Category Archives: Art Song

Episode 262. Sylvia Sass Revisited



Several summers ago I published my first episode celebrating the artistry of Sylvia Sass which primarily featured her 1984 album of pop songs sung in Hungarian. At the time I called it, without any irony, the finest crossover album of the 1980s and one of the best of all time. Sass is an artist who continues to engage discourse. Many of the opinions, theories, and input encountered therein are predicated on dissecting the reasons for her short international career. My objective with today’s episode, however, is simply to celebrate Sass’s singing in all its glory, extending from the standard Italian operatic repertoire with which she is most associated through the thorniest contemporary idioms to the subtlest art song to the most refined Mozart singing, with, once again, a nod to the pop material which initially drew me to her. I always say that I believe in giving flowers to our favorite artists when they are still around to receive them, and today’s bouquet is a stunning display full of color and variety humbly presented to one of my favorite divas.

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.


Episode 259. Lawrence Winters Revisited



During the first season of Countermelody I presented the great African American baritone Lawrence Winters in an episode which paired him with his contemporary Robert McFerrin. Today Winters (born Lawrence Whisonant in South Carolina on 12 November 1915 and died of cancer in Hamburg at age 49 on 24 September 1965) returns center stage to Countermelody in a program which focuses on his prowess in standard operatic repertoire and art song. After vocal study with Todd Duncan at Howard University, Winters toured for several years with the Eva Jessye Choir before enlisting as a member of the Armed Forces. Upon returning to the US, he appeared in Harold Rome’s Broadway musical revue Call Me Mister. In 1948 he debuted at New York City Opera, the first Black male singer to perform there; he performed there for seven seasons, returning for a single performance as Porgy in 1962. He made his first trip to Europe in 1949 and in 1950 joined the roster of the Royal Swedish Opera, with whom he sang for two seasons. Thereafter, he joined the ensemble of the Hamburg Opera and later, the Deutsche Oper Berlin. He also performed at the Wiener Staatsoper and the San Francisco Opera. He returned to the Broadway stage in 1960, garnering a Tony nomination for his appearance opposite Joya Sherrill in the play The Long Dream. In the last year of his life he also appeared in Germany in the title role of Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. He made a large number of recordings for Philips, Deutsche Grammophon and other labels, as well as a slew of radio recordings, many of the latter of which are featured on this episode. A certified star in Germany, Winters was often featured in pop music that appealed to the German public of the time but which, frankly, was not always worthy of his talent. In this episode I present him in repertoire that reveals him as one of the primarily Verdi and verismo baritones of his era, even when he was singing those roles in German translation. We also hear Winters in excerpts from two operas in which the protagonists are specifically Black: Frederick Delius’s Koanga and William Grant Still’s Troubled Island.

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.


Episode 257. The Marvelous Marvis Martin



I have been juggling a number of brand new episode ideas for the coming weeks, but when I discovered that Sunday April 7 was the birthday of Marvis Martin, one of my favorite sopranos, I put all those ideas on the back burner and eagerly put together this birthday tribute to a singer who not only is celebrated as possessing one of the most beautiful voices of her generation, but who has also had a long, successful, and unconventional career. For whatever arbitrary reason, Marvis Martin made only a handful of major label recording releases, but, for us lucky persons who live in the age of YouTube, there are a growing number of gorgeous live recordings available that feature this artist in her prime. In some ways she reminds me of Veronica Tyler, whose career I charted in a popular episode of the podcast a few months ago. In the case of the highly respected and frankly marvelous Marvis Martin, we are able to personally present her with the flowers that she so richly deserves. I have curated a wonderful setlist today of mostly live material that includes representative selections from each of the platforms on which her career was focused: opera, concert, and recital, everything from Mozart and Handel to Copland, Rorem, and Barber; from selections from Porgy and spirituals, to Tchaikovsky, Strauss, and Korngold. My dear friend Jerry Hadley appears as a duet partner in a rare live Idomeneo performance and conductors Georg Solti, Henry Lewis, Vladimir Ashkenazy, James Levine, Charles Mackerras, Eve Queler, and Libor Pešek, among others, support this magnificent singer from the podium.

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.


Episode 255. Art Songs for Holy Week



I return to you with one final episode for the month of March, again focusing on Holy Week. In this case, I present to you art songs on contemplative, Biblical, even Lenten themes. Composers represented include Dvorák, Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann, as well as Wolf and Brahms. The final works of both of these composers are song cycles, Wolf’s Michelangelo-Lieder and Brahms’s Vier ernste Gesänge. Both works are heard in their entirety in performances both celebrated and virtually unknown. Performers include, in order of vocal range, Edith Mathis, Věra Soukupová, Kathleen Ferrier, Pierre Mollet, Benjamin Luxon, Matti Lehtinen, Norman Bailey, Walter Berry, Kim Borg, George London, and Alexander Kipnis. Into the midst of this company enters also the young and extraordinarily gifted tenor Laurence Kilsby, not yet thirty but already displaying all the traits of great vocal artistry. Please enjoy this extra episode in the spirit in which it is given, with gratitude and love for the ongoing support of all of my listeners.

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.


Episode 253. Randall Scarlata Introduces Gérard Souzay (Listeners’ Favorites)



The French baritone Gérard Souzay was born Gérard Tisserand on 8 December 1918 and died in Antibes on 17 August 2004. This episode was one of my first episodes, originally posted in honor of his then 101st birthday. It has been chosen by my friend Randall Scarlata as his Listeners’ Favorite episode in the last of this month’s Great Baritones series, and this is particularly appropriate and moving, because from the age of 19 until Souzay’s death, Randall had a close association with Souzay as both teacher and mentor. He tells some wonderful stories about their work together, shares some of Souzay’s bon mots and also presents with great compassion some of the personal challenges that Souzay faced. He also discusses some of Souzay’s other artistic pursuits, one in particular of which may surprise you! The episode itself explores Souzay’s recorded legacy, with particular emphasis on his earliest recordings. Repertoire ranges from Jaime Ovalle to César Franck, and Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert to Maurice Ravel, Henry Purcell, and Claude Debussy (including an excerpt from his 1955 radio performance of Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande), many of them accompanied by Souzay’s musical and personal partner Dalton Baldwin. We also hear performances by his teachers and mentors Claire Croiza, Vanni-Marcoux, Pierre Bernac, and Lotte Lehmann, as well as his sister, Geneviève Touraine. And Randall’s jewel of an introduction is a testimonial and tribute you’ll want to turn to again and again. I am proud to present again for your listening pleasure a singer who means as much to me as any other who has ever lived.

