AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Defining the Contralto Voice Through the Repertoire of Ralph Vaughan Williams

by Sarah M. Daniels

Institution: University of North Texas
Year: 2014
Keywords: Contralto; repertoire; Vaughan Williams
Record ID: 2024672
Full text PDF: http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc499999/


At the beginning of the twentieth century, the recognition of the contralto voice type had reached its apex in England. Throughout the remainder of the century, the number and popularity of recorded contraltos has decreased alongside the rise of the mezzo-soprano voice type. Due to the contralto’s decline and the lack of repertoire composed specifically for the voice, the definition of “contralto” remains somewhat ambiguous. The large contralto repertoire of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams displays a unique sensitivity to the contralto, particularly with regards to vocal range, flexibility, tessitura, and sustainability. These works thus suggest a new perspective for the voice type. The scope of Vaughan Williams’s oeuvre examined includes each of his operatic roles for contralto and choral works featuring the contralto. Also examined will be the compositional techniques implemented within these pieces which demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the contralto voice. A workable definition of the voice type for the pedagogue and performer is included.