Janet Baker

I'm extremely pleased that Radio has devoted several evening programmes this week to celebrating the life and work of Dame Janet Baker. She has been my favourite female singer since I first discovered her singing on the legendary Barbirolli recording of Gerontius, in my teens. There's something quite unique about the quality of her voice, but it's not only that that makes her great, it's the total commitment and incredible intelligence of the singing. I still think her recording of Mahler's Ruckert Lieder with Barbirolli is the single most perfect vocal recording I know. I am glad I was lucky enough to hear her live a few times – I particularly remember her in Gerontius at the Proms, with Peter Pears and John Shirley-Quirk, and Boult conducting – that was a memorable night. And I was at her last appearance in opera, Handel's Julius Caesar, at the Coliseum. Heady days! There's no-one like that around now, and I defy anyone to say otherwise.

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