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<<  -- 2 --  Jennifer Paull    A musical enchantress


I learned far more about music from Cathy than I ever had during my formal studies. Perhaps it was her way of treating music and how she went about the process of performance that taught me the most. It was never enough for her to simply sing the pieces she had programmed, no matter how technically difficult. She tore music off the page and shook it into life!

'Anyone can do that!' she used to say. 'I get bored by recitals where a singer walks on and bows, stands by the piano and sings, bows and walks off again. What I need is contact with my audience!'

That is most definitely what she had! One of her greatest recitals was 'A la recherche de la Musique perdue, or from the sublime to the ridiculous'. A soirée chez Monsieur Marcel Proust, this programme had required a great deal of preparation and research. As was so often her style, she divided the programme into four sections. There would be the French songs, the German, the Russian and the English. This way, she was certain than in any of the countries in which she was performing, the audience would understand the text of at least one song group.

Of course, she introduced her programme in the language of the country, played on words, and should have been awarded an Oscar for her acting, let alone the musical content of her performances. 'Singing is 80% intelligence and 20% voice', she told me on many occasions. Her mind was razor sharp and brilliant. If we define the word 'genius' as applying to someone whose passage marks their chosen field forever and by their intervention, makes it impossible for their speciality to continue without their mark, then Cathy was a genius.

The first of these Marcel Proust recitals was given at the Berlin Festival in 1971. The festival had undertaken to have a gown made especially for her. It was a work of art in itself. As with everything, Cathy researched her subject in minute detail. She knew exactly what she wanted, and it was Erté, the legend in person who saw to its design and creation in Paris. I was present at several of the fittings and remember wondering how she was going to sing in such an amazing cocoon. Erté was a small, gentle man with soft voice, and soft hands, dressed entirely in grey. His suit was grey, his shirt with roll neck was made from pale grey silk, and two tiny grey mink's tails hung from under its rolled collar. Grey pearl cuff links peeped out from beneath his jacket sleeves.

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Copyright © 6 March 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland






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