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.

 


Episode 252. Zsolt Bognár Introduces A Baritonal Schubertiade (Listeners’ Favorites)



I was thrilled to discover a while back that the pianist, interviewer, and journalist Zsolt Bognár, who produces the video series Living the Classical Life, is a devoted fan of Countermelody. We recently met up in person in NYC, where we discussed, among many other things, the supremacy of Franz Schubert and how his humanity finds perfect expression in his compositions. Zsolt has graciously provided the introduction to this episode, one of my favorites in the history of the podcast, which I originally produced for the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. As I remarked then, I repeat now: when I am at a loss for words, I always turn to Schubert and his music. In keeping with this month’s theme of great baritones, I once again offer this episode, which I have entitled “A Baritonal Schubertiade.” Listeners will discover some singers that we’ve already heard this month, primarily Bernard Kruysen and Jorma Hynninen, and two more singers (Gérard Souzay and Alexander Kipnis) who will be featured in full episodes next week. Kipnis’s recording stems from 1927, while German baritone Roman Trekel’s selection was recorded in 2017. Thus we have 90 years of great Lieder singing to enjoy in this episode: in addition to the singers already mentioned, Tom Krause (pictured with Carl Kundmann’s statue of Schubert in the Stadtpark in Vienna), Hans Hotter, Lawrence Winters, Hermann Prey, Barry McDaniel, Heinrich Schlusnus, Pavel Lisitsian, Bernard Diamant, and Karl Schmitt-Walter are also featured. And the episode begins with Zsolt’s recording of Liszt’s stirring transcription of Schubert’s “Aufenthalt.”

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.

 


Episode 251. Jeremy Osborne Introduces Igor Gorin (Listeners’ Favorites)



Today’s segment in the Great Baritones division of my Listeners’ Favorites series is introduced by my friend, baritone Jeremy Osborne, like me an American expat in Berlin. In the nearly ten years that I have known him, Jeremy has developed into a fine singer of both opera and art song. Through talent, determination, and hard work, Jeremy is forging a well-deserved place for himself in the music world. The singer he has chosen to introduce on this episode is the the great Ukranian-American baritone Igor Gorin (1904-1982). Jeremy shares with us the story of how he first became acquainted with Gorin’s exceptional talent. and the context in which he, like me, was bowled over by the sheer beauty of his voice. If one made such ranking lists, in fact, we would probably both place him near the top of a “Most Beautiful Baritone Voices Ever” list. Gorin’s is a fascinating life story, beginning in pre-Soviet Ukraine and moving back and forth from Vienna to the United States until finally, with forged documents, he emigrated to the US and became a naturalized citizen. Through a series of happy circumstances, he became one of the top US radio stars of the 1930s and 1940s and eventually appeared as well on early television broadcasts. A career in regional opera resulted, which reached its apex with starring roles at Lyric Opera of Chicago and a single appearance at the Metropolitan Opera at the age of 59. This episode features live, radio, and studio performances by Gorin in opera, operetta, Broadway, and folk and art songs over a period of nearly 40 years, including a  live late career performance of Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh, in which he returned to his cantorial roots. Whether you, like Jeremy, are already a passionate devotee of this artist, or if this is your first encounter with him, you are in for a treat.

A bonus episode on Igor Gorin on my Patreon page, produced at the time this episode was first heard more than three years ago, includes complete performances of two constrasting song cycles by Modest Mussorgsky, The Nursery and the Songs and Dances of Death.

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.


Episode 250. Julian Long Introduces Jorma Hynninen (Listeners’ Favorites)



(Leavin’ on a jet plane this afternoon, so posting a day or so early!)

It is a wonderful thing when friends share a favorite singer. Such is the case with my friend of long-standing, Julian Long (once one reaches a certain age, one no longer uses the term “old friend”). As part of this month’s series of Listeners’ Favorites episodes, Julian has been kind enough to record a new intro for a Countermelody episode that I posted three years ago as a birthday tribute to the marvelous Finnish baritone Jorma Hynninen, who on April 3 will celebrate his 83rd birthday. Unlike me, Julian heard Hynninen many times in both opera and, especially, recital. This episode focuses on Hynninen’s prowess as a singer of art song, beginning with some choice German Lieder recordings, but ultimately focusing on the songs of his native Finland. We hear Hynninen in performances across the span of his entire career, from 1968 through 2015. Needless to say, their great compatriot Jean Sibelius is foregrounded, but, there are a surprising number of fascinating composers in this magisterial country whose work also rewards exploration. If the music of Oskar Merikanto, Yrjö Kilpinen, Erik Bergman, Selim Palmgren, Fredrik Pacius, Väino Hannikainen, Taneli Kuusisto, or Toivo Kuula is not familiar to you, prepare to be delighted, surprised, and moved by the depth and variety of their creation. Soile Isokoski also joins Hynninen in an excerpt from the cantata Der Ochs und sein Hirte by Hynninen’s multi-talented pianist Rolf Gothóni, who is heard in many of the selections. The program concludes with Hynninen’s perusal of both pop standards and tango, both sung in Finnish. Don’t mind Julian and me as we go off to individually nurse our mutual crush!

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.


Episode 249. Gavin Carr Introduces Heinrich Rehkemper (Listeners’ Favorites)



This month’s series of Listeners’ Favorites continues with the baritone Heinrich Rehkemper (1894-1949), presented to you today by my dear friend, the esteemed conductor Gavin Carr, who is the very person that first introduced him to me many years ago now. Rehkemper is one of a number of exceptional German baritones of that era who represent a very different kind of singing than we are accustomed to today: full-throated voices with an even scale from top to bottom managed with no technical gimmickry or phoniness. Rehkemper brought these traits to whatever music he was singing, whether opera, oratorio, or Lied. He left a small but important cache of discs, including many Lieder recordings, particularly of Franz Schubert. He also made the first complete recording in 1928 of Gustav Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder under the baton of none other than the great Mahler conductor Jascha Horenstein. I place Rehkemper in the context of the other significant German baritones of his era, Heinrich Schlusnus, Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, Karl Schmitt-Walter, and Gerhard Hüsch, playing examples of each singing the aria of Di Luna from Verdi’s Der Troubadour, each sung in German translation. But it is first and foremost the unique legacy of Rehkemper’s art song recordings that concerns me here, and I discuss what makes his work so important, and what today’s singers can learn through close study of his recordings. My dear friends, just because the name of today’s baritone might not be familiar to you, Gavin and I both implore you not to hesitate in partaking of the vocal and musical riches to be discovered in this episode!

