Kathleen Ferrier

Born: 1912
Died: 1953

Though she died at 41, Ferrier established herself as one of the greatest singers of her age, leaving classic recordings of Gluck’s Orfeo, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and the folksong ‘Blow the wind southerly’. 

A tribute by contralto and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann

The contralto voice is a voice from the shadows. Kathleen Ferrier was the first woman who managed to bring it into the light. At a time when taste tends increasingly to the brilliance, the artifice and the registers of the high voice, listening to Kathleen Ferrier is like a soothing balm for the soul. It’s a rare voice, strange, disturbing. Often disliked by those who do not understand it; adored by those open to its prime quality: the natural proximity, the intimacy that resonates within you as if you were physically and directly connected to all the vibrations inside the body of the singer.

Kathleen Ferrier – because of her nature, the obvious sincerity of her personality, her ability to move us, her musicality, her kindly and radiant simplicity that is reflected so well in the colours of her voice – has become a myth. It still inspires us. To quote the poet Yves Bonnefoy: ‘It seems that you know both sides, the extreme joy and extreme pain there, down among the grey reeds in the light, it seems that you draw from the eternal.’ 

Recommended recording

Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Kathleen Ferrier contr VPO / Bruno Walter 

(Decca)

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