Friday, January 11, 2008


I read with dismay the things that are written about Cecilia.

People complain that she moves her hands in a funny way, when I see only conducting. She may want to think about this and make sure she only conducts when she really needs to. It didn't seem excessive to me. In one of my conducting classes we conducted with our eyebrows, which of course she can't do. But what about shoulder blades? I'm just kidding.

The concert avoided any loss of coordination amongst the conductorless ensemble and Cecilia, though Ada Pesch was officially listed as conductor. This was not always the case in Proibita with the same ensemble where things got chaotic at times. Cecilia's conducting appears to be necessary. She only needs to make sure it isn't becoming a habit.

People complain that the music is second rate. I think you can't do both: you can't accurately recreate the musical world of another era while insisting on performing only masterpieces. In any era there is a lot of music that critics judge not to be great. Keep in mind that this may at times include all of Italian repertoire (see Rosen). I ask myself if it accurately reflects Malibran? I think she was charismatic and outrageous, like a modern pop star, and not a sacred masterpiece. I think the selection of repertoire reflected the pop star nature of Malibran's career.

Rossini and Bellini are all there are of vocal masterpieces of the era in question. Are they all there was of music? Certainly not. The French and Germans went right on composing. Malibran sang Fidelio, but I don't think Cecilia is prepared to take that on. I eventually acquired a taste for Mendelssohn's "Infelice."

I still play the album and enjoy all the numbers, even the yodeling. I like the fullness in Cecilia's voice, something missing in the concert I saw. I like the album more than I liked the concert, for reasons related to voice. I agree that in the concert she sometimes sang too softly, something that can be compensated for on a recording. Or the editor can select a different take. I don't care for the tone to diminish beyond a certain point of clarity, but I cut her some slack because of the cold.

But when I listen, I hear the way the phrases are arranged rhythmically, the way they pulse with life. I hear enormous variety in the articulation of the coloratura. I hear how completely her performing style transforms to reflect the era and genre. I hear how the musical tension never flags. If you don't hear this, I hardly know what to say.

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