V0799. KATHLEEN FERRIER, w.Phyllis Spurr, John Newmark & Frederick Stone (Pfs.): Songs of the British Isles, incl. Quilter, Warlock, Stanford, Parry; Vaughan Williams, Bridge, etc. (E.U.) Naxos 8.111081, recorded 1949-52. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. - 747313308125
"In a career of just ten years Kathleen Ferrier gained a reputation as one of the greatest British singers of the twentieth century and at the time of her death was said to be the second most famous woman in the country, next only to the Queen.
Born in Lancashire, Ferrier was brought up in Blackburn. Although she always enjoyed singing, it was through her piano playing that her natural musicianship was first evident. In 1937 she entered the Carlisle Music Festival and, to her amazement, won both the piano and vocal classes; this led to singing lessons in Newcastle upon Tyne with Dr JE Hutchinson, who schooled her natural contralto voice and introduced her to challenging new repertoire.
After the outbreak of war, Ferrier sang for the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, traveling extensively to perform in churches and halls to support the local war effort. She appeared in oratorios such as Messiah and Elijah, explored the world of German Lieder and learned a host of delightful folk-songs, for which she is still well remembered.
In 1942 Ferrier moved to London and enjoyed opportunities to sing at concerts in Westminster Abbey, The Royal Albert Hall and other major venues, as well as undertaking a taxing series of recitals around the country - she was a tireless worker. Allied to her glorious voice was a keen sense of humour and her friends recalled not only admiring her wonderful singing but also laughing at her salty jokes and saucy stories; her positive approach to life saw her through difficult personal times, such as the annulment of her marriage in 1947.
Ferrier sang in Britten’s RAPE OF LUCRETIA at Glyndebourne Opera in 1946 and, the following year, returned there for performances of Gluck’s ORFEO ED EURIDICE, gaining great personal success. The German conductor, Bruno Walter, invited her to appear at the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947 in Mahler’s 'Das Lied von der Erde', which became one of her ‘signature’ interpretations. During three North American visits she won a popular following and she was a favourite with audiences throughout Europe, and especially in the Netherlands, which she visited often.
Special highlights in Ferrier’s career were performances at the 1950 Vienna Bach Festival, with Karajan, during which the conductor was seen to weep during the 'Agnus Dei' from the b Minor Mass, such was the beauty of her singing. A few months later cancer was diagnosed and she underwent debilitating treatment. Although she maintained a busy diary of engagements, her health deteriorated but she appeared in ORFEO at Covent Garden, conducted by her good friend, Sir John Barbirolli. At the second performance she was taken ill on stage but managed, heroically, to finish the opera. It was her last public appearance and Kathleen Ferrier died in London in October 1953, aged 41.
Adored by audiences in her own day, Ferrier’s art is still admired on record by lovers of fine singing. As Bruno Walter wrote after her death, ‘…she will always be remembered in a major key….’"
Paul Campion, Kathleen Ferrier Society, 2012
“The conductor Bruno Walter once said that the two greatest musical experiences of his life were knowing Kathleen Ferrier and Mahler – in that order….Her singing was of such rare beauty: beauty of expression, beauty of voice, purity, and beauty of personality. It was one of the greatest impressions in my life.”
- Vivien Schweitzer, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 July, 2012