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David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2012

Throughout history the great singers of the world have possessed highly distinctive voices, Kathleen Ferrier holding a singular place among them. It has to be said that she came onto the musical scene when the Second World War had brought music in Britain to a sorry state, and her appearance brought renewed hope of better days to come. Born in 1912, she was already twenty-five when she won both the piano and singing classes in a competition held in a small town in the far north-west of England. Even then she still thought of herself as a pianist, but was encouraged to seek professional singing lessons for a natural voice that settled in the contralto register. That she made such an impression in a major career that barely lasted seven years on her death at the age of 41, was sufficient evidence of her unique qualities. It inherently contained an element of sadness and that made her particularly appropriate for the alto role in the St. Matthew Passion, recorded in an English translation for Decca in London during 1947 and 1948. It was based around the much admired performances given in London by the conductor, Reginald Jacques with an orchestra he assembled for such occasions. It was founded on British choral traditions with broad tempos and an orchestra that added a warm backdrop. Around Ferrier were four of the finest British singers of the time…in twenty-eight minutes we hear a radiant voice in one of life’s enriching experiences, If my tears be unavailing sung with such unaffecting beauty. The Bach Choir…sing with enthusiasm, while the orchestra do all that is required. The Cantata, Hold in affection Jesus Christ, was recorded the year later and give us just a minute and a half of Ferrier in recitatives. Its quality shows just how swiftly recording standards were moving at the time… Mark Obert-Thorn’s transfers are excellent… © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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