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Kathleen Ferrier

Although her career was tragically short, Kathleen Ferrier was among the most famous English singers of the twentieth century. Her contralto voice -- a rarity in itself -- was characterized by a firm, warm tone that found its expressive niche in the great works of oratorio and art song, as well as in her two operatic roles (only two!): Lucretia in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia and Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice.

Born in Lancashire on April 22, 1912, Ferrier studied the piano with great success as a child and intended a concert career; her concurrent vocal studies were considered more recreational in nature. In her mid-20s, however, after taking two first prizes at the 1937 Carlisle Festival -- one for piano and one for singing -- she made the decision to pursue singing as her vocation. She studied with J.E. Hutchinson in Newcastle upon Tyne, then with Roy Henderson in London.

During the years of WWII Ferrier toured widely in England, gaining a reputation as an especially fine concert artist. She joined the Bach Choir in London, and was alto soloist for a 1943 performance of Handel's Messiah at Westminster Abbey. Benjamin Britten first put her on the operatic stage at Glyndebourne on July 12, 1946, in the premiere of his chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia. She then toured with the work throughout England and appeared on an historic recording of major extracts from the work conducted by the composer. Britten would later compose the alto part in his Canticle No. 2 for her.

She appeared in the United States for the first time in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with the New York Philharmonic and Bruno Walter; her subsequent recording of the work -- also under Walter's direction -- remains a classic. Walter also appeared as her accompanist in lieder recitals in Edinburgh and London. Another of Ferrier's notable successes was the part of the Angel in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius.

In February 1953, Covent Garden staged Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice specifically for Ferrier, who was deemed ideal for the part of Orpheus. However, she was able to appear in only two of the scheduled four performances because of weakness caused by her already advanced cancer. These were her last appearances; she died in London on October 8, 1953. Before she died she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: A Tribute

Disc 1
Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
Title: Orfeo Ed Euridice (Italian Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 30

1. Orfeo Ed Euridice (Italian Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 30: What Is Life Without Thee?

2. Orfeo Ed Euridice (Italian Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 30: XVIII. Act 2. Scene 2. Che Puro Ciel! Che Chiaro Sol!

Composer: George Frideric Handel
Title: Rodelinda, Regina De' Langobardi, Opera, Hwv 19

3. Rodelinda, Regina De' Langobardi, Opera, Hwv 19: Art Thou Troubled?

Title: Serse (Xerxes), Opera, Hwv 40

4. Serse (Xerxes), Opera, Hwv 40: Ombra Mai Fu

Composer: Franz Schubert
Title: An Die Musik ("Du Holde Kunst..."), Song For Voice & Piano, D. 547 (Op. 88/4)

5. An Die Musik ("Du Holde Kunst..."), Song For Voice & Piano, D. 547 (Op. 88/4): An Die Musik ("Du Holde Kunst..."), Song for Voice & Piano, D. 547 (Op. 88/4)

Title: Der Musensohn ("Durch Feld und Wald zu schweifen"), song for voice & piano, D. 764 (Op. 92/1)

6. Der Musensohn ("Durch Feld und Wald zu schweifen"), song for voice & piano, D. 764 (Op. 92/1): Der Musensohn ("Durch Feld Und Wald Zu Schweifen"), Song for Voice & Piano, D. 764 (Op. 92/1)

Title: Gretchen Am Spinnrade ("Meine Ruh'..."), Song For Voice & Piano, D. 118 (Op. 2)

7. Gretchen Am Spinnrade ("Meine Ruh'..."), Song For Voice & Piano, D. 118 (Op. 2): Gretchen Am Spinnrade ("Meine Ruh'..."), Song for Voice & Piano, D. 118 (Op. 2)

Title: Die Junge Nonne ("Wie Braust Durch Die Wipfel"), Song For Voice & Piano, D. 828 (Op. 43/1)

8. Die Junge Nonne ("Wie Braust Durch Die Wipfel"), Song For Voice & Piano, D. 828 (Op. 43/1): Die Junge Nonne ("Wie Braust Durch Die Wipfel"), Song for Voice & Piano, D. 828 (Op. 43/1)

Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
Title: Elijah (Elias), Oratorio, Op. 70

9. Elijah (Elias), Oratorio, Op. 70: Woe Unto Them Who Forsake Him

10. Elijah (Elias), Oratorio, Op. 70: O Rest In The Lord

Composer: Robert Schumann
Title: Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42

11. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: Er, Der Herrlichste Von Allen

Composer: Johannes Brahms
Title: Geistliches Wiegenlied ("Die Ihr Schwebet"), Song For Alto, Viola & Piano, Op. 91/2

12. Geistliches Wiegenlied ("Die Ihr Schwebet"), Song For Alto, Viola & Piano, Op. 91/2: Geistliches Wiegenlied

Title: Sapphische Ode ("Rosen Brach Ich Nachts Mir Am Dunklen Hage"), Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 94/4

13. Sapphische Ode ("Rosen Brach Ich Nachts Mir Am Dunklen Hage"), Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 94/4: No. 4, Sapphische Ode

Title: Botschaft ("Wehe, Lüftchen, Lind Und Lieblich"), Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 47/1

14. Botschaft ("Wehe, Lüftchen, Lind Und Lieblich"), Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 47/1: Botschaft

Composer: George Frideric Handel
Title: Atalanta, Opera, Hwv 35

15. Atalanta, Opera, Hwv 35: Like As The Love-torn Turtle

Composer: Charles Villiers Stanford
Title: A Soft Day, For Voice & Piano

16. A Soft Day, For Voice & Piano: A Soft Day

Composer: Frank Bridge
Title: Go Not, Happy Day, for voice & piano, H 34

17. Go Not, Happy Day, for voice & piano, H 34: Go Not, Happy Day

Composer: British Isles Traditional
Title: Come You Not From Newcastle?

18. Come You Not From Newcastle?: Come You Not From Newcastle

Composer: Scottish Traditional
Title: The Keel Row

19. The Keel Row: The Keel Row (Arr. Gamley)

Title: Ma Bonny Lad, Folk Song

20. Ma Bonny Lad, Folk Song: Ma Bonny Lad

Composer: Anonymous
Title: Kitty My Love, Will You Marry Me?, Folk Song

21. Kitty My Love, Will You Marry Me?, Folk Song: Kitty My Love

Composer: English Traditional
Title: Blow The Wind Southerly (Northumbrian Folk Song)

22. Blow The Wind Southerly (Northumbrian Folk Song): Blow The Wind Southerly

Disc 2
Composer: Scottish Traditional
Title: Ye Banks And Braes O' Bonnie Doon, Folk Song

1. Ye Banks And Braes O' Bonnie Doon, Folk Song: Ye Banks And Braes

Composer: Irish Traditional
Title: I Have A Bonnet Trimmed With Blue

2. I Have A Bonnet Trimmed With Blue: I. Have A Bonnet Trimmed With Blue

Composer: English Traditional
Title: Down By The Salley Gardens, Folk Song

3. Down By The Salley Gardens, Folk Song: Down By The Salley Gardens

Composer: Irish Traditional
Title: The Stuttering Lovers, Folksong

4. The Stuttering Lovers, Folksong: Stuttering Lovers

Composer: English Traditional
Title: Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, Folk Song

5. Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, Folk Song: Drink To Me Only

Composer: Henry Purcell
Title: The Fairy Queen, Semi-opera, Z. 629

6. The Fairy Queen, Semi-opera, Z. 629: Song And Chorus: "Hark Now The Echoing Air" (2nd Woman)

Composer: George Frideric Handel
Title: Judas Maccabaeus, Oratorio, Hwv 63

7. Judas Maccabaeus, Oratorio, Hwv 63: Aria: "Father Of Heav'n! From Thy Eternal Throne"

Title: Messiah, Oratorio, Hwv 56

8. Messiah, Oratorio, Hwv 56: Aria:o Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion

9. Messiah, Oratorio, Hwv 56: He Was Despised

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Title: St. Matthew Passion (Matthäuspassion), Bwv 244 (Bc D3b)

10. St. Matthew Passion (Matthäuspassion), Bwv 244 (Bc D3b): Have Mercy, Lord On Me

Title: Mass In B Minor, For Soloists, Chorus, & Orchestra, Bwv 232 (Bc E1)

