Kathleen Ferrier -- Although her professional career lasted for only eight years, Kathleen Ferrier is considered one of the greatest singers of the last century. As one critic commented, she was strongest in that part of the voice in which most singers are weakest -- the chest tones. Ferrier was the ultimate contralto.
To celebrate this remarkable British talent, Diane Perelsztejn made a film titled simply "Kathleen Ferrier," and it is now available on a DVD from Decca. Taking 68 minutes to tell the story of Ferrier’s career, the film traces her early rise as a pianist, which led her to perform as a vocalist, which brought her to the attention of the major conductors of her time.
Her love was the Lieder of Brahms and Mahler, her dislike was opera. Her personality was always radiant, her artistic standards the highest possible. She seems to have been a fun person. However, the somewhat sedate mood of the film and the use of still shots rather than film in the non-singing sequences reduce the effect the director was obviously striving for. I have similar DVDs dedicated to the lives of Jan Peerce and Beverly Sills, for example, which are really humorous and lively. "Kathleen Ferrier" could have been a little more in that tone.
A good bonus is a CD included in the jewel case with 51:23 minutes of selected recordings by Ferrier. There are three by Bach, four by Brahms, and a rare set of selections
Lovers of the person and of the history of great singers will want this set.
Garrow’s Law 3 -- I greatly admired "Garrow’s Law, Series 1," because it concerned a lawyer in the England of the late 1700s and concentrated almost entirely on matters judicial. Then the secondary plot of Garrow’s affair with the Lady Sarah began to take up more time; and finally that plot was a repeat of a main set of events in "Poldark." For me, the triangle between Garrow (Andrew Buchan), Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal), and her husband Sir Arthur Hill (Rupert Graves) was first annoying and then simply boring. Truth to tell, I don’t think much of Marshal’s acting.
Series 3, now out in a two-DVD set from Acorn Media, has four episodes of 55 minutes each, most of which running time is concerned with the secondary plot. However, the courtroom plots are still of great interest and some (I read) are based on actual cases.
One case concerns the torture of a black girl in Trinidad, the other a corrupt head of the London constabulary who orders his men to attack with clubs those citizens who want to vote for Fox -- and they all have a message for today.
Strange to say, something quite unexpected (in a series) happens to Garrow’s mentor John Southouse (Alun Armstrong), which I will not explain lest I spoil it. Garrow takes on a young assistant named George Pinnock (Harry Melling), a sure sign that there will be a Series 4 and that Garrow will more and more resemble Inspector Morse or DCI Barnaby.
The picture is in widescreen and there are helpful subtitles. There is a "day in the filming" bonus of some 18 minutes that is sporadically interesting.
Magical Places -- I am forever praising CDs from Divine Art that feature the dual piano team of Caroline Clemmow and Anthony Goldstone, who specialize in piano arrangements of popular classics. Their latest is titled "Magical Places, Evocative Symphonic Poems for Piano Duet," offering up musical portraits of several places in Europe and Russia.
In the order presented, there are Mussorgsky’s "Night on Bald Mountain" (edited by Rimsky-Korsakov), Alfven’s delightful "Swedish Rhapsody No. 1," Ibert’s three "Escales" (Ports of Call, as it is better known to us), Lyadov’s dreamy "The Enchanted Lake," Britten’s "Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes," and Ireland’s "The Forgotten Rite." Four of these transcriptions are recorded for the first time.
I hope for a second series that will take us to Finland, France, Germany and other countries overlooked in this collection. But until then, I advise that my readers give this Divine Art disc a try.
Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.