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THE COUNTERTENOR ISSUE
on 7 December 2015
I could not agree more with Celia J. Berveiler and her clever and, above all, documented arguments about (or against) this recording ("The countertenor ruined it". Published on December 23, 2009 by Celia J. Berveiler). So I could finish my comments here, but in order to strengthen those arguments I will add some data: Firstly I want to remind that great conductor who, when was asked why he never used countertenors in his performances, he answered that as the very word “falsetto” means, the countertenor voice is “false” ‒exactly the opposite of the declared aim of modern conductors of making “authentic” versions. He finished his point noting that this was also the opposite of the original purpose of the castrati, that use fully their real voice. Furthermore, the musical reason of the castrati was to achieve a more powerful female voice, specially in its low register (“male lungs, female voice” said the axiom). But nowadays the advances of the voice techniques of the professional singers achieve that purpose perfectly in the marvelous “sumptuous” voice of the contralto, as Clelia notes with full reason (by the way, much more powerful than the contratenor one, that seems always about to break down). I am not a born English-speaking, and always used in my own languaje that same latin term to define the majestic contralto voice ‒Celia mentions Maureen Forrester, I remember the miraculous voice of Aafje Heynis‒, exactly: SUMPTUOUS, “suntuosa”, “sontuosa”. That richness of the music is being lost because of the countertenor fever.
Anyway, tastes are tastes, and I do not reproach those who like to have the countertenor voice in their baroque recordings. I only ask two things: first, the same right for so many that, as Celia and myself, like THE FEMALE VOICE SUNG BY WOMEN. For example, six of the Handel oratories do not exist in contralto version recording (Belshatzar, Deborah, Joseph, Esther, Susanna and the Brockes Passion) and many others, like Athalia itself, have never been recorded with non-countertenors first line performers; all this because of some kind of pressure -which is not that of the market. I think it is not fair. And the second point that I ask is not to call “authentic” the countertenor versions: THEY ARE NOT; on the contrary, they are actually a modern invention.