Thursday, 25 November 2010

Exercising and Cheating

Snow on the mountains, and I know my post lady will be getting very jittery! She HATES snow, having to drive over an almost 'off road' rally journey to one of the villages to which she delivers the mail!

The temperature has dropped considerably, and the stove is earning it's keep now. Soup was bubbling yesterday and I added dumplings last night - how culinary was that!

I was going through my file of 'essential music' for tomorrow and the exams, and wondered if I had ever extolled the wonders of the Vaccai Exercises book. They are set for the exams, one or two for each grade, but over and above their exam use, I think they are quite delightful. Well, all bar one for leaps of a 7th, which is an absolute pig of a sing!

Each is like a small early Romantic Italian aria, with all the lyricism of that era, sort of the same a a miniature Bellini moment. I also think, quite apart from the technical difficulties which some have, they are a wonderful way of introducing the Italian language to little people. I have a couple of Grade 1's and 2's, and even at that level they have to sing one. They last about 8 or 16 bars, and have a suitable range for little ones as well as very sweet melodies.

I love the fact that at that age they can learn the pronunciation by ear, and as they have to sing one for every exam, the fear factor of learning their first 'foreign' songs is greatly reduced.

I also use them successfully with adults and children not taking exams, and again they seem to promote confidence in both legato line and in the Italian idiom. I have found very few students who don't like them in any big way.

I did not sing them myself as a student, Middy always used another school of exercises, which really concentrated on vowel shapes rather than real words. I can honestly say I found them very boring, and in my naughtier teenaged youth I am ashamed to admit that sometimes if I had not learnt a new one I would quietly rub off the pencilled in date written on the top of the unlearnt music! Bless her, with so many pupils to monitor she did not notice, until one day she said to me in a slightly puzzled way, 'I am surprised a girl of your ability is not further on in this book'......I blagged and puffed a bit, but I bet then she knew something 'was up' as we say in Yorkshire!

Sorry Mid, if you are looking down at this moment !

Nicolai Vaccai - his life, and I learnt something today!

Nicola Vaccai (1790 - 1848)
Nicola Vaccai (15 March 1790 - 5 or 6 August 1848) was an Italian composer, particularly of operas, and a singing teacher.

Born at Tolentino, he grew up in Pesaro, and studied music there until his parents sent him to Rome to study law. Having no intention of becoming a lawyer, he took voice lessons and eventually studied counterpoint with Giuseppe Jannaconi, an important Roman composer. When Vaccai turned twenty one, he went to Naples and became a disciple of Paisiello, whose Barber of Seville was considered a comic masterpiece until Rossini's Barber swept it from the stage a few years later.

Vaccai launched his career in Venice, initially earning his living by writing ballets and teaching voice. He had his first operatic success with I solitari di Scozia in Naples in 1815. In Parma he was commissioned to write Pietro il grande, where he was also one of the soloists in the first performance. This was followed by Zadig e Astartea (Naples, 1825) and then his best known opera Giulietta e Romeo (Milan, 1825).

Vaccai's sojourn in London began with a production of his most successful opera, Romeo and Juliet, at Kings Theatre in April, 1832. His charm and continental reputation ingratiated him to society and soon he was much sought after as a teacher.

Ending his wanderings with a return to Italy, Vaccai became a director and professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory in 1838. After six years he retired on account of poor health to his boyhood home, Pesaro, where he wrote his sixteenth opera. He died there in 1848.
[edit] Metodo pratico de canto
Later eclipsed by his rival Bellini, Vaccai is now chiefly remembered as a voice teacher. Nicola Vaccai wrote many books one of which is called Metodo pratico de canto (Practical Vocal Method). This book has been transposed for different types of voice (i.e high or low), to teach singing in the Italian legato style. The Metodo pratico was written in 1832 and is still in print, from Edition Peters and Ricordi, and used as a teaching tool. Vaccai notes in his introduction that only the voice of a master demonstrating accurately his exercises can really teach the student the correct techniques of true legato. The book is also an important source of information about the performance of early 19th-century opera.

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