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Barbra Streisand will sing at the Oscars. Nothing classical, please….

It has been announced today that the diva’s back at the Oscars for the first time in 37 years.

She has a new record out.

Well, not quite new.  Called Classical Barbra, it first came out in 1976 and was buried with indecent haste.

Barbra shimmying around Debussy, Wolf and Handel with a symphony orchestra stumbling in the dark was more than some critics could bear. Some had to lie down and take smelling salts. One or two took early retirement.

She’s a great actress and a great singer, but she lacks the breath control, the language skills, the taste and the training to make more than a travesty of these delicacies. Dank sei Dir, Herr (Handel) is more off beat than on.

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Sony Classical have quietly reissued Classical Barbra. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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  1. Robert Berger says:

    Curioulsy, Glenn Gould, contrarian that he was, liked it !

  2. Another sign that the End Times have arrived.

  3. Still….he was Glenn Gould. I quite like Barbra when she was singing pop. This was a difficult album to stomach, though I remember at the time some American critics were quite smitten with it.

  4. I had the privilege of experiencing Barbra Streisand’s fabulous voice and presence at a preview of FUNNY GIRL on Broadway; where, of course, everyone knew there would be no stopping her in the area of popular music.

    I also recall when that ‘classica’ album debuted. There was a lot of hype. I found it such a disappointment I swore off listening to anything else she did for years.

  5. I think what is ultimately of real interest is how things have changed in the last 36 years. She actually made a classical album, how many of the singers, singer songwriters or what have you today would even consider such a thing. How appropriate would it be to hear Rihanna singing Schubert lied, or old Italian songs. I for one hope that when she sings she does something from the classical repertoire, if for no other reason than to show that this music still has an audience. Or maybe it doesn’t.

    • Peter Ruark says:

      Please don’t give Rhianna any ideas! Recording classical is too often the route taken by performers to gain cultural cred as their audience begins to outgrow their product. Exhibit A on my side of the great pond is Billy Joel, but there are others.

    • > to show that this music still has an audience

      Rihanna doing Schubert would probably be the best way to make sure it doesn’t.

  6. Peter Ruark says:

    To give credit where it’s due, the orchestra and conductor/arranger probably had as much to do with why that album sounded the way it did as Barbra. Claus Ogerman, as folks know, was the one who made the string arrangments for Antonio Carlos Jobim in the mid-1960s–and those strings actually worked well. But a bossa nova arranger doing classical sure doesn’t sound very promising. And I’m guessing the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, while it apparently made some highly acclaimed recordings with Bernstein and Walter back in the day, was probably quite a different animal in the 1970s–maybe someone with more knowledge can shed some light on that.

    • Stephen H. Owades says:

      The name “Columbia Symphony Orchestra” was applied to any group of freelance musicians hired for a project at Columbia Records. It could be an ensemble made up mainly of studio musicians in Hollywood for Bruno Walter’s late recordings, or of New York freelancers for Leonard Bernstein. The name says nothing about the group other than that it probably didn’t have its own existence outside the particular recording on which it appears. (The other possibility, which also occurred, is that it was a “real” orchestra, but one contracted to another record label and thus unable to record under its own name for Columbia.)

  7. ruben greenberg says:

    If one or two music critics had to take early retirement after listening to Ms Streisand’s renditions of Classical music, her efforts were well worthwhile.

  8. To be fair, I have not heard this album. But, after reading your article…I will have to brave it and listen. The one point I find surprising is that you say Streisand does not have the breath control. I have been listening to her music for over 35 years and having had some classical voice training and being a bit familiar with the subject, I beg to differ with your assessment about her breath control. Since I have not heard this particular album, I cannot comment on its quality but during her early years she had an impeccable instrument with enormous control. In later years, like the late 70′s I was disappointed in her choice of music. She entered the pop genre and steered away from standards and musical theater.

    All in all, I am not sure I would enjoy hear her singing classical but she is a one of a kind.

  9. Chuck Macklin says:

    “She lacks breath control”??? Name me another singer in her league that carries over phrases and notes as long as she can and does. Oh wait a minute, there are none! And she has always received praise for her ear for languages.

    I agree that her performances on her Classical Album weren’t delivered in the true classic traditional fashion of this genre. But, I don’t think that was her intention. These are all beautiful songs that transcend time. Yes, with any classical singer, they are expected to be sung in a specific way, as far as technique and style. But this was an experiment for Streisand; a challenge for her in this new field she hadn’t tried before. If I’m recalling correctly, she also wasn’t and still isn’t totally satisfied with it. But like I said, I think it was mostly an experiment in song, in a genre that was unfamiliar to her. She’s always challenging herself; always learning and growing. As she says, she considers herself “a work in progress”.

    So did she fail on this experiment? I don’t think there’s a simple answer one way or another. No, she did not sing these songs as a trained classical singer would have. But at the same time, if anyone actually bought this album thinking she suddenly turned herself into a trained classical singer of Lieder, then there is where the true travesty lies.

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