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The Ideal Orpheus: An Analysis of Virtuosic Self-Accompanied Singing as an Historical Vocal Performance Practice

Bier, Robin (2013) The Ideal Orpheus: An Analysis of Virtuosic Self-Accompanied Singing as an Historical Vocal Performance Practice. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Evidence of self-accompanied singing in western music permeates elite music making from classical antiquity to the early twentieth century. Originating in the mythology and culture of Ancient Greece, self-accompanied singing became an idiomatic component of medieval song and early Christian depictions of musicians. Self-accompaniment was central to the identity of sixteenth-century musicians like Tarquinia Molza, whose performances transformed a ubiquitous practice amongst the amateur gentry into a unique vehicle for virtuosity and sprezzatura. Self-accompaniment played a prominent role in the foundations of modern vocal pedagogy, presented in the treatises of Bacilly, Tosi and others as part of the skillset of the professional singer. Self-accompanied singing reached artistic decadence on the nineteenth-century concert stage in the performances of prima donnas like Maria Malibran, Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Jenny Lind, who fascinated audiences with their dual personification of Orphic siren and domestic angel in self-accompanied encores, entr'actes and arie de baule. Late nineteenth-century song recitalists like George Henschel brought self-accompaniment to new heights of technical complexity, contributing to the development of the modern song recital as a concert form and the establishment of German lieder as a repertoire of international importance. Evidence of this tradition is preserved on early recordings and radio broadcasts from the early twentieth century, and these recordings reveal that self-accompaniment enabled unique nuances of expression and ensemble. Throughout this history, the construct of self-accompanied singer as a symbol of ideal musicianship yields insight into the origins, persistence, and eventual disappearance of self- accompaniment from classical vocal performance practice. This thesis undertakes to explore the technical feasibility and artistic potential of self-accompaniment, and to provide singers with the contextual evidence and practical tools to reconstruct self-accompanied singing as a historical vocal performance practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Music (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.677360
Depositing User: Robin Bier
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2016 14:47
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:33
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10530

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