Do you prefer vocal pieces in languages you dont understand?

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IcedNote
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Do you prefer vocal pieces in languages you dont understand?

Post by IcedNote » Fri Jul 07, 2006 3:41 am

Know what I mean? For example, if you speak German but not Italian, would you rather listen to a Wagner opera or a Verdi one, just on the language aspect alone?

I find that I prefer when classical music is sung in languages that I'm not familiar with. I feel it adds a certain mysteriousness to it. Of course, I realize that this makes me lose some appreciation for the beauty of the piece (i.e. text painting), but I'm OK with that because I enjoy the overal sonic beauty of it more. Not understanding the words, for me, isolates the voice as a purely musical entity, separating it from the "story-telling" mechanism that it otherwise acts as.

Whatdayasay? :)

-G
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PJME
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Post by PJME » Fri Jul 07, 2006 4:22 am

I feel it adds a certain mysteriousness
Ok - but for most classical pieces it isn't difficult to retrieve the origin or the original texts and find out what "they" are singing about...and for me that does not detract from "sonic beauty".

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jul 07, 2006 5:37 am

I prefer vocal pieces in languages that I do not speak fluently because in the classical world almost all of what is worth listening to was not written in English. I would give anything to be truly mulitingual and appreciate Italian, French, and especially German as a native speaker can.

Of course Latin is the great leveler. It is nobody's native language.

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val
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Post by val » Fri Jul 07, 2006 7:23 am

I prefer the original language of the work. No translations. I don't know russian or czech but I think I wouldn't be able to take seriously Boris Godunoff or Jenufa in french, german or english. It would be as if we were "transvestiting" those operas in something different, artificial.

Anyway, we all know the story of those famous operas and have a very good idea of what is being said at any moment.

By the way, the most stupid thing I ever heard was a russian recording of Pagliaci, with Mario del Monaco singing his part in italian and the others in russian.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Jul 07, 2006 7:46 am

I prefer the original language because it most likely captures the composer's overall intent. And with surtitles or supertitles these days I certainly don't have to follow a libretto in a darkened venue.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jul 07, 2006 7:54 am

val wrote: By the way, the most stupid thing I ever heard was a russian recording of Pagliaci, with Mario del Monaco singing his part in italian and the others in russian.
That kind of thing used to be common, as did simply singing Don Giovanni in German if you were in Germany.

It is interesting that several people gravitated toward opera. That is the understandable default, and I don't disagree with anything Val or Ralph said, but it is easier for me to deal with The Magic Flute in English or (as with the Bergmann film) Swedish than it would be for me to contemplate translation of art song. In fact, I have never heard of a Schubert Lied being sung in anything but German. I've tried "An Sylvia" and "Horch horch, die Lerch" in English just to amuse myself but even though we are talking about Shakespeare they do not quite work.

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Post by Richard Mullany » Fri Jul 07, 2006 9:47 am

Another vote for perfomances in the original tongue. Any opera I have heard sung in English translation sounds pretty klutzy to me. Learning an opera in the original form is not hard to do if you listen to it often enough.
The problem is more than finding the exact meaning, it is in keeping the original music and vowels intact while resetting the words.
Ive heard too many broken threads by singers trying to sustain consonants. This is specially true in music like A Bach Cantata, if I can't listen to them in German I don't want to hear them at all.

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Post by Lance » Fri Jul 07, 2006 11:20 am

Easy question for me: I always prefer the original language. Translations are always available and if it is opera you hear or see with some frequence, usually the plot lines are known.

I recall listening to an LP recording I had of excerpts from Carmen (RCA Victrola) sung in German by Christa Ludwig. While I love her voice, the opera was not the same. The Germans, especially in the heyday of 78-rpm recordings, frequently sang the operas or arias and excerpts in German. It's just not the same ... never the same kind of impact even though the music is the same. I don't mind seeing English subtitles in a live opera either.
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Post by Wallingford » Fri Jul 07, 2006 1:05 pm

Definitely the original language.

I saw 2 different PBS presentations of Ravel's L'Enfant Et Les Sortileges, one in the original French (w/English subtitles) in '73, the other in our own tongue in '81 (a Balanchine production). The imagery and spookiness of the '73 program always remained stuck in my mind & is immediately conjured up when hearing any recording of it--in addition to its being more effective in French.

To give an example of POP MUSIC sung in another language: Kyu Sakamoto's '63 #1 hit "Sukiyaki"........it's a HEARTBREAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL song in the original Japanese. But when A Taste Of Honey (they did the "immortal" disco single "Boogie Oogie Oogie") rerecorded "Sukiyaki" in '81, it just plain ruined it. (One of the two female members of that band did a free translation of it; what in the original Japanese could've applied to a variety of situations--from the pain of lost love to a prisoner on his way to an execution--became in these gals' hands just another male-bashing lovesong).
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jul 07, 2006 2:28 pm

I prefer vocal music sung in the language the music was originally composed for. I will take the effort to study the text. The standard operatic practice until the postwar era was to translate everything into the language of the audience. I developed strong feelings about that practice because I do take the effort to know the libretto. Nothing sounds as good in a translation as it does in the original. Nothing. Gerald Abraham once declared that when Italian opera was translated in to English in Handel's day, as a way of reviving interest in operas, it killed off the entire enterprise and left Handel with only oratorios as an outlet. The translations were so inept that they left the audiences tittering instead of enraptured.

