Concone and Panofka in the Studio

I first became aware of Giuseppe Concone and Heinrich Panokfa several years ago, when I read John Ardoin’s book “Callas at Juilliard”.

In the book, Callas makes the case for using the Concone and Panofka books as a method of understanding ‘bel canto’ style and keeping the voice ‘limber’.

During her Masterclasses, she put every single student on Concone and Panofka vocalises.  She explains the purpose for their use in the video below:

Anyone who visits my studio will always see that I have a copy of Concone, Panofka, and the Rossini Vocalises within arm’s reach. The Concone and Panofka vocalises are terrific resources for understanding issues like the trill, appoggiature, acciaccature, within a context of musical composition.  And they are a wonderful way to work on technico-musical skills.

While I use them quite a lot, I believe it’s important to make the distinction that the books are often endowed with properties that they do not have. What I mean is that if the voice is not functioning properly, using Concone and Panofka as a MEANS of achieving greater functional freedom is USELESS. They have NO inherent merit ON THEIR OWN.  To put it another way, singing Panofka and Concone ad nauseum is NOT going to help you with functional issues in the voice. You will either fall apart, or mechanically work to ‘disguise’ your vocal faults through the musical phrases.

Only the qualified ear of a teacher who understands the mechanism of the voice can guide the singer to overcome technical problems. Singing Panofka and Concone for hours on end will do no one any good. Once there is a level of technical freedom, the singer and teacher can move into exercises like these that place technical issues within a musical framework, to ‘test’ the function of the voice as it learns new skills. These vocalises SHOULD be the ‘bridge’ between pure technical vocalization/exercising and repertoire. They are wonderful for transitioning into a more musical context – but I urge caution to those who would think that singing them ALONE would be the sole way to master technical skills.

If the reader is interested in learning more about them, the Concone vocalises can be found here, and the Panofka here.

6 thoughts on “Concone and Panofka in the Studio

  1. Readers, if you want to see Justin’s point made very plain, search YouTube for concone or panofka and watch/listen to videos of random students trying to sing these vocalises. Of the roughly 60 videos I surveyed, how many do you think were properly sung with a functionally correctly structured voice?

    Zero! Or near zero. This was the healthiest example I could find:

    The others were, like, EGREGIOUSLY far away from healthy. I even found examples of singing teachers leading a *group class* through some of these vocalises. What actually is the point of that, other than precisely opposite their intention?

  2. NIck, you are SO on the money. A search of Panofka on YouTube resulted in some pretty frightening videos. I’m sure that those involved believe that they are ‘working on the voice’ in these exercises, when in reality they are actually incurring further difficulties in the vocal mechanism.

    Thank you as always for your well-taken point.

  3. The main problem in vocalizing is the proper closing of the vocal folds just before the attack of the open vowel, and coordination with the muscles involved. Playing the vocal line on the piano can help setting up coordination. You can find Panofka and Concone accompaniments with vocal melody added on (mp3 download), in every voice range.

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