March 30, 2016

The Genius of W. Henri Zay

Avoice teacher and ardent follower of the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, W. Henri Zay (1869-1927) was a young man of twenty when he left Cleveland, Ohio, to study with William Shakespeare in London—the latter a leading voice teacher of his time as a result of his studies with the Milanese maestro Franceso Lamperti. Records indicated that Zay approached his studies with Shakespeare with the intent to teach voice, which he did shortly after breaking with his master about 7 years later, having served as Shakespeare's assistant and coming into contact with many musical luminaries. 

Zay—a baritone—taught in London for twenty years, quite successfully it seems, before returning to America with his British wife in 1916 and writing the book that would bring him a great deal of success as a voice teacher in New York City. 

Touted as an original method when it was published in 1917, Zay's Practical Psychology of the Voice and of Life was noted for "combining the principles of the Italian school of Bel Canto with the true French school of Masque Resonance," but what Zay really did was tap into the zeitgeist of his time—psychology and self-actualization being all the rage—while imparting technical information that was taught by exponents of Francesco Lamperti and Manuel García (notably Anna E. Schoen-René) and later surfaced in William Earl Brown's book Vocal Wisdom: The Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti in 1931.  

Calling his teaching "singing on the timbre," Zay wrote that... 

There is no English equivalent for the French word "timbre," so we must frankly appropriate it, as something which ought to be added to the general good, for in this manner the English language was formed. Also the English-speaking-race—but that is another story. 
What is the "Timbre"? It is difficult to describe; as mentioned before, it arises out of the principle of "liaison" in the French Language. The old Italians were careful to make all notes join, but the timbre is something more; it suggests an enveloping overtone which comes to a rounded point in the forward dome of the face, "dan le masque," as the French say. There is a strong vibration felt in the masque of the face, at a point immediately back of the nose, just under the eyes. I do not quite like to call it the hum in the voice, as the rather implies weakness, while the timbre gives strength; it is the forward humming ring, or ringing hum, which gives intensity and carrying power, solidity and character, whether the voice is loud or soft. It is powerful and insinuating, making it possible for the voice to be heard through a mass of orchestral sounds. It is the ring in the voice, the opposite of the shout. It is the natural overtone which bears the same relation to the fundamental tone as the spirit does to the body; it is the astral body of a tone, which carries the message from the singer to the audience. It gives the divine spark, which kindles sympathy in all within hearing, and its presence assures the singer that there is complete connection between his inner soul-forces and his outer means of expression. Without it no real expressive artistic singing can be done. 
Henri W. Zay. Practical Psychology of Voice and Life (Schirmer, New York), 1917: 24-25. 

Zay's genius, of course, was to take an old teaching and illuminate it in a new way. As such, the author gives the reader practical instruction towards attaining his outlined thesis, which entails a careful study of vowels. 

You can find Practical Psychology of Voice and of Life here and on the download page in the right-hand column. You can't miss it, since entries are filed according to the alphabet, and Zay is at the bottom of the list since it starts with a Z.

Zay died after contracting a severe cold and suffering a heart-attack at the age of fifty-seven. He left a wife and four children, one of whom became a noted sculptor. 

March 27, 2016

A Tribute to Mme. Viardot-García

The death of Madame Viardot-García at the advanced age of eighty-nine, brings to a close the history of the famous García family—that remarkable quartet of father, son and two daughters, who exerted so strong an infatuation upon the musical life of the past century. 

Such artists as Manuel García (Popolo di Vincente) the older, Manuel García, the son, Malibran and Pauline Viardot-García—who were both only artists by the grace of God, but also possessed the rare acquired attribute of supreme musicianship—are features of musical history, and any book which has for its subject a discussion of the art of singing and its most illustrious representatives, must devote a long chapter to the García family and its century long services to art. 

When a woman of the unique distinction of Madame Viardot-García has gone out from among the living, there will be many of her former pupils and friends who will take a melancholy pleasure in recalling memories of her gracious personality and artistic activity, and it is a chapter of these personal reminiscences which Madam Schoen-René, the well-known singing teacher of Berlin, has been kind enough to permit me to pass along to the readers of the "Musical Leader." During a period lasting more than two decades, Madam Schoen-René had the privilege of absorbing the pedagogical ideas of Madame Viardot, and her distinguished brother, Manuel García.           C. V. K. 

