ANDERSON, Marian: Ev'ry Time I Feel The Spirit (1930-1947) (David Lennick/ Franz Rupp/ Jimmy Beckly/ Kosti Vehanen/ Marian Anderson/ Studio Orchestra/ William King/ William Primrose) (Naxos: 8.120779)
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MARIAN ANDERSON Vol.2
\Ev'ry Time I Feel The Spirit" Original 1930-1947 Recordings
For the greater part of her long life MarianAnderson was an all-American Legend. Internationallyacclaimed as a recitalist (opera wasnever to be her niche) she was the first femaleblack American artist to win full recognition inher native country. She furthered the traditionset by other American Negro concert artists(including the tenor John Payne and sopranoEdna Thomas, and the baritone-songwriterHenry Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949) and histenor protege Roland Hayes, 1887-1977) andher name, quite apart from any obvioussymbolism of black emancipation,was fordecades a synonym for the finest performancesnot only of spirituals but also of German liederand European and Scandinavian art song.
Whatever she sang with that 'biblical voice',that 'incomparable stream of resonance' whichLauri-Volpi aptly defined an 'unexpected fusionof contralto, mezzo and soprano', her dynamicpresence and communicating power madeAnderson in many senses a pioneering spirit.
The daughter of an iceman and coalmerchant and a laundress, Marian was born inSouthern Philadelphia on 19 February 1897, inhumble but God-fearing circumstances, whichgave no indication of the glorious career thatwas to follow. Musically gifted, as a child sheplayed both violin and piano and from the ageof six sang in the South Philadelphia UnionBaptist Church Choir. Her father died whenshe was twelve and from that point her mothertook the reins, encouraging Marian musically.
In her teens, still billed 'The 10-year-oldcontralto', she appeared regularly in spiritualconcerts and at one of these events she was'discovered' by no less a figure than Hayeshimself, who promptly recommended herprecocious talent to concert promoters.
By 1923, when she entered and won aPhiladelphia singing competition,Anderson wasalready a seasoned performer but aspired tofurther study at the Philadelphia Academy.
When denied admission to that establishmenton racial grounds, she moved instead to NewYork for private tuition first with GiuseppeBoghetti and subsequently with Frank La Forge(1879-1953), the Illinois-born pianist, songwriterand vocal coach through whose introduction, in1924, she made her first recordings, for Victor.
These included 'Deep River' and 'My Way'sCloudy', two of the many now standardspiritual arrangements by the Pennsylvania-bornBurleigh.
In mid-1925,Anderson outstripped 300other applicants in a competition, whichcarried the prize of a New York Philharmonicconcert at the Lewisohn Stadium on 27 August.
Although this success won her nationalrecognition, she had already set her sights ongreater, transatlantic, opportunities for furthertraining and, under the auspices of the NationalAssociation, she travelled to England. There, shewas encouraged by, among others, theconductor Sir Henry J.Wood (she made her firstWigmore Hall appearance with him in 1928)and soon found herself launched on a Europeanconcert career.
Whilst the novelty of a black womanperforming with such authority - in the originallanguages and at prestigious venues - formedpart of the attraction, the charm of her stagepresence and the musicality and sheer range ofher singing swung the pendulum unequivocallyin Marian's favour. From 1927 the concertplatforms of Europe's cultural centres were herpreferred habitat, although her 1929 New YorkCarnegie Hall drew a less than unequivocalresponse. After retiring for further study (inStockholm with the renowned teacher MmeCharles Cahier (1870-1951), the Nashville-borndaughter of General Walker and former MetropolitanOpera contralto) she next embarked, in1930, on the first of her many European andScandinavian concert tours. Rapturouslywelcomed wherever she appeared (and mostnotably in Paris,Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona,Geneva, Berlin and in the Soviet Union) shefilled houses and caused a sensation.
Between 1930 and 1932 Marian Andersongave more than fifty recitals in Scandinaviaalone and, just as McCormack would dish up,without condescension,Thomas Moore andErnest R. Ball in the same programme asHandel, Brahms and Wolf, a typical Andersonrecital featured Negro spirituals (Heav'n,Heav'n (I Got A Robe), Sometimes I FeelLike A Motherless Child,Were You Thereand Ev'ry Time I Feel The Spirit were amongthe most frequently aired) alternating arias byBach, Handel and Scarlatti with 'standards' bySchubert and Schumann, uttered in the sameidiomatic breath as Massenet and Rachmaninov.
Extended scenas, chosen to display her capacityfor more vocally demanding music,were alsoregularly featured: the mezzo-soprano showpiecesO mio Fernando (from Donizetti's Lafavorita, 1840) and Eboli's aria from Verdi'sDon Carlos, plus items appropriated from thesoprano repertoire, such as Lia's air fromTchaikovsky's Maid of Orleans (1879) andDebussy's cantata L'enfant prodigue (1884).
The recordings Anderson made in Londonin 1928 set a trend that would endear her to awider audience than that of the recital hall.
These discs, which were to become best-sellersthroughout English-speaking countries, includedspirituals, Handel's Messiah and impressive -and best-selling - accounts (in translation) ofDelilah's ever-popular solos:'Softly Awakes MyHeart' (this became her virtual signature-tune;see Naxos Nostalgia 8.120566) and O Love,From Thy Power (this last sung here in a1930 recording made in Berlin, for Artiphon).
From the mid-1930s she recorded a mosteclectic lieder repertoire, in sessions in Parisand New York.
Between 1933 and 1934 Anderson touredextensively in Europe, Scandinavia and Australiaand her triumphant appearance at the 1935Salzburg Festival prompted Toscanini's famouspronouncement that hers was a voice that 'isheard but once in 100 years'. During 1937 shegave seventeen recitals in Buenos Aires aloneand final acceptance in her own countryseemed imminent, after warm receptionsaccorded to her recitals at New York's TownHall (November 1935) and Carnegie Hall(January 1936). Around this time she madevarious recordings of lieder and songs byScandinavian composers including the FinnsSibelius and Palmgren, whose works sheactively promoted in her recitals.
In 1938 Marian Anderson received anhonorary Doctorate of Letters from HarvardUniversity and even sang at the White Housefor President Franklin D and Mrs EleanorRoosevelt, before national controversyovershadowed her attempt to appear atConstitution Hall in Washington DC inFebruary 1939. On that occasion theDaughters of the American Revolution citedtheir segregation clause to debar her but whenEleanor Roosevelt, a member of their selectcompany, threatened to resign in protest, theresulting publicity swung the decision inMarian's favour and, on 9 April, Easter Sunday,she gave her now legendary Lincoln MemorialConcert before a 75,000-strong audiencewhich, via NBC's coast-to-coast networkreached an estimated further 200,000 andearned her the 1939 Spingarn Award for the'highest and noblest achievement by anAmerican Negro'. Later in 1939, when KingGeorge V visited Washington, Marian was againsummoned to sing at the White House.
In 1945 Anderson sang at a reception forGeneral Eisenhower marking the end of theWar in Europe and in 1953 became the firstblack singer to perform at the Japaneseimperial court. On 7 January 1955 she realisedanother ambition when, aged 58 years, shemade a triumphant operatic debut at the NewYork Met (as the sorceress Ulrica in Verdi's Unballo in maschera) and, by the time her earlyvicissitudes were modestly recounted in hermemoir My Lord, What A Morning (New York,1956), she had added ambassadorial status toher credentials when she was delegated byPresident Eisenhower to the United NationsGeneral Assembly for the 1957 and 1958sessions.