Elly Ameling studied singing with Jo Bollekamp and Jacoba Dresden-Dhont in Rotterdam, and later with Pierre Bernac in Paris. She made her concert début as early as 1953 in Rotterdam, won the Noordewier Prize for singing at s’Hertogenbosch in 1956, and took first prize at the Geneva International Music Competition in 1958. She then launched her musical career, primarily as a lieder, oratorio and concert singer. She established herself as one of the most outstanding singers of her generation in the music of JS Bach, also earning a very high reputation as an interpreter of Handel, Mozart and Mendelssohn, as well as of Baroque music in general. As a lieder singer she proved to be outstanding in the songs of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Wolf. She gave numerous concerts in her home country as well as in Austria, Belgium and Switzerland. Highlights of her busy career included taking the solo soprano parts in the first performance of Frank Martin’s Le Mystère de la Nativité in 1959 and in Mahler’s Symphony No 4 at the Salzburg Festival with Rafael Kubelík conducting. She made her British début in 1966 and first sang in America in 1968, with a recital at New York’s Lincoln Centre, after which she toured America and Canada with great success during 1971. She took part in the Spoleto Festival in 1967 and in the Montreux Festival during the following year.
Although making very few appearances in opera generally, in 1970 Ameling sang the rôle of Madama Butterfly on Dutch television and in 1973 sang Ilia in Idomeneo for the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam, repeating this part during the following year in Washington DC. She continued to be active on the concert platform and gave a lieder recital as late as 1996 in Vienna. Ameling’s outstanding musicianship attracted her to many of the leading conductors of the period. Among those with whom she established strong artistic partnerships were Benjamin Britten, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Kurt Masur, Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Edo de Waart. She has been given several honorary doctorates (from the Universities of Cleveland, Princeton and Vancouver); was awarded the Order of Orange-Nassau, the Dutch knighthood, in 1971; and in 2008 received the highest civil decoration in Holland, the Order of the Netherlands Lion.She remains active within the world of music, giving masterclasses for both singers and accompanists.
Ameling’s discography is very large indeed and stretches to more than 150 noted recordings. Many of these have won major prizes, including the Edison Award, the Grand Prix du Disque and the Deutsches Schallplattenpreis. Her recordings range from the major works of Bach, through Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Wolf, Fauré and Ravel to contemporary composers, such as Bertus van Lier and Robert Heppener, of whom she is a vigorous proponent. In addition she has recorded several very interesting recital programmes which mix the familiar with the unfamiliar to great effect. Ameling’s voice is notable for its purity and beauty of tone, allied to musicianship of the very best kind: innate and sensitive. Whatever the period of the repertoire she sings, her sense of style is always complete.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).