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.


Episode 248. Thomas Bagwell Introduces Bernard Kruysen (Listeners’ Favorites)



One of my best and truest friends in the business is the phenomenal pianist, coach, and conductor Thomas Bagwell. Our friendship really developed back in the days when we curated a series of recitals for the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, which Thomas also (brilliantly) accompanied. Since then we are both carving out different lives for ourselves on the other side of the pond, me as your intrepid Berlin-based podcaster, and Thomas as a valued coach and conductor on the music staff of the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen. Thomas is no doubt remembered by my listeners for his scintillating commentary on my Marni Nixon tribute episode last season. Years ago there was one a peculiar Facebook questionnaire about what would be the last thing you grabbed as you fled your burning home and Thomas answered, “My Bernard Kruysen records.” At that time, I knew the Dutch singer Bernard Kruysen (1933-2000) by name only but I had no clear idea of who he was as an artist. Because of Thomas’s enthusiasm, however, I began my own collection of Bernard Kruysen recordings, from which followed this episode, first heard in 2021, so it is only appropriate that Thomas should be reintroducing this episode today. Bernard Kruysen’s voice exemplifies 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. Thomas’s introduction is prefaced with a live recording from those Lotte Lehmann Foundation concerts back in 2011, this one featuring our phenomenal friend, spinto soprano Tami Petty.

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.


Episode 247. Sarah Pillow Introduces Eileen Farrell (Listeners’ Favorites)



My dear friend and colleague soprano Sarah Pillow introduces one of her favorite Countermelody programs, which I repost as the first of this month’s Listeners’ Favorites episodes. Since Sarah is herself an enormously eclectic singer, it’s entirely fitting that she should choose to foreground Eileen Farrell. The American dramatic soprano Eileen Farrell (1920–2002) was one of the finest and most versatile singers the United States has ever produced. Her singing career lasted more than fifty years, and this episode covers the entire chronological range of that career, from her early work as a radio singer in the 1940s to her final pop albums in the 1990s. While the episode focuses on her crossover work (and includes work by, among others, Harold Arlen, Jule Styne, Alec Wilder, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, as heard on two of her lesser-known pop albums with Percy Faith and the late André Previn), we also sample her opera and concert work, with examples from Verdi and Wagner to Debussy and Charpentier, to Barber and Menotti. A late reunion with her favorite conductor Leonard Bernstein caps the episode. In all her singing Farrell combines ease of delivery and a relaxed, insouciant response to the words and music with a vocal and interpretive precision that inevitably strikes a bullseye. Bow down to the Queen of Crossover, nay, the Queen of Song!

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.


Episode 246. Previn Moore Introduces Camilla Williams and Janet Williams (Listeners’ Favorites)



As the final entry in this year’s Black History Month episodes, my dear friend Previn Moore introduces his Listeners’ Favorites choice, an episode I published in the early months of Countermelody back in the fall of 2019. It features two phenomenal Black sopranos whose friendship and mentorship Previn outlines in detail in an introductory interview I did with him at his home in Vienna this past week. This episode features the phenomenal, the legendary, the pathbreaking soprano Camilla Williams (1919-2012), whom Previn first met as a young tenor at Indiana University’s School of Music, where Miss Williams was the first African American teacher of singing to serve on the faculty. While there, Previn also formed a lifelong friendship with Camilla’s student, Janet Williams, who herself went on to a brilliant worldwide career, including twelve years as a leading soprano with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden here in Berlin. Janet and I met as fellow students in the Merola Opera Program of the San Francisco Opera and it has been my joy and a privilege to share a treasured friendship with her ever since. In tribute to both of these extraordinary sopranos, I offer a cache of rare studio recordings by Camilla Williams, supplemented by live material sung by Janet Williams from the artist’s private archives. Included among the selections are excerpts from Camilla’s rarely-heard album of spirituals on the MGM Records label, and a concert given by Janet Williams in her home town of Detroit in 1989, capped by a stunning rendition of Undine Smith Moore’s arrangement of the spiritual “Watch and Pray,” dedicated to Camilla Williams. Many thanks to Previn, Janet, and the extraordinary Camilla Williams for their shining examples and for their dedicated artistry.

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.


Episode 244. Veronica Tyler (BHM 2024)



This Countermelody episode is the last in my miniseries featuring artists from Baltimore. It is also the last in my new episodes for Black History Month 2024 featuring “Forgotten Divas.” Today I offer to you the absolutely divine soprano of Veronica Tyler (1939-2020), who fits all three categories. In the 1960s, Veronica Tyler was a name on everyone’s lips: she appeared on three different episodes of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, she was the second prize winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1966, the first time this venerable contest had featured singers, she was a featured artist at the New York City Opera, where, in their first season at Lincoln Center, she sang a Pamina in The Magic Flute of such humanity and transcendent vocal beauty that audiences were transported into another world. She sang under conductors Leopold Stokowski, Erich Leinsdorf, Zubin Mehta, Eugene Ormandy, Carlo Maria Giulini, Robert Shaw, and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Later on she made a belated Met debut in 1985 as Serena in their premiere production of Porgy and Bess, but gradually her high profile appearances became fewer and fewer and eventually she disappeared from view. Her death on 21 March 2020 was only announced three months later, and with little fanfare. But during her heyday, Veronica Tyler was among the most elegant, compelling, and ingratiating lyric sopranos in the business. I have scoured the archives to bring to light some of the artist’s most beautiful performances, some of them virtually unheard for decades, including a 1980 album of spirituals that ranks among the best of this repertoire ever committed to disc. What inexpressible joy it brings me to present to you the unforgettable Veronica Tyler!

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.


Episode 242. Damon Evans Introduces George Shirley (Listeners’ Favorites IX)



This week I present a Countermelody mini-series paying tribute to three great African American artists who were born in Baltimore. First up is the eclectic, versatile, and prodigiously talented Damon Evans, who introduces the latest Listeners’ Favorites episode, a tribute to an idol we both treasure, the phenomenal and pathbreaking George Shirley, who on April 18 will celebrate his 90th birthday. Damon chose to do his introduction as an interview, so as a prelude to the main episode, my listeners get to hear one amazing tenor sing the praises of another one!