We have been trained to expect opera in the original language. One has only to listen to the awkwardness of Fritz Wunderlich's arias from Italian operas sung in German to see how disjointed it sounds in another. He was the last modern singer to use translations - if he hadn't died so young, I'm sure he would have switched to original language to continue his career.
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Post by IcedNote » Fri Jul 07, 2006 5:30 pm

Haha...whoa! While this conversation about "original language" vs. "translated language" is interesting, it isn't at all what I meant! :shock: :P

No point in going against the grain now though! :wink:

-G
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Post by Gary » Fri Jul 07, 2006 5:50 pm

Do you prefer vocal pieces in languages you dont understand?

No...but don't really have a choice, since as JBuck says "...in the classical world almost all of what is worth listening to was not written in English."
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jul 07, 2006 8:45 pm

IcedNote wrote:Haha...whoa! While this conversation about "original language" vs. "translated language" is interesting, it isn't at all what I meant! :shock: :P

No point in going against the grain now though! :wink:

-G
Did you mean would we listen only to vocal music in written in English, say, or French, or German? I can't think any of us here would settle for that.
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boston
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Post by boston » Sat Jul 08, 2006 11:38 am

Hi IcedNote
Just a little message of support for the original idea (as I understand it)of your post- as it certainly struck a chord with me.
I was emotionally transported , particularly by Italian Opera long before I found out the literal meaning of the text. Subsequent familiarity with the storyline of most opera that I listen to has not increased the emotional impact of the music. On the other hand my Mother who has always been an avid reader is frustrated with opera in foreign languages and needs to know the sense of the words in order to enjoy it more fully. Best not to know in certain cases - Trovatore for instance with all that throwing the wrong baby on the fire stuff!

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Re: Do you prefer vocal pieces in languages you dont underst

Post by Harvested Sorrow » Sun Jul 09, 2006 12:14 am

IcedNote wrote:Know what I mean? For example, if you speak German but not Italian, would you rather listen to a Wagner opera or a Verdi one, just on the language aspect alone?

I find that I prefer when classical music is sung in languages that I'm not familiar with. I feel it adds a certain mysteriousness to it. Of course, I realize that this makes me lose some appreciation for the beauty of the piece (i.e. text painting), but I'm OK with that because I enjoy the overal sonic beauty of it more. Not understanding the words, for me, isolates the voice as a purely musical entity, separating it from the "story-telling" mechanism that it otherwise acts as.

Whatdayasay? :)

-G
I enjoy it both in the language I can understand and in those I can't. However, certain things do work better for me in languages I can't understand (religious music for example), and I agree that it can add a mysterious feel at times.

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Post by Mark Antony Owen » Sun Jul 09, 2006 4:19 am

I prefer original language performances, for similar reasons to the OP. However, in opera, I first need an English version (where possible) with which to become familiar before switching back to the original language recordings.
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IcedNote
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Post by IcedNote » Sun Jul 09, 2006 8:39 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
IcedNote wrote:Haha...whoa! While this conversation about "original language" vs. "translated language" is interesting, it isn't at all what I meant! :shock: :P

No point in going against the grain now though! :wink:

-G
Did you mean would we listen only to vocal music in written in English, say, or French, or German? I can't think any of us here would settle for that.
Oops. Sorry for not clarifying further!

Boston and Harvested Sorrow responded to my question as it was intended.

Another example: Take an opera originally written in English and another originally written in German. Assume that the music is of equal quality. I would rather listen to the German one instead of the English one because I prefer not understanding the words.

Does that help?

-G
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premont
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Post by premont » Sun Jul 09, 2006 11:45 am

The original language is definitely preferable IMO. I listen to much early music, and the mere thought of e.g. Dufay´s "Vergine bella" or Grenon´s "La plus jolie at la plus belle figure" sung in my own language (modern Danish) makes me frown. This would be pure anachronism. Like hearing Caesar or Napoleon Ist speaking American in films.

I am fully convinced, that the music and text-music relationship is served best by using the original language. Better to try to get to understand this - or read a translation.

And even less I would let my understanding or lack of understanding of the original language dictate, what I would like to listen to.

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Post by premont » Sun Jul 09, 2006 11:59 am

Addendum:

I would prefer to understand the words, but only if it is the original language.

The thought of finding the music "more pure" or "more mystical", when I don´t understand the words, is strange in my eyes. A song is an integrated composition consisting of a text and the music set to it. Intended neglect of any of these two components equals amputation.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Jul 12, 2006 4:56 am

premont wrote:The original language is definitely preferable IMO. I listen to much early music, and the mere thought of e.g. Dufay´s "Vergine bella" or Grenon´s "La plus jolie at la plus belle figure" sung in my own language (modern Danish) makes me frown. This would be pure anachronism. Like hearing Caesar or Napoleon Ist speaking American in films.