When the news of Madame Viardot's death reached me the first things that came into my mind was a remark she made to me a few years ago. 

I had gone by appointment to her studio, she having been gracious enough to promise an audition to my young pupil, George Meader, whom I had brought over from America in his European career. Very great claims had been made upon her time and strength that day, and thinking she looked rather fatigued, I said to her: "Perhaps you would rather postpone our appointment, as you must be very tired." Her answer was: "Mais non, non enfant! Sanchez que quand le Viardot ne travaillera plus, elle ne sera plus!" 

And it was as she said! 

A cessation of work with her, would mean a cessation of life, and is characteristic of the enormous vitality and indomitable energy of this remarkable woman that she worked until three days before her death and then died siting in her chair. 

I first made the acquaintance of Madame Viardot when I was a very young singer, and such a rare combination of genius, hearts and high intelligence, it is vouchsafed to one to meet only once in a lifetime. 

She was not only one of the greatest singers and artists, but one of the greatest musicians of the past century. Her brother, Manuel García, always said to me of her: "She was the greatest of us all," by which he meant not only the singularly gifted García family, but all of the distinguished coterie of singers—among them a Malibran, Jenny Lind, Grisi, Scaria, Stockhausen—who were fellow students of Madam Viardot in the studio of her brother.

'She was the greatest of us all.'


More is said and read now-a-days about the beautiful and gifted Malibran, because she was snatched away by an accident just at the time when she had commenced what promised to be a glorious career, and when all Europe was thronged to hear "The Malibran," and for this reason a halo cast by distance and a tragic fate hangs about her history. 

But Pauline Viardot-García, the younger sister, fulfilled her artistic career, and then retired to devote the remainder of her ninety years to the exercise of the pedagogical gifts, so pronounced in the García family. 

Madame Viardot never lived for herself, her family, nor the individual! She conceived her mission to be the broader one of serving her art, and any one who was sincerely and genuinely connected with any phase of this art, came in for a share of her interest. No on ever went out from an audition or a conversation the her without taking with him a fresh store of courage and inspiration. 

In 1865 she established herself in Baden-Baden where her home was at once the rendezvous of the aspiring singers and the great musicians of that time. Among her admirers was Richard Wagner, who advised his singers to study the bel canto and the art of singing Mozart, from Madame Viardot, as a solid foundation for the future dramatic work he would require of them. Among those who followed his advice, and built up their art upon this sure foundation, was Albert Neimann, the great Wagnerian tenor of the Berlin opera, of whom Madame Viardot said that he was the only tenor she new who had a genuine trill—and Marianne Brandt, the incomparable artist, who created the Kundry in the first Parsifal performance in 1882. 

Another devoted friend of the Baden-Baden days was Johannes Brahms, and when any one of use was studying a Brahms song, it was sure to recall to her mind the circumstances under which she first heard it with Brahms himself acting as her accompanist.

Another Brahms reminiscent had to do with his notorious, and as she thought, pernicious habit of early rising. "I loved Hans, but not when he appeared under my windows early on the morning of every July 18th, to usher in my birthday with a chorus of woman's voices, selected and trained from among my pupils. It used to annoy me to be aroused from my righteous slumbers, and I once threatened to cool their ardor by emptying a pitcher of water upon their heads."

Madame Viardot was one of the first to recognize Brahms' talent, and not only encouraged who shy young composer, but exercised an undeniable influence upon his lyrical expression by her shape and sound criticisms. 

Other pupils of the Baden-Baden days were Pauline Lucca, Desire Artot de Padilla, Madame Schulz von Asten, Madam Orgeni, Madame Colonne, Madame Cavallo, and others. She was a teacher of great artists, who have reverently handed down her traditions. 

It was in Baden-Baden that the great Russian novelist Turgieneff first came into her life. It is easy to understand how a woman of her unusual mental capacity and singular fascination should have taken captive the fancy of a kindred mind, and impelled him to forsake country and family to be near her during the last twenty years of his life.

To him she furnished the same inspiration that George Sand once did to Chopin, or Mathilde Wesendonk to the impressionable mind of Richard Wagner. Turgieneff himself has admitted the doubt of admiration he owed to his high minded friend, and in his "Triumph gesang der Liebe," a direct tribute is paid the woman who had fascinated and fettered this man of genius. 

