Heinrich Panofka: general considerations VI

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Sixth chapter of the book Voices and singers, twenty-eight chapters of general considerations on the voice and the art of singing, published in 1866 by maestro Heinrich Panofka.

Chapter VI
Of the need for the same pitch wherever one sings

It was imperative to set up the commissions, to establish correspondence with the Chapel masters of all countries, to set up a high tribunal composed of members of the Institute, physicists, etc., in order to recognize a truth that I, long before the considerable works of these commissions, allowed myself the license to point out. In my work The Art of Singing (chapter of the standard pitch) I have said: «We hold that until there is one and the same pitch throughout all theatres; that until singers stop singing accompanied by pianos tuned differently from the vocal pitch standard, the most difficult thing to obtain will be a pure and lasting voice. Isn’t it reasonable that a voice should remain in its place? Now, in a very firm voice each interval has its own place, like the keys in a pianoforte: so the student who has taken for several years the courses of a Conservatory (where the pianos must of course always be well tuned) or who has studied at home or with his teacher on a piano always tuned on the same pitch, this student who must know how to master his voice, must also know how to find the position of this or that note. If this same student, turned into an artist, is forced to sing accompanied by a piano tuned differently, or with the accompaniment of an orchestra with a different pitch from his own, it will be evident that the fa, the sol, the la, the si, etc, which for a number of years were for him fa, sol, la, si, etc, become fa, sol, la, si with some extra commas; in a word, in an intonation unknown to his voice and which forces the instrument to move from its place. If, in this case, the difference between the pitch of the piano and the orchestra with that of the student was half a tone, this would be equal to transporting a piece, and would lead to the consequence of false intonation or at least to greater fatigue for the vocal organ. But if the difference is of a quarter, an eighth, a sixteenth of tone, false intonation is inevitable: the voice dislocates and this type of repeated movement can often, inevitably, lead to the loss of the voice.»

Text excerpted and translated from Voci e cantanti, Ventotto capitoli di considerazioni generali sulla voce e sull’arte del canto, Enrico Panofka, Florence, 1871.