I am fully convinced, that the music and text-music relationship is served best by using the original language. Better to try to get to understand this - or read a translation.

And even less I would let my understanding or lack of understanding of the original language dictate, what I would like to listen to.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you once say you'd like to try the Handel oratorios sung in German -?!---perhaps since you're a J.S. Bach fan.

I have "Solomon" (Ger.: "Solomo") and "Alexander Balus" in German, and I truly love the performances. I don't think I'd like this music sung in French or Italian, however.

Here in Mannheim, operas are usually performed in their original language; I certainly would never want to hear Schumann's "Genoveva" or any Wagner 'Musik-drama" sung in Italian!!!

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by mourningstar » Wed Jul 12, 2006 8:30 am

i prefer original, but there are some aria's i actually like in english, like "Voi che sapate" from Le Noizzi di Figaro, i like the english version too "tell me what loves is"
"Desertion for the artist means abandoning the concrete."

premont
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Post by premont » Wed Jul 12, 2006 11:46 am

Jack Kelso wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you once say you'd like to try the Handel oratorios sung in German -?!---perhaps since you're a J.S. Bach fan.
Jack
Dear Jack

No, I don´t think, I ever asked for Händel-recommendations sung in German - maybe a misunderstanding caused by my fallible English, but I asked for general recommendations of Händels vocal music. This is what I wrote then in your thread about the greatest underrated composers:

"But I don´t know much of Händels oratories except Messiah, and what I have heard hasn´t tickled my appetite sufficiently. But I should very much want to change that situation. What would you recommend to me as being the most "advanced" Händel work concerning harmonic expression and emotional range? And which recording? "


You recommended me some recordings resulting in a small Händel adventure, and some months ago I reported back to you in the thread "Any glaring omissions in your library" on your request, and this is what I wrote, seems as if you never noticed this:


"Yes, I looked a little around, and decided to acquire the Brilliant 40CD Händel compilation (I don´t care for what Corlyss calls it). A veritable and inexpensive goldmine of music.

It contains among others the recording of Belsazar, you recommended me, with Peter Schreier. But also Jephta and Messias, the Brookes passion, the Johannespassion, some operas, the Conoration Anthems, Water Music, Fireworks Music, Concerti Grossi opus 3 & 6, Organ concertos opus 4 & 7 and the complete Chambermusic (Sonatas for soloinstruments and continuo, Triosonatas).

I have never been an opera fan (probably my fault), maybe I have not yet reached that stage (pun intended), so I don´t care for the operas. Nor do I think, that Belsazar will become my daily listening, even if the interpretation is reasonably good though a tad conservative. Neither will Jephta, the recording of which, as far as I can judge, is very good with a strong team (John Mark Ainsley, Michael George and Christiane Oelze), but the recording of Messias - I didn´t own a recording of this - is very much to my taste, and I am happy to have got to know the two Passions. I knew the titles, but didn´t know they were that rewarding listening. The Water Music and Concerti Grossi are represented in reliable but a little workman-like recordings with The Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, and the Organ concertos are the Nadir of the box in rather uninspiring performances with Ivan Sokol, a Slovakian organist, who has made some impressive Bach recordings for OPUS. And at last but not least the chamber music in the excellent six-CD CDR recording with Philip Pickett, the late David Reichenberg and John Holloway among others. As you see, my wish to acquire a Händel Oratory turned into a somewhat longer, and for me most rewarding, Händel adventure.
"

Regards,

Eetu Pellonpää
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Post by Eetu Pellonpää » Thu Jul 13, 2006 2:39 am

Languages which I don't understand don't bother me, but it's easier to listen the voice as pure instrument, when I don't understand it. Then also irritating lyrics won't bother me. :D

PJME
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Vocalise

Post by PJME » Thu Jul 13, 2006 4:17 am

Some composers wrote "vocalises"( on the sound of "ah" or "oh" ,or humming etc)
No text ,beautiful music - Villa Lobos Bachiana nr 5, Rachmaninov/Dubensky

The use of wordless choruses is widely spread ( in filmscores too widely!):
Ravel (Daphnis) Debussy (Sirènes) Schmitt (Salomé) etc

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Post by Wallingford » Thu Jul 20, 2006 4:17 pm

To make ONE exception in my preferences for original languages:

I'd rather hear Rachmaninov's The Bells in English......simply because Poe's famous poetry cycle was English. And I can never think of Poe's masterwork without that insidious cadence (especially that repetition of "bells" in every penultimate line of the stanza). Deleting that is permissible, but Rachmaninov's text was taken from a "free translation," and I tend to distrust "free translations," just as much as I distrust "free trancriptions" in music.

Ormandy's first recording of the work (mid-50s) used English. Many prefer Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream this way.
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That the things we never had
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Getting ready for Christmas day
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