His fortune, estate of Bongival in the vicinity of Paris, his literary legacy, were all bequeathed to Madame Viardot, and should the correspondence between these two gifted friends ever be made public (from a personal standpoint always a thing to be deplored), it would undoubtedly have the same charm for the reader as the Browning correspondence or the Wesendonk letters. 

The idea has always prevailed that Madam Viardot withheld her recognition from the trend of modern music, but this is erroneous. She had the greatest admiration for Richard Wagner's genius and intelligence, the music of Cornelius, Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss and even the most ultra modern of them all, Claude Debussy, she knew intimately, and never for a moment denied its beauty and its raison d'être. 

But she regarded it as dangerous for untrained voices, and considered that to be able to give these songs their fullest expression, without injuring the voice, required an unusually solid and thorough study of the art of bel canto

She was fond of saying that "there comes a time when music like any other art reaches a crisis, and just now the mode of expression of the age is that of intense realism; but the extreme once touched, it gradually flows back again into its normal channels of beauty of tone an purity of contour." 

One of the most grievous complaints of her later years was that so many singers produced either a nasal of a throaty tone, and this to her mind was incomprehensible. 'What is this I am always hearing about new methods' she would say: 'There is only one method and it is the pure, beautiful tone. In singing the tone must flow 'as easily and naturally as in speaking.'

'What is this I am always hearing about new methods' she would say: 'There is only one method and it is the pure, beautiful tone. In singing the tone must flow 'as easily and naturally as in speaking.' 


Madame Viardot was recognized as the greatest Mozart authority of the last century. She had her traditions at first hand from her father, not only the good fortune of creating many of the tenor roles but was admitted to the select circle of the Mozart family in Vienna.

He believed it to be his mission to preserve the traditions of Mozart for the next generation of singers, and it is therefor not strange that Madame Viardot should have looked upon Mozart as her musical Bible, and expounded its teachings as no second has done.

In 1885, when the manuscript of "Don Juan" was offered for sale in England, and had been refused by the British museum, the Berlin and Vienna Royal libraries, she bought it for the sum of £500. Later the Berlin library sought to make good this remarkable sin of omission by endeavoring to buy from her the "Don Juan" to add to its famous collection of Mozart manuscripts, but the offer was roundly declined, chiefly, it is said, because of Madame Viardot's strong anti-Prussian feeling. About fifteen years ago, she presented the manuscript to the musical archives of the Paris Conservatoire, but retained the right to keep it in her possession as long as she lived. 

As a matter of fact, she had great reason to like Prussian institutions, as both she and her pupils received warm recognition in the Prussian capital, and at the time which has been called the "Golden Age" of the Berlin opera, nearly all the leading singers were Viardot pupils.

For a short time, Madame Viardot was the teacher of Madame Marchesi, which rather curious coincidence came about in this way: Manuel García, was very ill with typhoid fever, and as he did not wish to disband his large class of international pupils, he persuaded his young sister to take over his work. Among the pupils who presented themselves during the lesson hours was a young girl who have her name as Mathilde Grumman, later to be know as the distinguished singing teacher, Madame Mathilde Marchesi.

Not only great singers and artists when out of her studio, but distinguished composers went in to profit by the intelligent advice she was ever so ready to give. Among them was Meyerbeer, and it was Madame Viardot he had in mind, when he wrote the big role of "Fides" in Le Prophete. It was she who created the role at the Paris Grand Opera and in Berlin and the Viardot cadenzas have remained the traditional ones for the Fides of succeeding generations.

Another role in which she achieved some of her greatest triumphs was the Gluck "Orpheus," which she created on the occasion of its resurrection in the Theatre Lyrique in Paris (1859), and she was the original Sapho of the Gounod opera. This composer, as well as he colleagues, Massenet and Saint-Saens were frequent visitors to her studio. and have frankly acknowledged the debt they owe to her musical intuition and inspiring sympathy.

Once, after hearing the young coloratura, Marcella Sembrich, she said to Ambroise Thomas: "Here is a young singer who will make a great career; you would do well to write an opera for her!"

Among the younger generation of singer who have hone forth from her studio is Madam Greville Reache, of whom she said to me that she considered her the greatest Delilah, and that Saint-Saens corroborated her opinion; another was the late Mrs. Henry Wood, of London.

Madam Viardot strongly opposed the theory of vocal limitations which characterize the present generation of singers. She held that every singer must have an absolute equalized compass of two octaves, and that the voice must be flexible, and at the same time so broad as to be capable of singing roles widely differing in character.

