Guide to song

Drawing of Schumann

Graeme Kay's guide to the only art form that is as valid in the bath as on the concert stage.

"If you want to make a song more hummy, add a few tiddley poms." - Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by AA Milne.

What is 'song'?

The dictionary says that - at its most basic - song is the natural human means of musical self-expression. The important word here is 'musical', because people have two modes of vocalisation - speech and song.

It's conceivable that some people might get through their entire lives without ever lapsing into song, but given the range of possibilities from humming and whistling through to full-blown singing - and the constant presence of musical stimuli in our environment (beginning with birdsong, or even cicadas!) - it's hard to imagine that people would ever fail to make music in this way!

What are the classifications of song?

Solo folk-songs, part-songs (for singing groups), art-songs (such as German 'Lieder' and French 'chansons' for trained vocalists), jazz singing and pop songs...

What does Cardiff Singer of the World allow competitors to include in the 'song' category?

Song is defined as: "Lieder and art-song from all countries and all periods and includes less familiar works from competitors' own national repertory. Arrangements of folk tunes are also eligible for consideration in the Song Prize category."

Who are the great song composers?

  • Austria/Germany: Hassler, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Loewe, Mahler, Strauss, Pfitzner, Hindemith, Reimann
  • France: Berlioz, Chausson, Duparc, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc
  • Russia: Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Glinka, Dargomïzhsky, Stravinsky, Grechaninov, Rakhmaninov, Medtner, Prokofiev
  • Britain: Dowland, Purcell, Stanford, Parry, Vaughan Williams, Warlock, Bridge, Ireland, Britten, Finzi, Tippett
  • Italy: Caselli, Pizzetti, Dallapiccola
  • Eastern Europe: Bartók and Janácek
  • Spain/Latin America: Albéniz, Granados, Falla
  • USA: Ives, Thomson, Copland, Babbitt, Barber, Rorem

Some great Lieder singers:

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth Söderström, Janet Baker, Brigitte Fassbaender, Hugues Cuénod, Thomas Allen, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Matthias Goerne, Thomas Hemsley, Peter Pears, Peter Schreier, Gérard Souzay.

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