Her story mixes fairytale and tragedy. She is also a paradox: if Kathleen Ferrier remains very much a presence in the hearts of music lovers more than 65 years after her death; her career was very brief, 6 years in all; and she made very few records. But the story of the young, beautiful postal telephonist who became an adored singer cut down in her prime by sickness remains a tangible example of the injustice of fate. Kathleen Ferrier was above all an exceptional contralto, warm, profound, strong and natural: she inspired emotion. She started her performances in small recitals as a pianist. Then, as she accompanied and listened to singers, she learned to sing for her own amusement, without taking things seriously, and with a modesty that she would retain throughout her period of fame and success.
It was in the middle of the Second World War that Kathleen Ferrier began to emerge. In 1943, she sang Handel's Messiah alongside Peter Pears in Westminster Abbey, an appearance which marked the start of her recognition. Presented to the great pianist Gerald Moore, she made sallies into recording with him, working on Brahms's Lieder for EMI, but Kathleen didn't get along with Walter Legge, the firms all-powerful producer. She would then head to DECCA, who would record her touchstone pieces which are the pride of today's serious record collections: Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and Das Lied von der Erde, under the direction of the composer's great friend and disciple, Bruno Walter.
In 1946, after much hesitation, she agreed to sing the title role in the Rape of Lucretia by Benjamin Britten at the Glyndebourne festival, under the direction of Ernest Ansermet. The following year, this same festival would mark Kathleen Ferrier's début when Bruno Walter, who was reticent at first, agreed to take her on to sing Das Lied von der Erde, under his direction. A great friendship was kindled between the two and Bruno Walter opened all the doors of the world of Mahler, and those of New York the following year, by introducing her to Kindertotenlieder of which she would deliver a stunning rendition, as if Mahler had thought of her voice when he wrote the piece. It is rare that any work has been so permanently marked by a performer.
Her career sped up rapidly in the USA and in Europe: New York, London, Glyndebourne, Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna where she sang the Mass in B Minor with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf under Karajan's baton. She began to record for studios. The future looked bright - but breast cancer, incurable at the time, cut short the young woman's life at the age of 41. The rest is history: and her rare records bear witness today to her art and the fervour of her performances.
© FH / Qobuz
Narrow my search
Classical - Released January 1, 1952 | Decca Music Group Ltd.
Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released July 28, 2012 | Les Indispensables de Diapason
Classical - Released January 3, 2020 | SOMM Recordings
Classical - Released February 13, 2012 | Warner Classics
Classical - Released January 1, 1992 | Decca Music Group Ltd.
Classical - Released June 23, 2017 | SOMM Recordings
Classical - Released January 1, 2021 | SOMM Recordings
Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 1, 2004 | Urania
Opera - Released September 1, 2015 | Andromeda
Classical - Released January 1, 1975 | Decca Music Group Ltd.
Classical - Released January 1, 2004 | Regis Records
Classical - Released April 16, 2012 | Warner Classics