11. Mass In B Minor, For Soloists, Chorus, & Orchestra, Bwv 232 (Bc E1): Agnus Dei

Title: St. John Passion (Johannespassion), Bwv 245 (Bc D2)

12. St. John Passion (Johannespassion), Bwv 245 (Bc D2): All Is Fulfilled

Composer: Franz Schubert
Title: Du Bist Die Ruh, Song For Voice & Piano, D. 776 (Op. 59/3)

13. Du Bist Die Ruh, Song For Voice & Piano, D. 776 (Op. 59/3): Du Bist Die Ruh D. 776 (Op. 59, No. 3)

Title: Rosamunde, Fürstin Von Cypern, Incidental Music, D. 797 (Op. 26)

14. Rosamunde, Fürstin Von Cypern, Incidental Music, D. 797 (Op. 26): 3b Romanze "Der Vollmond Strahlt Auf Befeshoh N"

Composer: Gustav Mahler
Title: Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, song for voice & piano (or orchestra) (Rückert Lieder No. 3)

15. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, song for voice & piano (or orchestra) (Rückert Lieder No. 3): Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen

Title: Ich Atmet' Einen Linden Duft, Song For Voice & Piano (or Orchestra) In D Major (Rückert Lieder No. 2)

16. Ich Atmet' Einen Linden Duft, Song For Voice & Piano (or Orchestra) In D Major (Rückert Lieder No. 2): Ich Atmet Einen Linden Duft

Title: Um Mitternacht, Song For Voice & Piano (or Orchestra) In B Minor (Rückert Lieder No. 4)

17. Um Mitternacht, Song For Voice & Piano (or Orchestra) In B Minor (Rückert Lieder No. 4): Um Mitternacht

x

Track List: Frauenliebe Und Leben

Title: Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42

1. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: Seit Ich Ihn Gesehen

2. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: Er, Der Herrlichste Von Allen

3. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: Ich Kann's Nicht Fassen, Nicht Glaube

4. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: Du Ring An Meinem Finger

5. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: Helft Mir, Ihr Schwestern

6. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: Süsser Freund

7. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: An Meinem Herzen, An Meiner Brust

8. Frauenliebe Und -Leben, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 42: Nun Hast Du Mir Den Ersten Schmerz Getan

x

Track List: Kathleen Ferrier: The Complete EMI Recordings

Disc 1
Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
Title: Orfeo Ed Euridice (Italian Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 30
Composer: Johannes Brahms
Title: Liebestreu ("O Versenk' Versenk' Dein Leid, Mein Kind"), Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 3/1
Title: Feinsliebchen, Du Sollst Mir Nicht Barfuss Gehn, Folk Song For Voice & Piano, WoO 33/12
Composer: Sir Edward Elgar
Title: The Dream Of Gerontius, Oratorio For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra, Op. 38
Composer: Maurice Greene
Title: O God Of My Righteousness ("I Will Lay Me Down In Peace"), Anthem For 2 Or 4 Voices & Continuo In F Major

5. O God Of My Righteousness ("I Will Lay Me Down In Peace"), Anthem For 2 Or 4 Voices & Continuo In F Major: I Will Lay Me Down In Peace

Title: O Praise The Lord

6. O Praise The Lord: O Praise The Lord

Composer: George Frideric Handel
Title: Ottone, Re Di Germania, Opera, HWV 15
Composer: Henry Purcell
Title: Come Ye Sons Of Art Away (Birthday Ode For Queen Mary), For Soloists, Chorus & Instruments, Z. 323
Title: The Indian Queen, semi-opera, Z. 630
Title: King Arthur, Or, The British Worthy, Semi-opera, Z. 628
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
Title: Songs (6) For 2 Voices & Piano, Op. 63
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Title: Kindertotenlieder, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano (Or Orchestra)
Disc 2
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Title: Mass In B Minor, For Soloists, Chorus, & Orchestra, Bwv 232 (Bc E1)
Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
Title: Orfeo Ed Euridice (Italian Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 30
Disc 3
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Title: Kindertotenlieder, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano (Or Orchestra)

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