George Shirley is one of the most versatile tenors of the second half of the twentieth century, and a pathbreaker as the first African American tenor to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. I first encountered him through his matchless portrayal of Pelléas in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande opposite Elisabeth Söderström. But his Mozart is equally celebrated: the podcast also features live and studio recordings of George Shirley as Tamino (opposite Judith Raskin), Don Ottavio, Ferrando (opposite Leontyne Price), as well as his extraordinary Idomeneo. Extant live performances of George Shirley including assumptions of roles as diverse as Don José (opposite Shirley Verrett), David in Die Meistersinger, Pinkerton (opposite the late Renata Scotto in an incandescent early performance of one of her greatest roles), Mephistopheles in Busoni’s Doktor Faust, and even Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos. All of these are included in the episode, as are rare recordings of art songs and spirituals from throughout his career. Raise a glass to the great George Shirley and join me in thanking him for having shared so generously with us his extraordinary artistic gifts!


Episode 238. Delcina Stevenson (BHM2024)



I am so grateful to all the listeners who did introductions to their favorite episodes last month. It provided me with a little bit of needed breathing space and now I am back raring to go with my first new episode for 2024, just in time for Black History Month 2024! There is a secondary theme for this month which is “Forgotten Divas,” a favorite topic of mine at any time of year. The term “forgotten” needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because these women are anything but forgotten among those who experienced their singing, teaching, or friendship live and in person. Nevertheless, for want of a better term (Divas Who Deserve to Be As Well-Remembered as Any of Their More Famous Counterparts seems a little wordy), I’ll stick with the designation I chose.

Today’s artist is the only “Forgotten Diva” who is still with us, soprano Delcina Stevenson, born 29 September 1933, so this enables me to also “give flowers” (to coin a present-day term I actually like) to her directly. She was born in Kansas and graduated from Kansas University. After moving to California in 1960, she coached and studied with Lotte Lehmann, Gwendolyn Koldofsky, Martial Singher, and William Vennard, and was a protégée early in her career of Kurt Herbert Adler at the San Francisco Opera. She has lived and performed around the world, primarily in California, New York, and Germany. She possessed one of the most exquisite lyric soprano voices I have ever heard, one which never aged, but simply grew more lush and voluminous. The musical excerpts I have compiled feature her in live and studio recordings from over the course of more than 30 years, ranging Mozart to Sondheim to Rossini, in which that voice is on shimmering display. I am thrilled to introduce (or reintroduce) her to you.

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.


Episode 237. Paul Kirby Introduces Charles Ives (Listeners’ Favorites VIII)



My friend Paul Kirby is a musical polymath: a tenor of excellence who performs throughout the world as both a soloist and as a valued member in small vocal ensembles; he is also a killer banjo player and bluegrass singer, and a member of the Norwegian group Stemmespesialisten that combines voice lessons, voice massage and coaching. In addition he has worked as a musical administrator and is a Timani teacher in training: an education that focuses on in-depth anatomical knowledge in order to enhance movement and playing for musicians. He has also been a valued and trusted friend of mine for the past twenty years, and was a major encouragement and support when I was putting Countemelody on its feet. For his favorite episode of the podcast, Paul has chosen the Fourth of July episode I posted in 2021. In this episode I bring you a gorgeous conglomeration of great baritones and bass-baritones performing songs by the emblematic American composer Charles Ives. In this episode we hear thirty of his songs which display a wide range of compositional, musical, and literary styles. Some of the greatest Ives interpreters are represented 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 Jerry Hadley performing that most celebratory of Ives’s songs, “The Circus Band.” Since this episode was first posted I have gone on to produce full episodes on Donald Gramm, William Parker, and Jerry Hadley. Thanks, Paul, for your support, encouragement, and wonderful introduction to this episode that also does not shy away from the question of Ives’s alleged homophobia, but remains focused on the composer himself as well as the array of wonderful performers who celebrate Ives’s fascinating combination of old-fashioned Americana and revolutionary compositional techniques.

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.


Episode 236. Howard Hart Introduces Christa Ludwig (Listeners’ Favorites VII)



My friend and fellow opera podcaster Howard Hart introduces the first of this week’s Listeners’ Favorites episodes, my 2021 tribute to the superb zwischenfach singer Christa Ludwig, who died nearly three years ago. Ludwig was a singer whose repertoire centered around the great German composers but who also sang Verdi and French repertoire with stunning results; a mezzo-soprano who was unparalleled in Wagner, Mahler, and Brahms, but who also sang the great soprano heroines of Richard Strauss; a Lieder singer of great perception and textual acuity whose supple technique nonetheless was centered on legato singing: the greatness of this artist simply cannot be overestimated. I focus on the key composers (Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Wagner) and conductors (Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, and Leonard Bernstein) with whom she was most closely associated, while also examining some roles that might surprise you: Cenerentola, Amneris and Marie in Wozzeck. Vocal guest stars include Gloria Davy, Victoria de los Ángeles, Reri Grist, Gundula Janowitz, Gwyneth Jones, and Ludwig’s one-time husband Walter Berry. Thank you, Howard, for lending your enthusiasm and passion to my podcast in your introduction of one of your (and my) favorite singers.

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.


Episode 235. Anna Tonna Introduces Teresa Berganza (Listeners’ Favorites VI)



Today’s Listeners’ Favorites episode of Countermelody is introduced by my good friend (and Countermelody fan) the marvelous mezzo-soprano Anna Tonna. In her introduction Anna tells about her first exposure to the podcast and introduces us to one of her favorite episodes: the one I published in May 2022 a week after the beloved singer died at the age of 89. The episode pays tribute to her artistry through the exploration of her operatic roles, from Neris in Medea opposite Maria Callas, through her matchless Mozart and Rossini portrayals, through her fascinating and highly individualized portrait of the title heroine of Bizet’s Carmen. Special emphasis is given to her performance of Spanish music, from the zarzuelas of Ruperto Chapí and Federico Moreno Torroba, to art songs of Manuel de Falla and Fredric Mompou. Vocal guest stars include Mirella Freni, Pilar Lorengar, Lola Rodríguez Aragón, Franco Bonisolli, and the incendiary Callas herself, an early mentor and supporter of Berganza. I began the preparation for this episode with an incomplete appreciation of Berganza’s voice and artistry, but, knowing that she was one of Anna’s most treasured singers and role models, my goal was to see her through Anna’s eyes, and in the end, I was completely won over. This episode perfectly illustrates the podcast as a journey of mutual discovery for both me and my listeners.

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.