From her father she learned the justification of this theory and was herself able to prove it by alternating between Orpheus and Rosina or Fides and Lucia.

I have often heard her say that Madam Lilli Lehmann was the last living exponent of such a degree of artistic versatility as to enable her to sing with equal perfection a Mozart or a Wagnerian role.

A lesson in the Viardot studio was a thing to be counted by seconds and minutes, but was always a genuine artistic experience.

"Bon jour, ma petite! Comment allez-vous mon enfant!" was her invariable greeting, and indeed all of us felt like little children when we stood in the presence of this great woman.

She was always exquisitely dressed, and with her crown of snow-white hair under which flashed the coal-black eyes of the Spaniard, she exercised an immediate and irresistible fascination. She had the greatest amount of tact, and understood how to extract from the pupils an account of their home, surroundings, and financial condition. A look of depression at once elicited from her an interested "qu'est-ce que c'est?" And soon she was in possession of the entire story.

"Now let us sing something very gay, for you must learn to sing just contrary to the way you feel, and thus acquire the imagination of expression!"

As soon as the lesson began, she was the strict pedagogue and all personal feeling was merged into a serious and objective attitude toward the work at hand.

She was always her own accompanist, and as she had been a favorite pupil of Liszt's, her work at the piano was alway done in a masterly manner. I should like to add that one proof of her phenomenal musicianship was to be found in the fact that she played every opera from memory.

She had a virile, masculine attack and the first emphatic chord she played was naturally calculated to arouse a fluttering of alarm not only in the heart of the timid voice, but even of the better poised and more experienced artists.

Courage soon came, and after many repetitions the coveted word of praise was gained. "Enfant C. A! Va! Allez!"

Often on very critical days this reassuring point was not easily reached and then she would cry half in jest, and half in earnest "Sapristi!" or some other term equally drastic.

But as soon as she saw the signals of distress flying in the face or eyes of the pupil, she would immediately relent.

"Don't be discouraged! It must come and it will come! If you had no faults, you would not be studying with me!"

Until the very last she retained her incredibly sharp ear, and it was impossible to deceive her, however cleverly you though had had taken your breath in the wrong place, or sough to make good an overlooked legato connection by the use of a bit of finesse.

She was looked upon as an expect diagnostician and prognosticator and I recall a rather painful episode which occurred in her studio, on the occasion of the visit which I have referred above.

A singer was announced who asked if Madam would have to me try her voice. At first Madam manifested some reluctance, but when she heard that her visitor had made the trip from Leipzig to Paris for that sole purpose, and was ready to cry with disappointment, she consented. The singer then explained that she was contemplating going over in grand opera, and had been told that no one could give so expert an opinion as to the advisability of such a change as Madam Viardot.

"Well, let us hear you sing something!" What was my consternation to hear her begin the "Dummer, dummer Reiter" from the Lusitge Witwe! With a pained and puzzled face, Madam turned to me and asked: "Child, what is she singing? I tried to explain that it was something from the 'Lustige Witwe.' 'But what is the Lustige Witwe?'

When the fact that it was the latest operetta success of Germany and been borne in upon Madam, she felt that dignity had been trifled with, and was inclined to show but scant mercy to her visitor. She was gradually appeased, however, and made an appointment for the next day, adding with severity: "But mind, that you bring me no more such rubbish! How am I to judge of your qualifications for grand opera of such trivial music." My young pupil, who was already fairly shaking in his hoes at the thought of his impending audition, turned to me and whispered "If she were to talk that way to me, I would sink though the floor!"

Madam Viardot was equally at home in all languages; I have been in her studio when French, English, German, Italian, Spanish and Russians were present, and a stranger would have had difficulty in detecting her nationality, as she had mastered the various languages down to the subtler idioms.

She had, perhaps, less real fondest for the German, but that did not prevent her form being extremely critical, and she always aid that unless the German language were faultlessly pronounced, it was the ugliest musical language in the world. She was particularly severe with her German pupils, and when she encountered especially obstinate consonants she would say ironically: "Now tell me from what part of Germany do yo come!"

I must not forget to mention that Madam Viardot, who had the kindest heart imaginable, could be roused to a real exhibition of temper, when she found herself the victim of an ungrateful pupil or a faithless friend. "There is in the whole world nothing lower and more despicable than ingrates and liars. They may have success for a time, but the day or reckoning will surely come."

