Steffen Wolf (*1971) Paths to Classical Singing – A German “Vaccai” Method
24 Settings of Poems by Heine [vce,pno] Text: Heinrich Heine
“I am convinced that this German “Vaccai” is exactly what it takes to meet the demands of a younger singer generation.” (Peter Schreier)
The preface and the wording of the pedagogical comments are provided by the artist and author Carmen Hillers, Hamburg.
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To familiarize oneself with the basics of lied singing and at the same time work on technical and artistic issues using short and varied lieder, there is no way around the German “Vaccai”. With lieder based on Heine’s poems and following the Italian example Nicola Vaccai, Steffen Wolf succeeded in creating a real highlight in voice teaching.
Each volume comprises the lieder with the international phonetic transcription below the music, short pedagogical comments on technical and artistic issues as well as a CD with recordings of the songs and piano playbacks in the respective voice range. Singers: Miriam Alexandra (soprano), Yvi Jänicke (alto), Dávid Csizmár (baritone) and the composer (tenor) himself. They are accompanied by the pianist Henning Lucius, who also recorded the piano playbacks for every CD.
An interview with Steffen Wolf as well as videos of selected songs can be found on YouTube.For further informations on Steffen Wolf please click here.
|1. An dem Bache zirpt die Grille||Interval Second|
|2. Der Abend kommt gezogen||Interval Third|
|3. Ach, wenn ich nur der Schemel wär||Interval Fourth|
|4. Wo ich bin||Interval Tritone|
|5. Wie dunkle Träume stehen||Interval Fifth|
|6. Der Mond ist mein Begleiter||Interval Sixth|
|7. Süßer Mond, mit deinen Strahlen||Interval Seventh|
|8. Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht||Interval Octave|
|9. Es war einmal ein Ritter||Interval Unison|
|10. Nacht liegt auf den fremden Wegen||Interval Semitone|
|11. Mein Herz, mein Herz ist traurig||Subject Suspension|
|12. Sie haben mich gequälet||Subject Parlando|
|13. Die Mitternacht war kalt und stumm||Subject Turn|
|14. Werdet nur nicht ungeduldig||Subject Scale Section|
|15. Wer zum ersten Male liebt||Subject Roulade I|
|16. Der Sturm spielt auf zum Tanze||Subject Roulade II|
|17. Es ist so still und dunkel!||Subject Short Grace Note I|
|18. Warum sind denn die Blumen so blaß?||Subject Short Grace Note II|
|19. Dein Angesicht so lieb und schön||Subject Short Grace Note III|
|20. Süßer Mond, mit deinen Strahlen||Subject Long Tone|
|21. Du liebst mich nicht||Subject Termination|
|22. In den Küssen welche Lüge!||Subject Broken Chord|
|23. Hüt dich, mein Freund||Subject Recitative|
|24. Sie saßen und tranken am Teetisch||Subject “Voices” of Different People|
Und mir selbst ist dann, als würd ich
Eine Nachtigall und sänge ...1
And then I feel like a nightingale and could sing...1
The “Vaccai” – impossible to imagine a conservatory music library without it, anywhere in the world; impossible, also, to imagine its absence from the repertoire collections of professional singers and amateurs, voice teachers and students: The Metodo pratico di canto italiano of the Italian composer and voice teacher Nicola Vaccai (1790–1848) has been considered since its publication in 1832 as the ultimate groundwork for Italian singing, and as the preparatory book for introducing nearly all levels of beginning vocal artists to the challenges of cultivated singing. As to the romantic German lied, however, there was no “Vaccai” corresponding to the Italian one – although the German language, owing to its wealth of consonants and vowel colors, allows a sheer inexhaustible onomatopoeic breadth of variations and sound nuances, and helps establish the importance of the romantic lied.
The singer and composer Steffen Wolf has closed this gap by writing 24 songs which, as exercises in lied form, give a technical and artistic boost to beginners and advanced singers on their way to proficiency, and pay tribute to the linguistic demands of the German lied. Each song devotes itself intensively to a fundamental technical or artistic matter and is supplied with short pedagogical comments that arose in conjunction with Prof. Sabine Kirchner (Hamburg). Keeping in mind the contemporaneity of Vaccai and Franz Schubert – whose Winterreise (The Winter Journey) was published only five years before Vaccai’s instructional method – the style of the pieces strongly reflects that of the art song of the romantic era. Some of the pieces are easy to learn, and there are exercises that are adjusted to the high technical demands of this genre. The piano part is kept rather simple so that the accompanying voice teacher can fully concentrate on the song.
For his 24 exercises in lied form, Steffen Wolf has selected poems or lines of poems by Heinrich Heine2, whose dominating presence in the art song is justified by the sound of his poetry, by his evocative pictorial language and, not least, by its succinct and clear form. Thus the pieces are kept short and varied, and also open the door to humor through Heine’s style. Like their Italian models, Wolf ’s miniatures are not etudes but always “genuine” songs, and thus equally appropriate for practicing, music-making and performances. The advantage of the German “Vaccai” is – to quote Brahms – “that you do not always hear the steps of a giant marching behind you.” This can be the case when a singer confronts the challenges of a lied by Schumann or Schubert.
Analogous to the Italian model, the German “Vaccai” is being printed in a slender volume in editions for high, middle and low voice.
Each volume is supplied with a CD on which the songs can be heard in the respective voice range sung by soprano Miriam Alexandra, alto Yvi Jänicke, baritone Dávid Csizmár and the composer (tenor) himself. The singers are accompanied by the pianist Henning Lucius, who also recorded the piano playbacks for every CD.
Hamburg, summer 2015 Carmen Hillers
1 Heinrich Heine: Neuer Frühling. Gedichte (New Spring, Poems), XXXVI.
2 The lieder texts were borrowed from the following edition, which also lays the basis for the punctuation and orthography of the present volume: Heinrich Heine: Das Buch der Lieder. Mit zeitgenössischen Illus trationen und einem Nachwort von E. Galley. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1975 (ISBN 3-458-01733-X)
English translations of the lieder texts can be found in: Draper, Hal: The Complete Poems of Heinrich Heine: A Modern English Version. Boston: Suhrkamp / Insel, Oxford University Press 1982 (ISBN 3-518-03048-5, 978-0198158073)
Our thanks go out to the Heinrich-Heine-Institut Düsseldorf for providing bibliographical information.