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Famous Like Me > Singer > F > Kathleen Mary Ferrier

Profile of Kathleen Mary Ferrier on Famous Like Me

Name: Kathleen Mary Ferrier  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 8th October 1912
Place of Birth: Preston, Lancashire, England
Profession: Singer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Kathleen Ferrier

Kathleen Mary Ferrier (22 April 1912 – 8 October 1953), was a British contralto born in Preston, Lancashire, England.

She left school at 14 and worked as a telephone operator in Blackburn. She married a bank manager called Bert Wilson in 1935, and moved to Carlisle. It was in Carlisle that her husband bet her that she could not sing in a singing competition. She entered and won in two categories. She had thought to enter as a pianist. It could have been this which brought her talents to public attention, and was a significant factor in her deciding to pursue a career in music. Her marriage, however, did not work out, and was annulled after 12 years.

She studied with the baritone, Roy Henderson, who was a well known singing teacher at the time. Benjamin Britten wrote several parts specifically for her, including Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia, Abraham and Isaac (also written for Peter Pears), and part of the Spring Symphony (1949). She worked with several famous conductors, including Bruno Walter, John Barbirolli, Malcolm Sargent, Clemens Krauss, Herbert von Karajan, Eduard van Beinum and also with Benjamin Britten. She also worked with other famous singers such as Isobel Baillie and Peter Pears.

Her final performance was as Orpheus in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at Covent Garden in 1953. She had previously sung this at Glyndebourne in 1947, but the Royal Opera House performance was sung in English. She only sang in two performances. Ferrier died of breast cancer, which had spread to her bones, in 1953.

Popular recitals

Works she was particularly well known for include:

  • Bach
    • St Matthew Passion
    • B Minor Mass
  • Brahms, Alto Rhapsody
  • Chausson, Poeme de l'amour et de la Mer
  • Mahler
    • Das Lied von der Erde
    • Kindertotenlieder
    • Rückert Lieder
  • Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice
  • Handel, Messiah
  • Various folk songs, including Blow the wind southerly, The Keel Row.

Ferrier performed some of these pieces in both their original language, and also in English. Examples include the St Matthew Passion, arias by Bach and Handel, and Gluck's Orfeo. Ferrier made numerous recordings in her short career, though some of her performances were not recorded, or recordings were destroyed. These include performances of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, and The Messiah.

Music samples

Have mercy, Lord on me (info)
From St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach. With National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent. Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London, 6 February 1946.
What is life to me without thee? (info)
From Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck. With London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent. Recorded at Kingswater Hall, London, 27 February 1946.
Problems listening to the files? See media help.


  • Bach, B Minor Mass, Suzanne Danco, Kathleen Ferrier, Peter Pears, Bruce Boyce, Norman Walker, BBC Chorus, Boyd Neel Orchestra, conducted by George Enescu, (1951), BBC
  • Bach, St Matthew Passion, Greene, Suddaby, Ferrier, Cummings, Bach Choir, Jacques Orchestra, conducted by Reginald Jacques, Decca, now on Dutton.
  • Bach and Handel arias (sung in English), London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult, Decca, recorded 7th and 8th October, 1952.
  • Brahms, Alto Rhapsody, Op 53, Men of the Oslo Philharmonic Chorus, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Erik Tuxen, Oslo (1949), APR
  • Brahms, Alto Rhapsody, Op 53, London Philharmonic Choir, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Clemens Krauss, (1947), Dutton (transferred from Decca)
  • Benjamin Britten, The Rape of Lucretia (1946), Kathleen Ferrier, contralto (Lucretia), Peter Pears, Joan Cross, Owen Brannigan (Collatinus), Edmund Donleavy (Junius), Otakar Kraus, baritone (Tarquin), Anna Pollak (Bianca), Margaret Ritchie (Lucia) English Opera Group Orchestra directed by Reginald Goodall, Gala
  • Mahler, Das Lied von der Erde, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Bruno Walter, Julius Patzak (tenor), Decca, Polygram
  • Mahler, Das Lied von der Erde, Hallé Orchestra, John Barbirolli, Richard Lewis (tenor), 1952, APR
  • Mahler, Das Lied von der Erde, New York Philharmonic, Bruno Walter, Svanholm (tenor), 1949, Naxos
  • Mahler, Kindertotenlieder, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Bruno Walter, EMI
  • Mahler, Kindertotenlieder, Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, Decca
  • Mahler, Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection", also Jo Vincent (Soprano), Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, (1951), Archipel

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Kathleen Mary Ferrier