jedward lookalike Philippe Jaroussky is regularly mobbed; in America the rather doleful David Daniels rules. Here, the great German Andreas Scholl is rightly considered the voice sans pareil, and he demonstrates his craft well in this sublime aria from Giulio Cesare, the 1724 opera by G F Handel.

It would be no exaggeration to say that without Alfred Deller’s pioneering work after the war, none of the counter-tenor voices heard today would have had the repertoire upon which to base their artistry. Discovered by the composer Michael Tippett singing in the Canterbury choir, he went on to form his own consort and, in effect, kick-started the early music movement. Here, his modest, self-effacing delivery is packed into less than two minutes of magic.

Take a line from Tiny Tim through the late Blossom Dearie, add some pungent English mustard, a touch of New York sass, and a voice as big as a house, and you get the quirky Nellie McKay, London born but raised in New York. The feminist song is her own, which she follows with the wonderful Irving King standard. She might get big, but I hope not. I hope she stays just the way she is.

Around the same time as Handel was writing Giulio Cesare above, Rameau was working on his opera bouffe Platee in Paris. From the second act, this amazing piece of froth is the show-stopper from La Folie. Made famous in the Paris Opera production, Mireille Delunsch inhabits the role here, in concert.

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About Author Profile: Mahlerman

Mahlerman's life was shaped by his single mother, who never let complete ignorance of a subject get in the way of having strong opinions about it. Facing retirement after a life in what used to be called 'trade', and having a character that consists mainly of defects, he spends his moments of idleness trying to correct them, one by one.

6 thoughts on “Lazy Sunday Afternoon – Mad Voices

    Gadjo Dilo
    September 26, 2010 at 15:46

    I have to admit to being a total peasant when it comes to Baroque music, and so I found Ms McKay’s ukelele a welcome addition to the genre. Incredible voices though – I wonder if those chaps linvite their old school friends to their performances or if at class reunions they pretend that they’ve got jobs as welders etc instead.

    September 26, 2010 at 20:00

    Well GD, the plain truth, once the nudge-nudge factor is put aside, is that the precursors of the modern counter-tenors, were the castrati in Italy. Before it was made illegal in the 1860’s, thousands of poor pre-pubescent boys were railroaded by their families into testicular removal for no better reason than to give themselves a chance to emerge from poverty, as these voices were prized in music, inside and outside the church. The modern equivalent would be the pushy parent, urging a talentless child onto Cowell’s X-Factor, to free them from a sink-estate life, and to find transient fame and perhaps wealth. The ironic pearl in the cow-pad was that castrati were particularly feted by girls and women, probably intoxicated by the ethereal sound but also, one imagines, by the impossibilty of being impregnated by these superstars.

    September 26, 2010 at 23:00

    By the tread on my wha-wha pedal mahlherman, you have more brooms in your cupboard than a sharp stick can be safely shaken at. Thankfull Benjamin B was that Peter Pears still had his tackle,somewhere to keep his baton warm on a cold Aldeburgh night.
    You have to admit though ,considering their rarity,how strange it is that two castrati fought out the labour party leadership contest.

    Meanwhile, here’s a man who can count a tenner

    Gadjo Dilo
    September 27, 2010 at 05:42

    Thanks for your informative explanation, Mahlermeister. Over here in Romania we had our own version, a gypsy called Dona Dumitru Siminica who back in day had all Bucharest totttie at his disposal on account of singing like a lass.

    September 27, 2010 at 10:44

    Blimey Gadgo, Sarkozy would have him on the first plane out.

  6. September 29, 2010 at 23:52

    Thank you mahlerman for introducing me to Nellie McKay – what a find! You mentioned Blossom Dearie and Tiny Tim in your comparison – both very appropriate (esp. Tiny Tim) but there’s a dash, just a dash, of the marvellous Tom Lehrer in there too, though they differ in purpose; he set out to entertain only (in the driest and wittiest way) while she, at least in her feminist song, was making a bitter point. Very sweetly, though.

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