Foreman’s Historical Perspectives: Other Methods

In the years immediately following the publication of Part I of the Traité in 1840, the writing of books on voice did not increase significantly. In 1846, Dr. L.A. Segond, of the Medical Faculty of Paris, published Hygiène du chanteur. Segond was a pupil of Garcia, and his work is mentioned in a footnote on the first page of Part II of the Traité.

In 1848, H.F. Steinmann—writing under the pen-name “Mannstein”—published the first investigation of the Italian school, Die grosse italienische Gesangschule. This signaled an awareness that the old school was fading from view, and was the beginning of a reevaluation of the Italian methods which included Hugo Goldschmidt’s two books, Die italiänische Gesangsmethode des 17 Jahrhunderts und ihre Bedeutung für die Gegenwart (1890), and Die Lehre von der vokalen Ornamentik (1907), both extensive, if flawed, studies of the Italian school.

Italian authors are scarce. In 1848, Fabrizio Casella published Compendia dell’opera sulle teorica per l’arte del canto; Niccolò Vaccai’s well-known Dodici ariette per camera per l’insegnamento del belcanto italiano came out sometime in the early 1840s.1

The publication of Garcia’s laryngoscopic observations in 1855 did not cause immediate reaction in the form of publications. It was not until 1859 that the Germans began to enter the field with books based on physiology such as C.G. Nehrlich’s Der Kunstgesang physiologisch, pädgogisch und äesthetisch dargestellt. Eine Gesang-Schule für gebildete Stände, and Wilhelm Schwartz’ System der Gesangkunst nach physiologischen Gesetzen; ein theoretischpraktisches Lehrbuch.

In 1861, a Garcia disciple, Emma Seiler, published Altes und Neues über die Ausbildung des Gesangorganes mit besondere Rücksicht auf die Frauenstimme2 Seiler “discovered” a register above the female head voice, which she called “the flageolet register.”

This period also saw the proliferation of “personal” approaches to vocal pedagogy starting in the 1850s with such titles as The Singing Bird; The Cultivation of the Voice Without a Master; Cooke’s Method; The Vocalist’s Companion; Common Sense in Singing; Why We Sing and Where the Voice is Formed and Placed; Miller’s Thorough Vocal Instruction, Issued Semi-monthly; and two of my personal favorite titles, Voxometric Revelation and The Polychrome Lessons in Voice Culture.3

Many singers—some famous, some not—offered insights into singing. Luigi Lablache published his method sometime in the 1840s; Mme Cinti-Damoureau published Méthode de chant in 1850; Mme Mainevielle-Fodor published Réflexions et conseils sur l’art du chant in 1857, and so forth.

Professional teachers, a growing band of non-performing “voice specialists,” published their own methods, no doubt in part as self-advertisement. Garcia is, of course, the prime example, followed by his pupils Salvatore and Mathilde Marchesi and their daughter Blanche.4

All of this activity would be relatively harmless if it were not that many authors trumpeted their claims to have “discovered” new information about how the voice worked, how to shorten the period of study required, and in some cases, to have rediscovered the “secrets of bel canto.”

Nobody seems to have been willing to take seriously the ancient dictum that you can’t learn to sing from a book. The necessity of an informed, objective and highly intuitive ear was completely overlooked.5

Foreman, Edward. Authentic Singing: The history of singing. Vol. 10. Pro Musica Press, 2001.

NOTES

  1. Niccolò, or Nicola, Vaccai died in 1848, and Duey, Philip A.: Bel Canto in its Golden Age dates this c. 1840. Monahan gives two dates in his list, neither one with this title. This is the first use of “bel canto” in print in the title of an instruction manual. The book, which is still in use—I was brought up on it—is a set of short ariettas, each of which poses a different vocal problem. They are solfeggi in the old style, only with words.
  2. Monahan says that while she was a student of Friederich Wieck—Clara Schumann’s father—and Helmholtz, she quotes Garcia extensively. She emigrated to the United States in 1866. Her book was published in English as The Voice in Singing, in 1868, and was one of the most widely quoted of the period, hence we may infer it was influential.  Monohan, Brent Jeffrey: The Art of Singing, A Compendium of Thoughts on Singing Published Between 1777 and 1927. Metuchen NJ, 1978;
  3. For a much more complete list, some annotated, see Monohan, Brent Jeffrey: The Art of Singing, A Compendium of Thoughts on Singing Published Between 1777 and 1927. Metuchen NJ, 1978;
  4. Blanche Marchesi did have a performing career, as did both her parents, all fairly brief. Blanche specialized in song recitals
  5. And of course there is the element of self-advertisement at work.

 

 

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