ELLY AMELING the art of the song
Art Song, did I choose it? – or was I chosen by it. Well, I think the latter. No wonder, knowing that my dear Mother sang to me from the moment I was born. Soon we sang together and she was such a proud mother that to her it was obvious that I should sing the highest part! Her beautiful voice kept vibrating in me all my life, unconsciously I think.
Art Song is not Opera: I could have chosen opera, but I sang it rarely. When you like poetry, as I do, an Art Song comes as an enhanced poem, and that attracted me as soon as I understood languages. I was born in the Netherlands and in those days, the forties, at the early age of 12 we were taught German, English and French. I have always been very grateful for the lessons in foreign languages and literature in high school. It is that wonderful oneness of words and melody that is the true heart and joy of Art Song.
Telling the story – creating the atmosphere of poetry- in-song – is a very rewarding task. The sharing with an audience feels like giving a one-man show (one-woman show!). Not everybody, however, has the courage to meet an audience as directly as in a recital, without any help from acting, from other singers , decor, and a supporting orchestra.
But we do have the pianist who is giving the concert with us, collaborating in the show without scenery; he does indeed support us, is a real duo-partner. He/she leads and follows. The singer does the same: lead AND follow. The pianist sets the mood whenever there is a prelude, or in the postlude he may keep the atmosphere to the very end. It can happen at rehearsal that the introduction is not played in the tempo that the singer expects. He/she should not immediately exclaim : “oh no, too fast” or “too slow”. On the contrary: try to find the reason why the tempo is different and then, within limits of course, the singer may be able, and find it even attractive to follow the lead of the pianist. The pianist on the other hand should alwaysunderstand why the storyteller needs a little more time on this or that word, or in an especially expressive line, and for hundreds of other reasons. That is what ‘interpretation’ is all about. I can’t describe everything in these few lines, but one thing should be made clear: always have a supple tempo. Don’t hang on until the end of the song to the tempo as it is indicated at the beginning of a piece. In general an immovable tempo makes for a dull performance.
This was only one aspect of Art Song singing and playing. This kind of work knows great freedom in interpretation and has an inexhaustible source of possibilities to enjoy. Good luck to you in finding them!