« The Dark Side of the Rainbow | Main | Tony Snow plays the blues »

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf passes away at 90

August 4, 2006
schwarzkopf.jpgThe acclaimed soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf died yesterday at 90. A formidable  figure in both opera and lieder, she was much-loved, even adored. As The LA Times' Mark Swed says, "all it took was a short Schubert song for her to wrap an audience around her little finger. And once she had you, she never let go."

And yet, some of us never quite got hooked -- in fact, were left a bit chilled by her mannered and infinitely-calculated delivery.  The voice may have been pure silver, but (to these ears, anyway) all that glittering perfectionism felt contrived, ruthlessly purged of any unsightly human naturalness or intuitive depth. You can't help but respect her musicianship, her hard work, her enormous contributions (not least resurrecting the songs of Hugo Wolf).  But did her singing feed the soul?   

NPR's Tom Huizenga has a fairly sympathetic audio piece on her (he recalls the famous story that Schwarzkopf, when asked for her "desert island" list, offered eight of her own recordings), and The Washington Post's Tim Page pays balanced homage: "The cliche about the forest and the trees could be adapted for Schwarzkopf: There were times when one could hardly hear the music for the interpretation," he writes. "Nevertheless, she was a very great artist, one who combined a lustrous and opulent voice, a thespian's gift for intimate characterization, a sharp, creative intelligence and an innate artistic dignity."

Posted on Friday, August 4, 2006 at 10:55AM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | Comments2 Comments

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (2)

I haven't listened to too many of her recordings, but her performance of "Gretchen am Spinnrade" was a constant for me in college. I listened to it whenever I got a break in the music library. I think there was a lot of emotion in her performance; it never rang hollow for me.
August 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commentereliz.
Hi E -- It may be time for me to revisit ES's Schubert; is there a recording you recommend? I grew up on Jan de Gaetani's luminous Schubert/Wolf songs (with Gilbert Kalish), which indelibly shaped my young and impressionable ears. Highly recommended: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000005J0U/ref=sr_11_1/104-0123057-8854328?ie=UTF8
Best, SB
August 5, 2006 | Registered CommenterStephen Brookes

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.