On this point, she was bitter and unrelenting, and any one who had forfeited her favor by an exhibition of these dastardly qualities, could never hope to be reinstated in her good graces.

Every lesson with his wonderful woman was a revelation, and an inspiration, and will remain an indelible memory to the hundreds of pupils, who are mourning her loss.

—Anna Eugenie Schoen-René, "A Tribute to Mme. Viardot-García," The Musical Leader, June 16, 1910: 3-5.

March 16, 2016

A True Representative of the García Method

Anna E. Schoen-René (1864-1942)

A True Representative of the García Method——Notable Career of a Teacher of Opera Singers: 


Mme. Schoen-René to Resume Activities in America after an Absence of Nine Years Abroad, Presents George Meader in Opera and Concert in Europe, Many Singers Give Credit to Distinguished Teacher for Successes

Some time in the early part of 1892 a young singer who had been engaged for the Metropolitan opera by Abbey, Schoeffel and Grau, and who had made a conspicuous success in opera houses abroad where Schumann-Heink was already a favorite, came to America for fame and fortune and found them in Minneapolis, to which city she had been sent by order of a physician. She was what is known "run down in health" and Minneapolis was chosen on account of its unusual climate which had been guaranteed to make people with delicate throats well. The singer was Anna Eugenie Schoen-René. Although her stay was originally planned for a few weeks only, the Northern climate was so salubrious that she determined to make her home in Minneapolis. Mme. Schoen-René was a remarkable artist in every sense of the word, but the chronic state of asthma made it impossible for her to continue on the opera stage or concert boards, so she turned her attention to teaching. She was a pupil of the old García and had been accredited an authorized representative and it was not long before she became the most talked of singing teacher of the Northwest, and pupils from all parts of the country went to study with her. 

While the air in Minneapolis was exceedingly beneficial, yet the artists atmosphere was extremely thin. In fact, it is truer to say there was none. Schoen-René, accustomed to an esthetic environment and the society of musicians, felt as lost musically as if she had been placed on the Desert of Sahara and she proceeded practically to initiate the Minneapolitans into appreciating good music by given a series of concerts which she presented the most famous artists.  In the subsequent eighteen years she became one of the most active managers in the United States, but without neglecting her studio or filching time from her class. She contrived to arrange the concerts in her leisure hours and in due course Minneapolis heard, under her direction, Seidl and his orchestra, he Chicago Symphony (then the Thomas Orchestra); in fact, all the great organizations which were traveling during those years. 

Melba, Schumann-Heink, Alice Neilsen, Campanini, Plançon, Scotti, Caruso, Godowsky, Fremstad, Lhevinne, Nordica, Paderewsky, Calvé, Harold Bauer, The Metropolian Opera Company, etc., were all heard under her management. Through her extraordinary energy and enterprise, the public on Minneapolis became appreciative of good music and her concerts were the most successful ever offered in the Northwest; Schoen-René had become a vital force, the greatest factor in creating and building the music of the great city. Her concert course was the forerunner of the splendid Minneapolis Orchestra, which is now the city's chief last and artistic pride. Each year from October till the following May, she devoted herself to her class and concert course, then she sailed away for her annual summer visit to the Garcías (Manuel and Pauline Viardot). For twenty-five summers she aws a pupil of Manuel García. She was assistant during the summer months to Mme. Viardot for both the famous brother and sister thoroughly realized her genius for teaching and her command of what is known as the García method. 

They announced Schoen-René as the absolute representative and prophesied that her's would be a wonderfully successful career. So much did they appreciate her work that they called her pupils their artistic grandchildren. Mme. Schoen-René took her last lesson of García when he was ninety-nine years old. She describes him as being mentally alert and as powerful in his teaching as in the prime of life. Of course, when he walked, he was very much bent, but when he sat at the piano he straightened up and had as much fire and enthusiasm as if he had been a young teacher. She said it was marvelous the hold the had upon his pupils and how he could immediately detect the fault in placement and almost as immediately correct it. Pauline Viardot was in Mme. Schoen-René's experience almost as compelling as her brother. Preceding the study with the Garcías, Mme. Schoen-René had been a pupil of the elder Lamperti in Milan. She also coached during her vacation with Mme. Clara Schumann, with whom she studied the Schumann songs. Another great experience was her acquaintance with Brahms, which extended over several years during which she studied his songs with him and subsequently became known as one the Brahms interpreters.