Episode 234. David Savran Introduces Carol Brice (Listeners’ Favorites V)



This Listeners’ Favorites episode serves a dual purpose: first it is a celebration the publication this week of my partner David Savran’s new book, Tell It to the World: The Broadway Musical Abroad, by Oxford University Press. (I’ll be doing two episodes with David on this book in March in conjunction with the book launch.) Second, David introduces us to one of his favorite Countermelody episodes, a 2021 Black History Month celebration of the life, voice, and career of the great African American contralto Carol Brice (1916-1985), whose career encompassed both Broadway and opera. It’s that very versatility that most attracted David to Brice’s work. He describes to us his first exposure to a variety of her recordings, from Falla to Finian’s Rainbow. I myself first heard Carol Brice in her recording of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” which exemplifies all her musical virtues: simplicity and directness of utterance, lack of sentimentality, and deep identification with both text and music. Add to this a voice of such depth and refinement and a technique so secure that she is almost without equal. From her early career outings as the first African American to win the coveted Naumburg Award, through her appearances on the Broadway stage and in Porgy and Bess, Carol Brice brought an emotional honesty to her performances such as is rarely encountered in any field of genre. On this episode I feature her in a wide range of live and commercial recordings from Marc Blitzstein’s Regina to concert pieces by Brahms and Mahler, focusing in particular on a matchless 1947 song recital with her brother Jonathan Brice as her collaborator. Brice’s second husband, the baritone Thomas Carey is also featured in a pair of recordings. Thank you, David, for re-introducing my listeners to this great artist, and congratulations on your monumental new book!

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.

 


Episode 233 – Dusty Pörn Introduces Eleanor Steber (Listeners’ Favorites IV)



Today’s subject is Eleanor Steber, certainly one of the greatest and most versatile of American sopranos. She is introduced by one of the most recent (and most colorful) of all of my listeners, the San Francisco-based drag artiste (and vocalist extraordinaire) Dusty Pörn. In this very special episode, which I first posted in the summer of 2022 in honor of Steber’s 108th birthday, musical selections from across the duration of Steber’s long career, are supplemented by the generous and loving commentary of my friend, singer and conductor Michelle Oesterle, who was Eleanor’s stepdaughter. As such Michelle spent time (especially in the summer months) with her father and Eleanor at Melodie Hill, Eleanor’s estate on Long Island. She provides us with an unparalleled intimate portrait of Eleanor as woman and as singer and describes the profound influence that Eleanor had in her life, as well as the characteristics that combined to make her the profoundly appealing and moving interpreter that she was. She also addresses the white elephant in the room, that is, Eleanor’s alcoholism, and makes a plea for tolerance and understanding vis-à-vis this serious disease. Many thanks to both Dusty and Michelle for their loving and perceptive tributes to this greatest of singers and artists.

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.

 


Episode 231. Elliot Levine Introduces Margaret Marshall (Listeners’ Favorites II)



The second of my Listeners’ Favorites episodes for January is introduced by my dear friend Elliot Levine, a founding member of the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, with whom he sang bass for 47 years. He is also an exceptional composer (who among his many other works has composed material expressly for me which I have sung with great pleasure and joy), He is also a valued choral singer and clinician. He has been a devoted listener to, and supporter of, Countermelody since its inception and among his many favorite episodes, he has chosen one of my very favorites to highlight, my birthday tribute, first published three years ago, to superbissima Margaret Marshall, who celebrates her birthday on January 4th.

Since she burst upon the scene in the late 1970s, Margaret Marshall has been a favorite of lovers of great singing. Her timbre, artistry, and technical facility evoke comparisons with many treasured singers of the past. Though she retired from public performance in 2005, in the year 2020 she launched, in tandem with her daughter Nicola and a group of dedicated supporters, a website called Songbird, which focuses on the early years of her career, and which features many rare soundclips, both live and studio, from that period, many of which have been assembled into a new downloadable release entitled “Margaret Marshall Songbird.” Today’s episode features a wide range of her live and studio recordings, including a few samples from the Songbird release. Included are works by Galuppi, Pergolesi, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Salieri, Gluck, Elgar, Finzi, Richard Strauss, and Alban Berg in recordings and performances between 1975 and 1990, with collaborators including conductors Neville Marriner, Riccardo Muti, John Eliot Gardiner, Vittorio Negri, Charles Groves, Antal Doráti, Philip Ledger, and Rafael Kubelik and fellow singers Ann Murray, Francisco Araiza, Alfreda Hodgson, Felicity Palmer, and Sesto Bruscantini. Compiling this episode has provided my ears and spirit with many blissful hours; I wish my listeners the same experience! Many thanks to both Margaret and Nicola for providing advice and guidance in the selection of today’s material, and many happy returns to the “Scottish supersoprano”! Since this episode was published, Margaret has published a second series of rare recordings available via download on her website, as well as Apple and Spotify. Margaret Marshall Songbird 2 includes exquisite performances of Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Wolf, and Sacchini, and, like the performances on this recording, simply must be heard to be believed.

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.


Episode 230. Brian Castles-Onion Introduces Ira Siff: La Gran Scena and Beyond (Listeners’ Favorites I)



Welcome to Season Five of Countermelody! While I indulge in a much-needed break for the month of January (my first in four years!), I have asked a number of Countermelody fans and listeners to provide spoken introductions to some of their favorite episodes from the first three seasons of the podcast. Today conductor Brian Castles-Onion introduces an episode from June 2020, as we neared the height of the pandemic and the panic surrounding it. It is an interview with Ira Siff, artistic director of La Gran Scena Opera Company di New York, alter ego of the beloved “traumatic soprano” Vera Galupe-Borszkh, lecturer for the Metropolitan Opera Guild and Weekly Commentator on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. So much has changed for everyone since the interview was recorded in January 2020, most poignantly (as relates to this episode) the death of our beloved Chic Walker (who portrayed Dame Emily Post-Morddum and Alfredo Sorta-Pudgi in La Gran Scena) on 11 April 2022; and the passing of Renata Scotto on 16 August 2023.

My association with Ira Siff and La Gran Scena Opera Company di New York goes back more than thirty years, when Ira provided me with my first employment as a professional singer when my alter ego Daniela della Scarpone sang for two years with the renowned travesty opera company. I sat down with Ira in his East Village apartment in January 2020 for a wide-ranging interview in which we discuss his early days as a standee at the old Met (where some of his opera-going experiences included Maria Callas’s final Tosca performances, Renata Scotto’s 1965 debut as Madama Butterfly, and Leonie Rysanek’s wild traversals of Verdi and Wagner). He discusses his first performing experiences in the early 1970s in association with Al Carmines and others, the genesis of La Gran Scena and their development into a worldwide phenomenon, and his subsequent “legitimate” career as lecturer, stage director, vocal coach and voice teacher and commentator all stemmed from in his words, “getting in a dress and singing soprano,” which he dubs “the strangest part.” This is a free-wheeling and extremely Opera Queeny interview, peppered with Ira’s unique anecdotes and snippets from Gran Scena (and other!) performances.

