Clara Butt:   Her Life-Story       (Winifred Ponder)
Item# B1057
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Clara Butt:   Her Life-Story       (Winifred Ponder)
B1057. WINIFRED PONDER. Clara Butt: Her Life-Story. London, George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1928. 261pp. Index; Photos. Superb copy.


"[Butt] stands out head and shoulders from among her contemporaries in personality as she does in stature, and the amazing range and power and beauty of her voice have placed it beyond comparison with all others. That superb voice alone must inevitably have won worldwide fame for her. Yet to Clara Butt her voice is only a means to express something greater than any voice - greater even than music herself - a spiritual force that must have found expression through her by some means even if she had had no voice at all."

- Winifred Ponder

"Clara Butt possessed one of the greatest and most powerful contralto voices, ranging from C below middle C to high B flat (Sir Adrian Boult remembers a rehearsal when she sang through four B flats with ease). There was a vast and 'baritonal' bottom and a lighter toned pure top.

As the German and French vocal styles were in response to particular developments in the opera, so the English style evolved largely out of the ballad and oratorio. Clara Butt was one of the last exponents of that era. In 1892 she appeared in the title re of Gluck's ORFEO ED EURIDICE, performing the same re at the Lyceum Theatre in London. She went to Paris and made further studies with Jacques Bouhy (the teacher of Louise Homer and Louise Kirby-Lunn) and later with the celebrated soprano Etelka Gerster in Berlin. Saint-Saëns wanted her to study Dalila, but due to laws then extant forbidding the representation of biblical subjects on the British stage, nothing came of it. From 1895 she started a glorious career, appearing almost entirely on the concert platform. Her repertory was made of Bach, Handel, a little Lieder, but above all, of the popular ballads of the day. Clara Butt created Elgar's SEA PUCTURES, a piece especially written for her. She appeared in a few opera performances in one single role, as Orfeo (she was a tall woman). Clara Butt triumphed in all the famous concert halls, making tours to Australia, Japan, Canada, the United States and to many European cities! Married to baritone Kennerley Rumford, who accompanied her on most of her tours, she was one of the most celebrated singers at the time. In later life Clara Butt was dogged by tragedies. Her elder son died of meningitis whilst still at school; the younger committed suicide. During the 1920s she became seriously ill of cancer of the spine, but her faith gave her the strength to continue working. She made many of her later records seated in a wheelchair. Clara Butt died in 1936. Her true contralto voice is one of the most glorious ever recorded."

- Z. D. Akron