One of the first requests I have received since starting “Singing With Many Voices” is to discuss the difference between Portamento and Slurring (strisciato). Often singers are confused between the two words and will ask if they are both the same.
Portamento, of course, is the joining of two notes together with a clear precision and skill. A finely executed portamento is and always has been one of the most beautiful and important characteristics of the bel canto style and technique. Slurring is a lazy, unprepared and sloppy way of going between two pitches.
A portamento between two notes, regardless of the interval, is impossible to achieve without full attention paid to the Legato line. In fact the noted pedagogue, Giovanni Battista Lamperti (1839 – 1910) joins the two words together and emphasizes the importance of the latter to achieve the former.
Here is how the master teacher of the bel canto style, Emanuel Garcia (Treatise On Singing 1841) discusses its execution: “Portamento is the joining of one sound to the other, passing through all the intermediate pitches. It can be from an interval of a semitone or it can embrace the whole extension of the voice. Taking into account the duration of the first note is how one avoids dragging it to the next note. In fact, the first note anticipates the 2nd prior to the end of that first note.”
He goes on to say: “In executing a well planned portamento regardless of the interval, the voice does not actually touch the notes between the 1st and 2nd note to which it is to be joined. This requires Legato Energy. The manner of executing a portamento also serves to equalize the registers as well as equalizing the strength of the voice .”
Lamperti reinforces this difference between a true Portamento and a Slur this way: “There should be no “sliding” up or down to the intervals. The sound must be pure, immediate, in tune and this is done by paying close attention to the breath energy.” If the singer abandons the breath line (legato) the 2nd note will likely be out of tune, weak and indistinct.”
I hope you find this, my first real Blog, of interest and I look forward to your comments. More later.