Beggar at the Door: the rise and fall of portamento in singing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Author(s)

  • J.F. Potter

Department/unit(s)

Publication details

JournalMusic & Letters
DatePublished - Nov 2006
Issue number4
Volume87
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)523-550
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

With the exception of some opera singers, portamento is avoided as far as possible by today’s performers. It is an aspect of singing that even today’s early music specialists have chosen not to recover from the past despite overwhelming evidence for its use. This paper examines the historical literature on portamento, first in the pregramophone era then in the context of recordings in the twentieth century (when the literature can be matched with actual performances). There is a short case study of portamento in twentieth-century performances of Schubert’s ‘Ständchen’ from Schwanengesang. Finally, current performance practice is examined and explanations offered as to why something considered for several hundred years to be essential to good singing is now rarely taught or practised.

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