When he turns to the “diction” of German, Adams argues that the reputation of German as a “difficult” language (for singers whose mother tongue is English) is unjustified.
The difficulties for speakers of English are mainly the fricatives ç x, the “mixed vowels” (front rounded vowels) yː ʏ øː œ, and the monophthongs eː oː. Americans (though not so much Brits) may also find a difficult. (“The typical problem with Americans pronouncing /a/ is that it is not bright enough.”)
Adams’s advice on producing the front rounded vowels is just right. Start with the tongue position for iː, then keeping that position “colour” it by rounding the lips to give yː. In the same way turn ɪ into ʏ, eː into øː and ɛ into œ.
As we saw yesterday, Adams calls ʔ a glottal “stroke”. It is “required” in German not only word-initially but also in compounds and after prefixes.
• in einem Augenblick ʔɪn ʔˈaenəm ʔˈaoɡənblɪk
• ɡeändert ɡəʔˈɛndɐt
In singing, however, “glottal strokes should be light and quick so as not to detract from the legato line”, and are often omitted in Lieder performance.
German spelling-to-sound rules are very straightforward, with only a few traps for the unwary.
• oː in hoch, but ɔ in doch, Koch, Loch, noch etc
• aː in nach, sprach, brach but a in ach, Bach, Dach
• aː in sagen and all its forms including sagst, sagt; also in haben, but a in hast, hat
• eː in erst, Erde, Pferd, Schwert, werden but ɛ in erben, ernst, fern, hertig, gern, Herz, Schmerz, Werk
(Remember, we’re talking about classical singing here. Not all native speakers make all these vowel length differences in everyday speech.)
Adams is wrong in stating that the letter ß was abolished in the 1996 spelling reform. In fact it has been retained in such a way that certain formerly ambiguous spellings are now no longer ambiguous: ß remains in Buß, Fuß, Gruß which have uː, but has been replaced by ss in Fluss, Kuss, muss, Nuss, Schluss, which have ʊ. Previously (and therefore in many texts that singers will be expected to use), spellings such as Nuß left the vowel length unclear.