Today’s guest host Brian Castles-Onion is one of Australia’s most exciting and well-known opera conductors. Completing his tertiary studies at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music, his outstanding achievements speak for themselves. He has worked at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Julliard School of Music and the Rossini Festival in Italy, and has held the position of Artistic Director of Canterbury Opera in New Zealand. He currently continues his long run association with Opera Australia. His conducting experience includes well over five hundred opera performances throughout Australia, Asia and New Zealand alone. He was on the podium for Opera Australia’s 40th Anniversary Gala and 60th Anniversary Gala, The Robert Allman Farewell Gala and conducted the Dame Joan Sutherland State Memorial Service – which was broadcast internationally on television and radio. His book Losing the Plot in Opera has been a Best Seller in Australia and the UK. Brian became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2017 Australia Day Honours List.

Today’s interviewee and subject, Ira Siff, is a native New Yorker, who grew up on the standing room line of the old Metropolitan Opera, worshiping the famous singers of the 60’s. A graduate of the Cooper Union, with a degree in Fine Arts, Mr. Siff began to study voice, and made his debut as a tenor in 1970. For the next decade, he performed roles in opera, operetta and musicals in New York, at The New York Shakespeare Festival, Circle in the Square, Playwrights Horizons, and many other venues. Turning to cabaret, Ira created an act using vocal parody of opera, jazz, and other styles of music, gaining critical acclaim, and a loyal following. In 1981, he founded La Gran Scena Opera Company di New York, the internationally acclaimed travesty troupe, whose gifted falsetto “divas” have spoofed opera with great affection for over two decades, in New York annually, and on tours to some of the great festivals, theatres and opera houses of the world.

In 2000, he turned to stage directing, gaining critical acclaim for his productions of operas at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Sarasota Opera, The Caramoor Festival, and the Tanglewood Music Festival. All in all, he has directed operas for companies in New Jersey to New Zealand, with stops along the way in Puerto Rico, Lima, Peru and Utah. Singers whom he has directed include Sumi Jo, Dolora Zajick, Aprile Millo, Eglise Gutierrez, Krassimira Stoyanova, and the late Marcello Giordani. Conductors with whom he has collaborated as a stage director have included Richard Bonynge, Christoph von Dohnányi, and James Levine.

For the past thirty years, Mr. Siff has been a voice teacher and interpretive coach, teaching in New York, Italy, Israel, Holland and China, giving Master Classes for the Metropolitan Opera Guild, and was on the faculty of the Renata Scotto Vocal Academy. Ira was a guest teacher of bel canto technique at The Royal Conservatory in Den Haag in 2008, and then at the Dutch National Opera Academy for five seasons, and at the Amsterdam Conservatory in The Netherlands where he returned annually, and was appointed Permanent Guest Teacher. He has also given master classes in bel canto and verismo for the Metropolitan Opera Guild every season since 2008 and has presented sold-out lectures for the Met Guild as well on a variety of operatic topics. These lectures can be heard on the podcast of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Ira also lectures on opera twenty times a season for two private classes, has been a contributor of reviews and features to Opera News since 1997 and has been Weekly Commentator on the Met Broadcasts since 2007.

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.


Episode 229. Happy Birthday, John Wustman



Today, Christmas Day 2023, is also the 93rd birthday of my teacher, the great John Wustman. I can think of no better way to conclude Season Four of Countermelody than with a tribute to the man who had the greatest influence on my development as a musician. He’s probably best-known for his work with Luciano Pavarotti and as the accompanist in more than thirty Music Minus One LPs from the early 1960s, as well as for his pioneering teaching of scores of accompanists. He has been called “the dean of American accompanists” and many other things, but to me he is and remains primarily my dear friend and mentor. From the late 1950s through the 1980s and beyond, he appeared with nearly all of the greatest singers on the planet, from Richard Tucker, William Warfield, Eleanor Steber, and Jennie Tourel; to Birgit Nilsson, Carlo Bergonzi, Régine Crespin, Nicolai Gedda, and Renata Scotto. He and Russian mezzo-soprano Irina Arkhipova won the 1973 Gran Prix du Disque for their legendary (and matchless) recording of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death, only one of his many commercial recordings. I have been searching the internet for sound documents of his many live recordings and I’m pleased to say that I have found some rare ones to complement my reminiscences of studying with him in the late 1980s. He wrote to me just this past week that he is currently preparing another live performance of Schubert’s Winterreise in early 2024. I am so thrilled to pay tribute to the man who, through his powerful example and influence, forever changed the way I play, sing, talk about, think about, and hear music.

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 228. Song Cycles for Christmas



For my second holiday episode this year, I turn to the music of my “other” country, Germany, the land of my forebears, where I have lived for the last decade. Christmas is celebrated in a different way here than anywhere else in the world in my experience. I have chosen to play music by German composers who in effect created a subgenre, the Christmas song cycle. The most famous of these is no doubt the Weihnachtslieder cycle by the 19th century German composer Peter Cornelius, who set a standard that was furthered by a number of 20th century composers as well: Joseph Haas (Krippenlieder), Richard Trunk (Weihnachtslieder), and Mark Lothar (Kleine Weihnachtsgeschichte). In these works certain interesting tropes recur, both theological (primary among them the inner thoughts and premonitions of Mary) and psychological (experiencing the return of a more innocent time by seeing the joy of the season through the eyes of a child). I have chosen recordings by singers both celebrated (Irmgard Seefried, Peter Schreier) and less well-known (Wolfgang Anheisser, Nikolaus Hillebrand), all of whom give performances that I hope will bring us closer to the spirit of the season.

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 227. A Golden Age Christmas



In the midst of our recent move, I came across a stash of old “mixtapes” (actually CDs and much other archival material. One such item which particularly moved me was one entitled “A Golden Age Christmas 2003” which I handed out to my colleagues and friends twenty years ago. Looking over the tracklist, I realized that this was a sort of early iteration of Countermelody: me sharing music that I particularly loved with people that I cared about. Today’s podcast uses as its basis that same CD (slightly trimmed in length) and features performances by a glorious group of singers ranging from Olive Fremstad, Charles Gilibert, and Margarete Matzenauer from the early years of the twentieth century to such later favorites as Elly Ameling, Beverly Sills, and Leontyne Price. I can’t guarantee that this episode will put you in the holiday spirit, but I sure hope it does!

