Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

A BELATED FAREWELL

I was just amusing myself by listening on YouTube to a beautiful performance of Monteverdi's great duet, Zefiro, torna, featuring the hot new French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, when my mind turned to a performance I heard of that piece many, many years ago in Harvard's Sanders theater with Russell Oberlin and a second countertenor [the Jaroussky performance has a soprano as second voice.]  I sat in the second row, looking up at Oberlin on stage, and it may be the closest I will ever get to heaven, considering my scepticism regarding things religious.  Oberlin passed away just five weeks ago, and I neglected to acknowledge the fact at the time.  He will be missed.

It was in that very same venue, Sanders Theater, this time sitting near the back, that I first heard a countertenor.  That time it was Alfred Deller, the first man with a soprano range voice to perform in America.  Deller was not really a true countertenor, but the effect was electric.  I recall that he chose to address the audience directly after singing, I suspect to prove that his speaking voice was in the expected male range.

My other favorite countertenor is my son, Tobias Barrington Wolff, who as a young man studied for a while with a famous singer and actually had a solo in the Student Chorus performance of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.

Nowadays there are countertenors all over the place, of course, but I can still recall the thrill that went through the audience in Sanders when Deller first began to sing.  Those, those were the days.

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Not belated, but farewell:
https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/a-smuggling-operation-john-bergers-theory-of-art/
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/30/john-berger-at-90-interview-storyteller

Carl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David E said...

We have to savor some of these memories. Being a piano person, I had a similar heavenly moment a decade ago when Dave Brubek came to town. I bought tickets and somehow managed to score seats pretty much in front of the keyboard, right under his hands. Brubeck was then close to 80 and had a palsy. But when he began playing the shaking disappeared and the magic started. I will always remember that performance.

L.B. said...

In what sense is Deller not a true countertenor?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

He reached the high range, I believe, by singing falsetto rather than as a true countertenor. At least that is my memory. I might be wrong.

Michael Kates said...

Prof. Wolff,

This is somewhat off-topic but I was wondering if you heard that Derek Parfit has died. I seem to recall from a previous post on this blog that you had the privilege of having him in your class many years ago at Columbia.

If so, then perhaps you can share some stories about that experience with your readers.

Thanks!