It is, I am fully aware, a factor of age – both theirs’ and mine – that so often my Mercoledi Musicale posts in the last while have been to mark the deaths of performers I grew up with. The most recent in the world of classical music was the great German mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig. She died on April 24th at the age of 93 after an international career that spanned over 40 decades. She was as comfortable on the operatic or recital stage as she was on TV variety shows and even tried her hand at musical comedy.
I only saw her in the recital hall back in 1969 at the Salzburg Festival in an all Schumann programme. But checking my programme I find I had scribbled a note that she sang this lovely leid by Franz Schubert as one of her encores.
Two years later, at the 1971 Festival, I thought I’d have the chance to see her on the operatic stage in one of her signature rolls: Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Unfortunately she was experiencing some vocal problems and begged off. A performance from several years earlier that we watched as part of the opera class with my friend David made me feel renewed regret 50 years after that cancellation.
Though she was eventually to sing the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier for many years she was Octavian the young cavalier to Elizabeth Schwarzkopf’s Marie-Thérèse. I was never a big Betty Blackhead fan but I grew up with the Angel recording of that glorious final trio conducted by Von Karajan with a young Ludwig, Schwarzkopf and Teresa Stich-Randell as Sophie. Try as I might I couldn’t set it to begin at the moment when Sophie and Octavian declare their love. If you’d like to skip to around the 05:39 mark you’ll hear this glorious, almost heavenly, blending of Ludwig and Stich-Randell.
Though she retired from performing in 1993 she continued giving master classes and wrote a book. During a book signing interview in 1999 said that for her “Singing was just a job. I don’t miss it.” Be that is may she did a miraculous job and she will be greatly missed. Rest in Peace dear Christa.
The word for May 5th is:
Job /jäb/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 A paid position of regular employment.
1.2 A task or piece of work, especially one that is paid.
1.3 Informal: A responsibility or duty; A difficult task; a criminal act.
2.1 So casual or occasional work.
2.2 Buy and sell (stocks) as a broker-dealer, especially on a small scale.
2.3 Informal: Cheat or betray; Turn a public office or a position of trust to private advantage.
1620s, from phrase jobbe of worke (1550s) “task, piece of work” (contrasted with continuous labor), a word of uncertain origin. Specific sense of “work done for pay” first recorded 1650s.
I had never heard that last informal verb definition – sounds awfully familiar.