Catherine Carby on singing in Swedish

Catherine Carby, mezzo –soprano, soprano Leah Thomas and pianist Sharolyn Kimmorley perform a programme of Scandinavian art songs this weekend for Art Song NSW (see “On Wings of Art Song”). 

The vocal repertoire is replete with works in French, German and Italian. Even Russian and Czech are regularly heard in opera and art song. But Swedish….?

Catherine Carby studied Scandinavian art song as a student in London. She gives us some first hand insights on singing in Swedish:

“On paper, it’s easy to recognise that Swedish is related to German, which is great for me as I enjoy singing in German. Vowel sounds are like German or even French and there is also a special “dark” a: å which is pronounced as “aw” in English”

“I learnt a great deal about Swedish when I was at The Royal College of Music in London, studying with a Swedish teacher, Britta Sundberg, from the Stockholm Academy”. 

“We worked on numerous songs by Sibelius, as well as Danish and Norwegian songs by composers like Christian Sinding, Nils Gade and Carl Nielsen. The songs in Sibelius’ Op 13 are all set to poetry by Runeberg, one of the most revered of Swedish poets. They are also Sibelius’ first published opus, so it’s interesting to see the kernel of ideas that came to fruition later, for example, in op 36 and 37 and 90 – the “famous” song cycles”.

“Also, whilst I’ve described them as ‘song cycles’, the term isn’t strictly applicable. The songs are not related musically or textually.  This is also the case with the later cycles – they aren’t really cycles so much as ‘song collections’ “.

“Runeberg’s poetry demands the use of more formal pronunciation, as opposed to the rather folksy songs I’m doing later in the program – think Yeats pronounced in broad Cockney!”

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