She said it was marvelous the hold he had on his pupils and how he could immediately detect the fault in placement and almost immediately correct it. 

Unlike some of her colleagues, Mme. Schoen-René early discovered that to be a real success over here, one should became an American citizen; she did not wait to be urged, but when opportunity offered she immediately secured her first papers, and as quickly as the second could be obtained procured these also. All this happened some twenty-two years ago. About 1910 she concluded that certain pupils were about due for operatic experience, which could not be had in this country, and with several students, including the remarkable tenor George Meader, she journeyed to Europe, where she at once found recognition. Students went from America on purpose to be with the woman, who for many years, had been the leading singing teacher of Minneapolis. It was not difficult for her to have the entree, nor the hearing in the opera houses, since her family was extremely well known in the Rhenish district; her mother having been a French woman and her father a Rheinlander. It was from her studio abroad that she launched George Meader, whose Scandinavian and Swiss successes excited enormous interning and who was received also with extraordinary favor in Munich and Dresden and sensationally acclaimed. His first lesson was taken from Schoen-René in Minneapolis when he was nine years old; his boy voice being of rare beauty. Unlike most prodigies, Mr. Meader became a great artist for either oratorio, opera or song recital. He is still studying with Schoen-René, although now, at the age of thirty-two, he has enjoyed such triumphs as fall to the lot of few artists. 

Schoen-René has remarkable gifts, is a very fine musician, a cultured woman and has extraordinary talent for teaching the García method. Circumstances connected with her personal affairs have brought her recently to America for she has large interests in the Northwest and Chicago. Since war was declared, she was unable to leave battle-scarred Europe, but a few weeks ago she was handed her passport as an American citizen. 

Having now taken permanent residence in her adopted country, she will continue the good work she did in her studio abroad. She says that that loveliest voices come from the Western States and as to pupils she likes the serious purposeful students. Schoen-René will have plenty of opportunity of carrying out her ideas and ideals for the students in America, who during the last four years, have desired to study with her and who could not go abroad, have been extremely numerous. That Schoen-René is of the world's really great vocal teachers is genuinely acknowledged. 

Mme. Schoen-René inaugurated also the Musical Department of the Minneapolis University, under whose auspices she gave many notable concerts. This continued for a period of twenty years. She also conducted choruses of mixed voices and glee clubs, all of which she founded. The great success of the University's Musical Faculty is attributed to the work she did in its creating and building. 

She will open her studios in New York about Sept. 15. 

— The Musical Leader, August 28, 1919: 203.


Note: It was Pauline Viardot-García, rather than Manuel García, with whom Madam Schoen-René was a student for "twenty-five summers," Schoen-René meeting the father of voice science for the first time in 1896 and studying with him until his death in 1906. 

March 8, 2016

A Tribute—Pauline Viardot-García

Katherine Evans von Klenner 

To the Musical Courier: 


When one of the elect departs from us we feel an irretrievable loss. If it is a friend who goes the bitter from of loneliness and sadness is added. 

To me she was a friend, and inspiration, a resplendent example worthy of imitation—an ideal. Not in a selfish way her life was an epitome of fulfillment, in the broadest sense of the word, and the call to "pass on" found her still in the midst of a life filled with activities which might well have exhausted a younger woman. 

The innermost conviction that in her we have lost the last representative of that grand old school of bel canto—Kunstgesang—of singing as an art, only to be gained by years and years of technical studies, adds greatly to the poignancy of our grief. On one occasion she expressed her opinion about modern singing as follows: 

Art at present is a fashion. Good health and good lungs are the requirements for singing the present school of music. Vocally it consists of declamatory sounds. Adieu to trills, scales and arpeggios. They require too much time and work. What is required now is the financial result as soon as possible—and technical proficiency requires years of study. Nevertheless, the singer who has mastered the Italian method—so called—will render the modern Wagner and modern school of composition more easily, retaining the beauty and freshness of voice much longer than those lacking this technical training. 

Madame Viardot-García was not by any means a teacher in the usual sense of the word. She was an ideal pedagogue—an educator in the widest sense. A master of everything in music, she gave to her pupils—especially those who were fortunate enough to be admitted into the inner circle of her home life, and to whom she gave her special courses preparatory for her teachers' degrees—her deepest knowledge and experiences, with a self abandon and enthusiasm remarkable, no detail being too small to receive her strict attention. Her pupils became so impressed with the idea of perfection, their highest test for their work, either in singing or teaching, would be: "What would Madam Viardot say to this: will my work stand the test of her severe analysis and criticism?" 