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 224. Handel’s Deutsche Arien



This year for Thanksgiving I bring you Handel’s glorious Neun deutsche Arien composed in the year 1725 to meditative texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes, who ten years previous had provided Handel with the text to his Der für due Sünden der Welt gemartete und sterbende Jesus (AKA simply the Brockes-Passion). The texts, Handel’s last settings of his native German language, are from a large collection of religious poems by Brockes, many of them referencing nature. The recordings I use, made between the years 1953 and 1990 are rooted in the “old fashioned” style of baroque singing, in which full-bodied vocalism is wedded to exquisite legato singing and pinpoint diction. The singers are among the most gifted of their eras, names both familiar (Edith Mathis, Yvonne Kenny, Hermann Prey, Arleen Augér, Robert Tear, and Júlia Hamari) and less well-remembered today (Adele Stolte, Margot Guilleaume, Catarina Ligendza). Each of the arias includes an instrumental obbligato, taken on these recordings by either violin, oboe or flute, and played by some of the greatest instrumentalists of their respective generations (Iona Brown, Eduard Melkus, and Helmut Winschermann, among others). Altogether a cornucopia of vocal and musical bounty which provides a fulsome accompaniment to the holiday. Coincidentally, two of this week’s featured singers (Júlia Hamari and Yvonne Kenny) celebrate birthdays this week.

The episode begins with a brief tribute to the late David Del Tredici.

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 223. Chouxbert vs. Shubertsky (Schubert in French and Russian)



A few weeks ago I finally found a copy of a rare recording by one of my favorite singers, the baryton martin Camille Maurane (1911 – 2010) in which he sings Schubert songs in French. Inspired and fascinated by this record, I began exploring recordings of other native French-language singers (including Ninon Vallin, Charles Panzéra, Georges Thill, Vanni-Marcoux, and Germaine Martinelli) singing the melodies of my favorite composers. Further on, I stumbled across a similarly wide variety of Russian-speaking singers (including Ivan Kozlovsky, Mark Reizen, Pavel Lisitsian, Sergei Lemeshev, Nina Dorliak, and Feodor Chaliapin) also putting their individual stamp on the songs of Schubert in their native tongue. Along the way, we also discuss certain quintessential vocal types in both the French (the baryton martin, the falcon) and Russian (the lyric tenor, the “slavic” soprano and bass) national styles. This episode, far from being a mere “gimmick” allows us also to examine the joys of old-fashioned art song performance, and how all these characteristics combine to provide a new perspective on the music of one of the greatest German-language composers.

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 222. Shirley Verrett, Falcon Sfogatissima



It is hard to believe that it’s already been 13 years since the death of Shirley Verrett on November 5, 2010. It has also already been four years since I did a pair of episodes on this extraordinary and beloved artist, and this anniversary gives me the perfect excuse to revisit the work of this mezzo-soprano turned soprano who more than any other singer in my experiences (even soon-to-be birthday girl Maria Callas) was capable of singing nearly anything. This type of singer is sometimes referred to as a soprano sfogato (or a falcon, after the 19th century French mezzo-cum-soprano Cornélie Falcon. Since Verrett, like Falcon, sang both mezzo and soprano, I instead coin the term falcon sfogatissima to describe her vocal magic. This episode is chock full of examples of Verrett’s impassioned yet technically-grounded vocalism, from art songs by Brahms and Pasatieri to operatic roles by Handel, Gluck, Cherubini, Bellini, Puccini, and Verdi (including both soprano and mezzo roles in Aida and the Messa da Requiem and soprano roles in Ballo in Maschera, Macbeth, Don Carlo, and Otello). I close the episodes with Verrett’s astonishing but limited forays into the German operatic repertoire. Her collaborators on this episode include conductors Seiji Ozawa, Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink, Zubin Mehta, Eve Queler, Georges Prêtre, Sarah Caldwell, and the late Kenneth Montgomery; and fellow operatic greats Sherrill Milnes, Luciano Pavarotti, James McCracken, Robert Massard (last week’s featured artist), and her frenemy the late Grace Bumbry.

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 219. Chants d’Auvergne



Another episode featuring orchestral songs, these arrangements by the French composer Joseph Canteloube AKA Marie-Joseph Canteloube de Malaret (1879 – 1957), of elaborately orchestrated folk songs from the Auvergne region of France. From the 1960s an beyond these songs have become favorites of sopranos seeking engaging works for voice and orchestra. Canteloube made orchestral arrangements of five different series (or books) of songs published between 1924 and 1955. The songs themselves are, in turn, playful, plangent, tragic, saucy, rustic, and even surprisingly emancipated. In 1930 French soprano Madeleine Grey was the first artist to record the songs. Subsequently the Ukrainian-born Israeli soprano Netania Davrath became the first to take on the entire cycle. Cognoscenti still find her versions to be the most “authentic,” although that is a loaded term when one considers how elaborate these arrangements are. Other singers that helped put these songs on the map, as it were, include Anna Moffo, Victoria de los Angeles, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Frederica von Stade. All these singers are heard in this episode, which also includes memorable contributions from singers as varied as Dawn Upshaw, Barbra Streisand, Jill Gomez, Marvis Martin, Gérard Souzay, Marni Nixon, Anna Caterina Antonacci, Elly Ameling, Régine Crespin, Arleen Augér, Susan Reed, and others. You may also be quite surprised (I know I was!) to hear the singer that Canteloube most preferred in this repertoire, in a recording accompanied by the composer himself.

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 217. Patricia Neway Revisited



Today I revisit the artistry of the great Patricia Neway (1919-2012), a singer of extraordinary versatility, dramatic power, and musical sensibility. She is no doubt most famous for two of her Broadway creations: the role of the beleaguered Magda Sorel in Gian Carlo Menotti’s tragic opera The Consul, first produced on Broadway in 1950, and of the Mother Abbess in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final musical, 1959’s The Sound of Music. But the genesis for this episode was my recent discovery of her rare 1953 album of Italian art songs. Her voice was an unusual one, dusky yet capable of extraordinary colors, chiaroscuro, leggerezza, and agility, all of which are foregrounded in the aforementioned album of songs by Bellini, Verdi, and Mascagni. I also include a few brief excerpts of Neway singing material ranging from a sacred cantata by Buxtehude to settings of texts by James Joyce to a refined yet playful rendition of “My Favorite Things.” Of which she is definitely one!

The episode opens with a tribute to James Jorden, who died on October 3.

