Category Archives: Art Song

Episode 110. Black Crooners



Season Three of Countermelody begins with a potpourri episode of some of my favorite crooners of color. I begin with an example of Bert Williams, the first African-American superstar, and offer a few other examples of important precursors, but I focus on the heyday of the crooner, from the 1940s through the early 1960s, including such honey-voiced singers as Billy Eckstine, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis, Jr., Johnny Hartman, Lou Rawls, Brook Benton, and Arthur Prysock. Since I apply the term “crooner” fairly loosely, I am also able to present singers from outside the traditional repertoire of the standard crooner, including Josh White, Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, Harry Belafonte, Barry White, Bobby Short, and Lamont Dozier. The episode concludes with a tribute to Broadway baritones of color and with a stunning live performance of Jackie Wilson singing “Danny Boy” in honor of my birthday. Vocal guest stars include Miriam Makeba, Linda Ronstadt, and Mabel Mercer.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 109. Bernard Kruysen: Baryton Martin Extroardinaire



Today I celebrate the life and artistry of Bernard Kruysen (1933-2000), the Dutch singer whose voice exemplified that now nearly extinct vocal category, the baryton martin. I discuss just what constitutes a baryton martin and why in his prime Kruysen such was an ideal representative. I also discuss the larger question of the performance of the French art song, the mélodie, and why Kruysen was also exceptional in this regard, using as an example his 1960s recorded performances of three complete song cycles by Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, and Francis Poulenc. I also feature the artist singing art songs by Schumann and Mussorgsky and works by Bach, Quirinus van Blankenburg, and Jan Mul. The episode also includes tributes to recently departed artists Karan Armstrong (singing Korngold and Menotti) and Carlisle Floyd (in performances of his work by Mary Mills and Norman Treigle).

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 107. Norman Bailey and Friends



Death has had a busy month in the music world, especially this past week, when we lost the great British Heldenbariton Norman Bailey and the delectable Hollywood star Jane Powell. This past week was also the memorial service for the soprano Carmen Balthrop, who died of pancreatic cancer on September 5. My original intent was to devote the episode to Norman Bailey, but when Jane (with whom I had a personal relationship, having been her late husband Dick Moore’s personal assistant from 2009-2012) also died, I realized I had to do an omnibus episode of sorts. I begin with several selections each from both of the recently departed divas and then plunge headlong into an appreciation of the voice, technique and artistry of the great Norman Bailey, featuring him in opera excerpts not just by Wagner, in whose music he excelled, but also by Verdi, Richard Strauss, and Michael Tippett. He is also featured in recordings from the 1970s of songs by Schumann, Brahms, Hugo Wolf, and Peter Warlock. The episode concludes with a tribute to Maria Callas on the 44th anniversary of her death on September 16, 1977.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available only to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 106. A Baritonal Schubertiade



On the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I am at a loss for meaningful words. Thus I have turned, as I have often done in my own life, and as I did once before at the beginning of the pandemic, to the music of Franz Schubert. I offer to you, my dear listeners, words and music of such profound sorrow, such crushing pain, and such undying hope as only Schubert can provide. As I have throughout this summer, I once again draw on that unquenchable source of great baritones to lend their eloquent voices to my efforts: here I present recordings and performances over 90 years, bookended by recordings by Alexander Kipnis in 1927 and by Roman Trekel in 2017 of the glorious Lieder of Franz Schubert. Other singers include Gérard Souzay, Hans Hotter, Tom Krause, Lawrence Winters, Hermann Prey, Barry McDaniel, Heinrich Schlusnus, Pavel Lisitsian, and Karl Schmitt-Walter, among others, each of whom offers a glimpse of Schubert’s unique genius, as well as comfort and solace during this time of solemn remembrance and commemoration.

P.S. Don’t forget about my first all-Schubert episode, which I posted at the beginning of the pandemic. www.countermelodypodcast.com/index.php/2020/04/05/episode-29-a-social-isolation-schubertiade. I listened to it this morning and it really holds up!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available only to Patreon supporters are currently available.

 


Episode 105. Teresa Żylis-Gara In Memoriam



One of my very favorite singers, the Polish soprano Teresa Żylis-Gara, died on Saturday 28 August at the age of 91. I had been planning a birthday episode dedicated to her next January, but instead I present a heartfelt tribute in memoriam. Over a long career and as her voice developed, Żylis-Gara moved deftly and skillfully from performances of Baroque music through French, Russian, Verdi, and Puccini and even verismo heroines, always with her trademark vocal glamour, technical acuity and musical refinement. I offer live and studio examples of this under-recorded artist, a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera between 1968 and 1984, including early Monteverdi, Bach, and Handel, moving through her career-making assumption of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and touching also on her recital work, and concluding with her definitive performances of Desdemona in Otello and Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Twenty-five exclusive bonus episodes are currently available to Patreon supporters.


