Janet Baker


Schubert Club Performances:

  • January 5, 1975
  • January 10, 1982

Dame Janet Baker

Artist note by Richard Evidon

Another outstanding mezzo graced the Schubert Club in the 1970s and 80s, Dame Janet Baker. Here she is in a 1966 filmed performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas:

“There are certain qualities about Dame Janet Baker that are very special,” wrote the pianist Graham Johnson, who has collaborated with her in Schubert lieder, “aside from the fact that she has a sovereign voice, a voice that is instantly recognisable from the first note she utters…She has an unassailable technique. She was one of those people who benefited from the influx of teaching and advice that had come from Vienna as a result of the Anschluss, immigrants who gave to British musical life different standards of depth and perception. One of these was Helena Isepp, the mother of Martin Isepp the accompanist, who I think was perhaps her most important teacher.”

Partnered by Martin Isepp in her first Schubert Club appearance, Dame Janet introduced the musical world to From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, composed for her by the late Dominick Argento, doyen of Minnesota composers. This Pulitzer Prize-winning song cycle was the Schubert Club’s first commissioned work. Its premiere in 1975 was recorded and released on CD:

In her 1982 Schubert Club recital, Dame Janet offered Gretchen am Spinnrade by Schubert, one of her favorite composers. Her she sings it in a studio recording with her regular piano partner Gerald Moore:

Janet Baker had already been introduced to the Twin Cities in 1968 by the Minnesota Orchestra, singing Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Now universally recognized as one of finest of all Mahler interpreters, she is seen and heard in this clip singing his setting of Urlicht (“Primordial light”). In this 1973 performance of the “Resurrection” Symphony, Leonard Bernstein conducts the London Symphony Orchestra:

Dame Janet has had a special affinity for Berlioz, whose highly dramatic music seems to tap into her remarkable reserves of passion and intensity. Here, in a filmed 1972 concert in Copenhagen, she performs a song from the cycle Les Nuits d’ête, another of her special pieces:

From the Schubert Club Archive:

signed black and white photograph of Janet Baker smiling and looking slightly off-camera

Signed photograph

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promotional flyer with text on the left and baker posing on the right

1975 promotional flyer from Baker’s management company

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poster advertising

Poster from the 1975 St. Paul debut of Dominick Argento’s Pulitzer Prize-winning song cycle ‘From the Diary of Virginia Woolf’, commissioned by Schubert Club and starring Janet Baker

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program featuring janet baker's cursive signature in blue in

Signed program from 1975

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1975 article from the St. Paul Dispatch about composer Dominick Argento being awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his song cycle ‘From the Diary of Virginia Woolf’

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1975 review of Baker’s performance from the St. Paul Dispatch, noting that she was the first vocalist to ever perform in Minneapolis’ then-new Orchestra Hall

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1975 review of Baker’s performance from the Minneapolis Tribune

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