/kown"teuhr ten'euhr/, n. Music.1. an adult male voice or voice part higher than the tenor.2. a singer with such a voice; a high tenor. Also called male alto.[1350-1400; ME cownturtenur, appar. < AF; cf. MF contreteneur, OIt contratenore, equiv. to contra- CONTRA-2 + tenore TENOR]
* * *Adult male alto voice, either natural or falsetto.Some writers use the term only for the natural high tenor, preferring "male alto" for the falsetto voice. Like the castrato tradition, the countertenor developed as a result of the prohibition on women taking part in church choirs. Since the falsetto voice lacks power, it was little used in opera. The countertenor tradition was preserved in the English cathedral choir. Today it is again being widely cultivated internationally, primarily for Renaissance and Baroque music.
* * *▪ vocal rangealso spelled Contra Tenor,in music, adult male alto voice, either natural or falsetto. In England the word generally refers to a falsetto alto rather than a high tenor. Some writers reserve the term countertenor for a naturally produced voice, terming the falsetto voice a male alto.Derived from the Renaissance contratenor altus, abbreviated to contratenor (countertenor) or altus (alto), the term countertenor was originally applied to an alto part as well as to the voice or the instrument taking this part (see also tenor). Although the falsetto voice lost favour in the rest of Europe during the 18th century, the tradition was preserved in England in the cathedral choirs. In the 20th century the solo countertenor voice was successfully revived and, although it remains associated principally with the performance of Renaissance and Baroque music, several modern composers—notably Benjamin Britten—have written for it.
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