Friday, August 19, 2011

A Name To Remember in the World of Music...

A few days ago, I was deep in the process of looking over recordings in my collection that I hadn't heard in quite some time, and I came across a CD I had forgotten about. It was a recital by the gifted Spanish violinist Ricardo Odriozola, and it included my Suite Baroque.
I can assure you that I tell you this, not because of his performance of one of my works, but because of the location of this recital.
It was done at the University of Kansas, during a tour Odriozola was undertaking in this country. What grabbed at me when I looked this CD over was that it was done in the Swarthout Recital Hall of the University, and suddenly realized that I had never written about the name Swarthout.
Gladys Swarthout was one of the eminent American singers of the 20th century, and pretty much in the historical shadows of the present day, sadly. I mention her now because of the great voice she had and the immense versatility she possessed.
She, for many years, was a member of the legendary Metropolitan Opera as one of the greater mezzo-sopranos of her time, but could also sing popular music as well, and appeared in a number of movies, being a strikingly beautiful woman.
I can remember her singing something out of the classical repertoire, then shortly thereafter a pop tune by a Gershwin or a Hoagy Carmichael, with her stylistic abilities wrapping wonderfully around the diverse forms of music she chose to perform. She was one of a few leading classical musicians who felt perfectly comfortable in both worlds - and, as a child, I was always struck by her ability to sing such diverse incarnations so well.
I remember, much later, at a concert at Tanglewood, the pop pianist Keith Jarrett playing the Mozart Concerto K. 488 quite wonderfully with the BSO.
And so there are musicians who can straddle quite elegantly both serious and popular music, and I have always been an inveterate follower of this unique talent.
Thought you should know of Swarthout, in the event you are not familiar with her rather unique place in the world of music.

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