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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal


Reshetnikova Svetlana Vladimirovna

PhD in Art History

Senior Lecturer, Department of Vocal Art, Kazan State Conservatory named after N.G. Zhiganova

420004, Russia, Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan, Okolnaya str., 1
Other publications by this author







Abstract: The article describes Manuel Patricio Rodríguez García’s pedagogical activity focusing on his theoretical work Traité complet de l’art du chant which evoked continuous debates among singers and vocal teachers. The researcher analyzes and substantiates the difference between the editions of 1840-1847 and 1856. Actually, García recommended different types of respiration in the treatise of 1840-1847 and 1856, and the researcher tries to understand his motives. The research methodology involves the analysis of musical and pedagogical problems, the cultural-historical analysis, the comparative analysis. In the middle of the XIX century vocal pedagogics developed according to the performing practice and new esthetic requirements of the Romanticism epoch, that’s why the author of the treatise Manuel García the Junior developed his previous work in 1856 and recommended singers to use diaphragmal respiration instead of the clavicular one described in 1840-1847. The author concludes that García’s alleged “mistake” can be explained by the necessity to consider new tendencies in the development of vocal art. The study proposes a non-traditional approach to Manuel García’s pedagogical heritage, such an approach may be of interest for musicologists, singers, vocal teachers.


Romanticism epoch, esthetic norms, Manuel García the Senior, Manuel García the Junior, García’s treatise, vocal pedagogics, García’s school, theoretical work, diaphragmal respiration, clavicular respiration

The figure of Manuel Patricio Rodríguez García (1805-1906) is a central one in the history of vocal art. Manuel García the Junior became famous as an inventor of the laryngoscope (1855) and brilliant teacher. Though his work Traité complet de l’art du chant is famous all over the world, his principles are still under discussion and even debated in the mass media. Some researchers believe that García’s recommendations to use diaphragmal respiration were a mistake. But was it a mistake? The author tries to clarify the problem in order to avoid further speculations considering different editions of the treatise.

1.1 First editions of Manuel Patricio Rodríguez García’s treatise

The treatise was firstly published in 1840, the paper contained only one section and was written on the basis of García the Senior’s vocal and performing and pedagogical principles. To perpetuate the memory of his father Manuel García the Junior creates Traité complet de l’art du chant as an “immortal monument”. In the preamble he indicated clearly that the method described in the treatise was developed by his father: “I put together the techniques, the fruits of long-term experience mostly promoting the cultivation of musical taste. It’s his method < …> I only tried to reproduce it…” [6, p. 28-30]. The treatise of 1847 contained two parts, the first one was published without any changes, and the second one contained recommendations on performing.

1.2. The changes introduced in the edition of 1856

From 1840 till 1855 García the Junior considerably improved the first, theoretical part of the treatise, taking into account the works of the leading scientists in the sphere of phoniatry and his own observations, the experience of applying laryngoscope. As a result, the author introduces some changes in the 1856 edition of Traité complet de l’art du chant,which he considered a final version. The first chapter provides a more detailed description of phonation organs, and in the second chapter García changes his opinion on respiration type in favour of deep diaphragmal one1 [4]. Let’s remember that in the editions of 1840-1847 the author recommended small-type clavicular respiration in singing2.

What could have influenced his choice?

First of all, research findings in the sphere of phoniatry. As it is known, he studied the structure of the vocal apparatus and synthesized the knowledge of outstanding representatives of world science and medicine.

Secondly, the treatises of 1840-1847 were written according to García the Senior’s methodology and were relevant for the end of the XVIII – the beginning of the XIX century. In this period singers, including sopranos and castrates (representatives of the Old Italian school), had a repertoire consisting of virtuosic compositions with a set of techniques: ornamental passages, trills, coloraturic delicacy; their performance presupposed small-type respiration. Precisely for this reason in the first editions issued in 1840 and in 1847 small-type respiration is described. D.L. Aspelund (1894-1947) in his work “Development of the singer and his voice” mentions that thoracal (clavicular, small-type) respiration was dominant till the XIX century. This type of respiration was the most suitable to perform coloratura compositions and pathetic arias [1; 3, p. 6-13].

Thirdly, the middle of the XIX century was marked by the change of esthetic orientations. Performing romantic opera required not soft and lively but strong and powerful voices, they were more suitable to express dramatic feelings and passions. Besides, there appeared big concert halls and opera houses, which required fat sound. The orchestra increased in size and grew in skill [5]. The manner of singing changed. Just remember the transformations that occurred in the tenor part, in particular, the following ones: “reduction” of high notes (from note c ’’), “sombre sound”and appearance of a new type of voice – “tenore di forza[2], which sounded deeper than tenore contraltino or tenore di grazia3.

It is known that vocal pedagogics developed according to performing traditions typical for the epoch, that’s why García, as a leading scientist of his time, couldn’t ignore the changes, which occurred in performance and revised the provision that was already irrelevant to the middle of the XIX century.

Over his long pedagogical career Manuel García the Junior taught a lot of famous vocalists, among them D. Lind, H. Nissen-Saloman, Julius Stockhausen, M. Marchesi and others [6].

1.3. Conclusion

Vocal pedagogics and performing experienced cardinal changes from the end of the XVIII century till the middle of the XIX century. Esthetical orientations changed, new dramatic operatic compositions appeared. All the mentioned factors influenced theoretical works and vocal pedagogics. That’s why Manuel García the Junior in the latest editions of his treatise recommended singers to use diaphragmal respiration instead of the small-type (thoracal, clavicular) one. Many researchers believe that García the Senior’s secret included the use of small-type respiration, but such type of singing was suitable for the Old Italian School. García the Junior taught and wrote theoretical works basically in the XIX century, in the epoch of Romanticism, when old vocal techniques were already not relevant.


1 Such type of singing is named differently: thoracal-diaphragmal, infracostal- diaphragmal, mixed, thoracal-abdominal or osteal-abdominal [5].

2 Such type of singing is also named differently: thoracal, clavicular [5].

3 In his treatise García the Junior also mentions the reduction of high notes and “sombre sound”.

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