Born: May 31, 1912 in Margate, England
Dead: Jul 16, 1979 in Bologna, Italy
Genre: Choral Music, Opera, Vocal Music
Alfred Deller was the first renowned countertenor. As a child, Deller studied voice first with his father as a boy soprano, and when his voice changed he continued his singing as a countertenor. He joined the Canterbury Cathedral choir in 1940, where Michael Tippett heard him and invited him to London to make his debut. He came to the attention of the English public after a 1946 radio broadcast of Purcell's Come, ye sons of art, away. During the early years of his career, he concentrated on performing English Baroque and pre-Baroque composers such as Purcell and Dowland. In 1950 he formed the Deller Consort, a group which dedicated itself to performing early music using authentic performance practice. For many years, the group toured Europe and the Americas, bringing the music of this period to a new public. In 1964, Deller's son, Mark, joined the Deller Consort, also as a countertenor. Deller founded the Stour Music Festival in 1963 in order to have another venue for his Consort and to team with other early music specialists such as Franz Bruggen and Gustav Leonhardt. In 1960, he sang the role of Oberon in the premiere of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This was the first important countertenor role in opera of the twentieth century. He repeated the role at Covent Garden Opera House, London, the following year. Other composers who wrote works specifically for Deller include Fricker, Mellers, Ridout, and Rubbra. In 1970, he was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He died while on vacation in Italy.
Alfred Deller set the standard for countertenors for many years. His voice was very light with a wonderful lyric quality. He was most effective in the more contemplative pieces, but when necessary he was able to sing very florid pieces extremely well. Although he could sing the dramatic arias of Handel, he never allowed his voice to be pushed beyond its basically light sound. Deller's recordings cover the entire range of his repertoire from the lute songs of Dowland to Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream with many stops along the way. Without Alfred Deller, the international recognition of countertenor voice might not have come as quickly as it did.
- Richard LeSueur (All Music Guide)
Alfred Deller, countertenor Born 31 May 1912 at Margate, England Died 16 July 1979 at Bologna, Italy During his childhood, sang as boy soprano in church choirs 1940 - Member of Canterbury Cathedral Choir (until 1947) 1943 - Michael Tippett arranges his London debut as a solo countertenor. Approaches the Baroque repertoire - rediscovery of English composers of the 16th and 17th centuries 1946 - Makes promising, critically acclaimed debuts, and his first radio broadcasts in UK 1949 - First commercial recording (Purcell), withWalter Bergmann 1950 - Foundation of the Deller Consort with the lutenist Desmond Dupr?, a close collaborator with whom he makes his second recording (Dowland). 1955 - Begins international touring with the Consort (until 1979), in repertoire also featuring music from before and after the Elizabethan era. Starts working on the 18th century and modern period (Britten), but also the early Middle Ages. 1960 - Sings the role of Oberon at the premiere of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a part specially written for him by Britten. 1963 - Foundation of Stour Music Festival (Kent) 1964 - His son Mark (also a countertenor) joins the Deller Consort 1968 - First recording for harmonia mundi 1970-1979 - Makes for this label some fifty recordings as soloist, with the Consort or with chorus and orchestra Director of the Acad?mie de Musique Anglaise. Summer courses at S?nanque Abbey and Lacoste, organised by harmonia mundi. 1970 - Appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire