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<<  -- 2 --  Jennifer I Paull    CATHY BERBERIAN - A MUSICAL COLUMBUS


If we were all determined to play the first violin we should never have an ensemble. Therefore, respect every musician in his proper place. -- Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

To understand more about Cathy's brilliance and her difficult life, I strongly recommend reading the fascinating book Cathy Berberian Cant'actrice, Marie Christine Vila's tour de force, published by Fayard.

Marie Christine Vila: 'Cathy Berberian - Cant'actrice'. © Fayard Press
Marie Christine Vila: 'Cathy Berberian - Cant'actrice'. © Fayard Press

Born into a family whose artistic culture was not that to which she intended to restrict her existence, Cathy's struggles to achieve what she did, set an example for every scholar. Betrayed; with endless, painful family difficulties, she imagined, conceived and researched recital programmes of utter genius and howling mirth.

Once divorced from the composer who would forever favour her irreplaceable talents in his interpretation during her lifetime and to whom she remained musically dedicated, she was able to fly free; a Lark Ascending (in all senses of both words). Her own personality blossomed unhampered, as she delved with unfettered relish into many genres of music including The Beatles, The Kitsch and The Fun -- with which she so abounded on stage if not in her private life. Whether her plats du jour were serious, light or a macédoine of flavourings, she approached them all with equal dedication, scholarship, insight and erudition: Cathy's kaleidoscopic ingredients for a musically liberated career.

Ervant (Ed) her brother, confirmed that they both adored Anna Russell, Victor Borge and Joyce Grenfell. I had gleaned clues in Cathy's spoken introductions, presentation, humour and timing that led me to imagine their influence (amongst others) and I was delighted to have sieved them, accurately.

This was no distant, iceberg goddess of the avant-garde. Being classed solely as an icon of the cognoscenti would have driven Cathy to distraction. She had learned more from Hollywood musicals, the radio and 78-rpm records of The Great, than via a posse of professors of whom some were undeniably less useless than others, it is true. Her study of dance, theatre, costume design and languages gave her all she needed to nurture the star quality, which was so evidently hers in abundance.

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Copyright © 4 July 2005 Jennifer I Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland


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