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Marian Anderson To Me 
(smaller type) by IRVING KOLODIN (smaller type) Music Editor, Saturday Review

The phenomenal thing about the phenomenal career of Marian Anderson, to me, is that she was no phenomenon in the musical sense of the term.  That is to say, a talent that bursts on the world with full brilliance from the first, or so close to full brilliance that it can be matched against the other luminaries of its time and not be found wanting.

To be sure, Marian Anderson won her share of prizes and awards as a young woman, one carrying with it an appearance at the Lewisohn Stadium during the summer of 1925. A beautiful voice, it was uniformly agreed, but... She made appearances on the stage of Carnegie Hall in 1928 and in 1930.  I quote a typical review:  "Miss Anderson, on the whole, provided for her hearers some of the most enjoyable recital singing heard here this season, but in Mozart's "Alleluia" she showed some deficiencies of style and vocal execution..." Later:  "In Brahms 'Von ewige Liebe' her delivery, while artistic, was hardly imbued with deepest expressiveness."

Yes, she had a beautiful voice, but... As the professional critic knows (and the amateur critics suspect) the world is full of beautiful voices.  It is also full of people about whom one says "but."  Marian Anderson had plainly reached the way point at which a career flourishes or founders.  Through the assistance of the Rosenwald Foundation she was able to go abroad to study.  Dozens of Americans with beautiful voices go abroad to study...most of them remain people with beautiful voices about whom ones says "but..."

We move forward three or four years, to June of 1934.  An American impresario, tablesitting at a sidewalk cafe in Paris observes an announcement of a recital that day by Marian Anderson, American contralto, in the Salle Gaveau.  Having nothing more urgent to do, he strolls over.  Tickets? Easy.  The house is half empty.  He sees a striking dark-skinned woman in a black dress make an impressive entrance.  He hears her sing one number, two.  Even before the intermissions he has made up his mind.  He seeks out her European manager, is presented to Miss Anderson and says:  "When can we talk business?" "Tomorrow," she says. "Good.  I will see you in your manager's office tomorrow morning."  Thus began the affiliation of Marian Anderson and S. Hurok, which has carried both to events and associations neither could have dreamed of as one sang, the other listened, in that half-empty Salle Gaveau.

The reports of Marian Anderson's European successes that began to come back from Salzburg and Vienna later, and through the summer of 1935, still spoke of the beautiful voice.  Now the "but" was barely conspicuous.  She was working in Vienna with a famous lieder singer of another day. Mme. Charles Cahier.  An encouraging sign. She made a few recordings in Germany that filtered through some American outlets, and the beautiful voice sounded forth in rolling organ tones.  Arturo Toscanini's endorsement of her, from Salzburg, as a voice one hears "once in a hundred years" converted curiosity into impatience.  Finally a date was set for her New York return.  The big gesture of Carnegie Hall was avoided. The beautiful voice could fill that; it had.  What needed to be told to the press and through them to the public could be better found out in Town Hall.  Then word came that the December crossing on the Ile de France had produced a roll that had thrown Miss Anderson against a bulkhead, injured a foot.  This seemed a crushing anticlimax

[[image - Impresario S. Hurok extends congratulations after a concert}}

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[[image of Marian Anderson resting in her dressing room during intermission.]]

[[image of Marian Anderson in Berlin, 1931, coaching with Prof. Kurt Johnen.]]

to the long upward struggle to the place where she could erase that "but". Grimly, Miss Anderson decided she would sing, foot or no.

I have a vivid recollection of that December 30, 1935. It was a Monday night, and snowy. Kirsten Flagstad was singing Isolde at The Metropolitan Opera in her first appearance since her sensational successes of the year before. Some of the journalistic brethren decided this was news of greater consequence than the reappearance of an American singer who had been "around" for nearly a decade. Those of us who went to Town Hall can mark it as a landmark for a lifetime. What did Miss Anderson have to live up to? Merely the European report of a reputable critic that Miss Anderson was "not only one of the greatest living singers, but one who has exceedingly few rivals in schooling, virtuosity and the ability to encompass the grand manner."

W.J Henderson, the venerable critic of The Sun (who had heard and evaluated every great singer from Lilli Lehmann and Adelina Patti to Kirsten Flagstad) quoted these words, and remarked "Now this is a pretty tall order..." Then he added "It has a foundation in clearly published facts." Weighing all of her characteristics with typical candor, Henderson finally stated "It is rare indeed to hear a recital artist who can interpret such a program as hers without once breaking the spell woven by her evident culture and refinement... A delicate restraint and a profound sensibility characterized her art throughout the recital." Howard Taubman reported in the New York Times: "Let it be said at the outset: Marian Anderson has returned to her native land one of the great singers of our time!"

The "but" has been erased.

Those of us who were too young to hear certain earlier singers (such as Schumann-Heink) sing Schubert's "Der Tod und das Maedchen" will never forget the ominous note struck by Miss Anderson in their first encounter with what has since become a classic of her repertory. Nor will the grandeur and solemnity of her "Ave Maria" be soon surpassed. Of the former, the late Pitts Sanborn, a vocal connoisseur second only to Henderson wrote: "The protesting words of the dying girl the singer uttered with a feverish impetuosity. Then came the voice of Death--Miss Anderson summoned it as from an immeasurable distance and in a tone not of earthly compassion, but of transcendant and infinite consolation." When Henderson wrote of the "Ave Maria" that is was "beautifully done, with impeccable phrasing and tender simplicity quite enchanting," younger men knew that Miss Anderson's artistry gave them a new insight into what critics vastly more experienced than themselves had in mind when bygone standards were invoked.

In his review of the Carnegie Hall concert a few weeks later that launched Miss Anderson on the enormous wave of popularity that has been hers ever since, the late Lawrence Gilman of the Herald-Tribune used a prophetic phrase: he described Miss Anderson as "the sort of person, the sort of artist about whom legends gather." Gilman
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