Episode 104. Nicolae Herlea



Yesterday, August 28, would have been the 94th birthday of the great Romanian baritone Nicolae Herlea (1927 – 2014). I continue my great baritone series with a salute to this extraordinary singer, who, unlike many of his fellow Romanian artists during this era, was able to pursue an active career in the rest of Europe and the United States. For many fans of great singing, Herlea is the Verdi baritone of choice. With this tribute, I begin a series examining great singers whose careers originated on the other side of the so-called Iron Curtain. I present examples from one of Herlea’s first recordings, a 1959 recording of arias made in Moscow with the great Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting. I follow this with three excerpts from his two albums of Neapolitan songs, and conclude with extended excerpts from four of his recordings, made in Romania, of complete operas, which introduce us to a number of Herlea’s Romanian colleagues from the era, including Virginia Zeani, Arta Florescu, Ion Buzea, Ludovic Spiess, Ludovic Konya, and Magda Ianculescu. This episode also includes brief tributes to two of my favorite singers, recently deceased, who represented completely different genres: the folk singer and songwriter Nanci Griffith, who died on August 13 at the age of 68, and the exquisite Polish soprano, Teresa Żylis-Gara, who died yesterday at the age of 91.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available only to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 102. John Reardon



Here’s another great baritone to help get us through another week: the extraordinarily versatile and talented John Reardon (1930-1988). Possessed of a voice of extraordinary beauty and flexibility, as well as deeply intuitive interpretive powers and a profound musicality and dramatic sensibility, he had everything it took to make his mark in the fields of musicals, operetta, and opera (the latter in both standard, and, even more significantly, contemporary repertoire). I have several rare live recordings as well as some uncommon studio recordings to share with my listeners. Guest stars include Leontyne Price, Judith Raskin, Jo Sullivan, Lisa Della Casa, Alexander Young, Ragnar Ulfung, Evelyn Lear, and Bliss Hebert, in a rare outing as a pianist accompanying Reardon in a 1967 recording of American art songs. I also pay homage to his television appearances, both on NBC Opera and, especially, between 1968 and 1986, as the character “Reardon” in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which served to introduce countless multitudes of children to the glories of opera.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available only to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 99. Yi-Kwei Sze (斯義桂)



The Chinese-American bass Yi-Kwei Sze (1915-1994) was the first Chinese singer to achieve worldwide prominence in the world of Western classical music. From his first studies with Vladimir Shushlin at the Shanghai Conservatory, Sze’s sound and artistic soul carried on the great tradition of the Russian basses, including that of Alexander Kipnis, with whom he studied after emigrating to the United States in 1947. This episode captures Sze’s legacy in both his live and (comparatively rare) studio recordings, including operatic arias by Verdi, Mozart and Handel, and songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Mussorgsky, and Rachmaninov. Alongside my tribute to this great artist, I also consider the plight of the Asian musician as eloquently set forth in a riveting article published in The New York Times. Over the course of the past nearly two years since I have been producing the podcast, I consider Yi-Kwei Sze to be one of the greatest artistic discoveries on my own path. A note for my Patreon supporters: a second Yi-Kwei Sze episode is being published today that further explores his recorded legacy.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available only to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 96. Great Baritones Sing Charles Ives



To help me and all my American friends celebrate the Fourth of July, I bring you a gorgeous bevy of great low-voiced singers performing songs by that emblematic US-American composer Charles Ives. I offer thirty of his songs which display a wide range of compositional, musical, and literary styles. Some of the greatest Ives interpreters are on display here, including Thomas Stewart, Samuel Ramey, Donald Gramm, Sanford Sylvan, Kurt Ollmann, Gerald Finley, William Sharp, and William Parker, accompanied by Alan Mandel, Dalton Baldwin, Alan Feinberg, Warren Jones, Steven Blier, Craig Rutenberg, and others. I finish the program with late Jerry Hadley performing that most celebratory of Ives’s songs, “The Circus Band.”

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available only to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 93. Evelyn Lear sings Sondheim and Bernstein (and other Queer Composers)



I had intended a no-holds-barred Queer Pride extravaganza for this week’s episode, but life got in the way, so I elected to do a more modest, chamber-music-sized celebration instead, which encompasses both the life and artistry of Evelyn Lear, the ninth anniversary of whose death we observe on July First. Her 1980 release Evelyn Lear sings Sondheim and Bernstein, recorded in collaboration with her most frequent recital partner, pianist Martin Katz, finds this artist lending her distinctive voice, style, and interpretive flair to ten songs by these two composers, who are seen today as, among other things, queer icons. I round out the episode with performances by Evelyn Lear and her husband Thomas Stewart, of songs by a number of other composers (Schubert, Hahn, Tchaikovsky, Copland and Foster) who are, by my assessment at least, also guiding beacons for the queer community.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available only to Patreon supporters are currently available.