The analytical nature of this method makes the graduate pupil absolute master of his voice, and no vocal difficulty exists which cannot be easily overcome by a García trained voice. Madam Viardot taught the purest traditions of grand opera—as studied and sung by herself—uniting the knowledge an suggestions of the composers with whom she sang to her own wonderful music inspiration. One who has studied the operas with her knows what cease to be traditions and become facts. As a composter, author and litterateur her name will be among the great. Add to this that charming simplicity and dignity of manner which belongs to the real aristocrat and you hold the key to the irresistible magnetism of her personality, which gathered around her royalty of birth, art, science and literature, and which made her salon famous the world over. As a great statesman once said in my presence. "There are many queens and kings, but only one Viardot." The last years of her life she has spent writing her autobiography, and as her associations go back to a time when Beethoven held her in his arms gave her his musical blessing we may easily imagine the wealth of anecdote and experiences therein contained and the interest all musicians will feel in reading this work when published. 

The world has lost a great artist and musician, but some few of us mourn our truest friend and counselor, whom we loved, not because of her greatness, but because of her love for us and the honor she conferred upon us by allowing us to be one of that "inner circle." Nowadays we hear of pupils recommending teachers. With such as Pauline Viardot-García, to have been her accepted pupil and friend was the greatest honor any teacher could acquire. To live in the hearts and lives of those whom we have inspired to greater and better deeds is in itself immortality. Longfellow's epitaph to Albrecht Dürer may here be applied. 

Emigravit is the inscription on the tombstone where she lies,
Dead she is not, but departed, for the artist never dies.


—The Musical Courier, June 12, 1910: 18.


Note: Pauline Viardot-García died May 18th, 1910. Viardot-García's student Katherine Evans von Klenner was her first certified representative in America, the second being Anna E. Schoen-René. See the labels below for more information. 

March 5, 2016

The Spot


The sphenoid sinus is at the top of the pharynx. Stick your finger in your mouth and touch the soft palate (try not to gag), and right above it is where the sphenoid sinus is located. It's in the middle of  the head, and is the "spot" that is highlighted in Vocal Wisdom: The Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti. It's the place where vowel and tone must start.

Why does vibration always "hit' the same spot at the top of the pharynx? Because there is an open path to that spot. What helps me to "feel" the start of vibration at this post-nasal spot in the head? The sympathetic reverberation of the middle sinus in the skull—an enclosed cavity in the head directly above the pharynx. In fact the bony structure of the skull reports all that happens in the throat.   
William Earl Brown, Vocal Wisdom: The Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti (1931): 113. 

Is it real, this resonance? Nope. Sorry. If we drilled a hole in your head and put a probe into the sphenoid sinus, we would not find that it resonated when you sang with all the ring you could muster. Voice scientists are right on that score: the vocal tract really is the only resonator.

However, the spine does conduct sound/vibration into the head from the larynx and vocal tract. It's called bone conduction (I find the term "forced resonance"—though accurate scientifically—to be limiting). It is felt, and one of two avenues whereby vocalization is perceived by the singer. It is anticipated by the singer who has a highly developed feel for his or her voice. This is why many teachers say you should "feel" yourself rather than "listen" to yourself. What they may not know, however, is that the audition of bone conduction is a vestibular function of the ear, and is self-listening of the highest order and importance to the singer, which the Old School called voice placement.

What vocal technique did the Old School use to develop awareness of the "spot"?

Long practice on mezza voce, which Clifton Cooke—an exponent of the García School—called the centrale voice.

Find the center of your head and you have found your voice. 

March 1, 2016

The Great Schoen-René's Resume


You see before you Anna E. Schoen-René's resume from the University of Minneapolis c. 1906. Schoen-René went on to teach in Berlin as the García's representative, until returning to America and teaching at the Juilliard School in New York, where her students included Risé Stevens and Margaret Harshaw. While Schoen-René emphasized her connection the the Garcías—her first teacher Schultzen von Asten having been a student of Viardot-García—she also studied with the great Milanese maestro Francesco Lamperti, whom she noted as being an "exponent" of Manuel García! Impertinence or fact? It certainly makes one think. 

Resume for Anna E. Schoen-René c. 1906, University of Minneapolis