Kathleen Ferrier (CBE)
(22 April 1912 – 8 October 1953)
Kathleen Ferrier was an English contralto.
She was a star who shone very brightly for all too short a time.
She came came to prominence during and immediately after the Second World War.
As a pianist she had a well grounded knowlege of music but it was only after she won a prestigious music award in two categories- (voice and piano) that she decided to pursue a singing career.
Physically she had an unusually large neck and it is believed that this helped to give her voice a timbre that was rich, warm and unique reminiscent (yet more agile) than that of the great Dame Clara Butt.
After a period of training with two of the top vocal coaches of the time she embarked on a series of recitals which led to a quickly growing number of admirers not only in the UK but in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Scandinavia.
Her voice was ideally suited to Mahler, Bach, Handel, Brahms and Schumann- but it is probably for an album of British folk songs that she is best remembered..."Blow the Wind Southerly" being the most famous.
She toured North America over three successive years (from 1948) and during this time, Benjamin Britten created the role of Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia", specially for her.
She also worked with some of the greatest conductors on the world stage at that time- Bruno Walter, John Barbirolli, Malcolm Sargent, Herbert von Karajan and of course- Benjamin Britten.
She worked with other notable singers such as Isobel Baillie, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Peter Pears and sang Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at Glyndebourne in 1947 and in the Netherlands in 1949 and 1951.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1951 but the cancer was too advanced to be halted and it had already spread to the bones.
In a performance of Orfeo ed Euridice at Covent Garden in 1953 her thighbone shattered causing her great pain- but she finished the performance nonetheless (without the audience even noticing) and was taken from the theatre on a stretcher. She died a few months later.
Kathleen Ferrier is remembered today not only for her extraordinary voice but for her wonderful sense of humour that endeared her to her colleagues and everyone who met her.
She is also remembered for the great courage and spirit she showed during the last debilitating stages of the illness that claimed her at the very early age of just 41.
Kathleen Ferrier is one of the featured stars on our "Legends" product range.