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 216. The Lieder of Joseph Marx



This week (inspired by an 10-inch LP in my collection of his songs performed by Anton Dermota and Wilma Lipp, both stalwarts of the Wiener Staatsoper in the 1950s) I present an introduction to the Lieder of Austrian composer Joseph Marx (1882 – 1964). His songs are most frequently compared to Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf and are distinctly post-Romantic in style and harmony, but they also exhibit traits unique to their composer. As with so many figures from this period in European history, his legacy is shadowed in controversy, which I discuss at length. In the end, I believe it is his contribution as an inspired composer, particularly of song, for which he should be most remembered. Alongside Lipp and Dermota, some of the other singers heard in the episode include Ljuba Welitsch, Irmgard Seefried, Angelika Kirchschlager, Leontyne Price, Lotte Lehmann, Waldemar Kmentt, John Charles Thomas, Florence Easton, and Arleen Augér. Pianists include Marx himself, as well as Erik Werba and Paul Ulanowsky, both of whom studied with him. If you only know one or two of Marx’s songs (or if you don’t know his work at all), you are in for a glorious surprise!

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 215. Trauer und Trost



This week’s episode offers music of both mourning and consolation performed by treasured artists, many of whom celebrate significant anniversaries this fall, and all of whom died before their time. Thus we hear singers Maria Callas, Jessye Norman, Fritz Wunderlich, Kathleen Ferrier, Judith Raskin, Arleen Augér, and Lucia Popp, and pianist Dinu Lipatti performing music of Bach, Schubert, Fauré, Bellini, and others. This episode may conform to my new streamlined format, but it packs an emotional wallop nonetheless. A bonus episode to be published later in the week will feature Tatiana Troyanos, Judy Garland, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Dusty Springfield, Renata Scotto and others in music designed, as in this episode, to console and comfort.

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 214. Ellabelle Davis



Today I begin a series of interim episodes which will lead up to the debut of Season Five of the podcast in January 2024. These episodes will be shorter, but will still be chock full of interesting singers and subject matter. Today I present the African American soprano Ellabelle Davis (1907-1960) who during the late 1940s and early 1950s was greatly celebrated as a concert singer and who appeared around the world, the “Toast of Three Continents” as an early Musical America ad featuring the soprano proclaimed. She even appeared on the operatic stage, primarily as Aida, though her artistry was best suited to the concert platform. She even made a number of recordings, including two 10-inch LPs for London-Decca records in 1950. In her day she was frequently written up in the New York Times and appeared repeatedly in high-profile concert appearances in the city, and even moreso, around the world, including the Nordic countries, Vienna, and Mexico in particular. Yet her career was slowed by illness, and in fact she died prematurely at the age of 53 of cancer, after attempting a career comeback the previous year. On the episode today I present a number of her extant studio recordings and attempt to place her career within the context of larger social issues in the United States (and around the world) at that time. An upcoming bonus episode will feature even rarer selections from Davis’s 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.” 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 213. Julia Varady



A week ago the extraordinary Hungarian-German soprano Julia Varady turned 82. As she is one of my favorite sopranos, I have presented her a few times on the podcast, but never on an episode devoted exclusively to her. There is no time like the present to rectify that situation. Varady had an exceptional and unusual career, centered mostly in Europe, where she was celebrated first as a Mozart soprano, later for her fearless portrayals of the full range of Verdi heroines. Elsewhere in the world, primarily because of her recordings, she was considered mostly a Strauss singer, who also dipped her toe into some of the Wagner jugendlich dramatisch heroines. As today’s traversal proves, she was all that, but also much more: a singer with a gutsy dramatic instinct and a technique that allowed her to take on roles that might have been a few sizes too large for her vocally, but which she portrayed with vigor and fearlessness such as have been matched by only a few of the very greatest sopranos. It is also my objective in this episode to consider her accomplishment independently from that of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, her husband from 1977 until his death in 2012, regarded by many as one of the most significant baritones of the last century. But my (perhaps idiosyncratic) view is that, particularly because of their very different artistic personalities, her achievements, especially on the operatic stage, outrank his. See if you agree with me. We also hear contributions from tenors Siegfried Jerusalem and Franco Tagliavini, soprano Arta Florescu (Varady’s teacher), and baritone Raimund Grumbach, along with pianists Elena Bashkirova and Aribert Reimann (whose compositional masterpiece Lear is also sampled), and conductors Wolfgang Sawallisch, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Algis Zhuraitis, Jesús López-Cobos, Neville Marriner, Herbert von Karajan, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, and István Kertész.

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 212. Ian Partridge



Ian Partridge, the quintessential English lyric tenor, celebrated his 85th birthday in June. I may be a few weeks late in celebrating that event, but my enthusiasm and admiration for this singer has remained at a consistent level ever since I first discovered his voice on a recording of songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Partridge, in fact, has left a vast recorded legacy, including work as both a solo concert artist and recitalist and as a member of such distinguished choral groups as Pro Cantione Antiqua, the Wilbye Consort, and the Louis Halsey Singers. His solo repertoire ranged from 11th century plainsong to the thornier musical 20th century idioms of Schoenberg and Britten. This episode samples the vast array of that recorded legacy, including examples from the Baroque period by Bach, Schütz, Handel, and Monteverdi; through art songs by Schubert, Brahms, Fauré, Bax, Gurney, and Warlock. We also hear him live from Covent Garden in his sole operatic role, the Carthaginian poet Iopas in Berlioz’s Les Troyens, and in lute songs and consort music by Campion and Byrd. In all these performances the voice is produced with such ease, the tone so pure and ethereally beautiful, yet never faked or “finessed,” while the interpretations themselves, no matter the musical style, are full of depth, integrity, and subtlety. Here is an enormously satisfying artist who embodies integrity and dedication to his craft. Guest stars include Jill Gomez, Nigel Rogers, Pierre Boulez, Benjamin Britten, Colin Davis, Ernest Ansermet, Norman Walker, Prunella Scales, and the tenor’s sister, pianist Jennifer Partridge, with whom he gave over 400 song recitals.

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 209. Nordic Tracks I: Orchestral Songs



Inspired by my holiday in Denmark last week, today I inaugurate a new series on Countermelody called “Nordic Tracks,” featured music from Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. There has always been a wealth of vocal music from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland, and in this episode I focus exclusively on orchestral songs, a genre which I also featured in a special episode last fall. Of course there are the usual standbys by Grieg and Sibelius and Nielsen, but also featured is the work of less-celebrated composers, beginning with the romantics and post-romantics (Wilhelm Stenhammar, Ture Rangström) and through to the present day (Aulis Sallinen, the late Kaija Saariaho). The singers are some of the greatest ever to raise their voices in song, including Kirsten Flagstad, Soile Isokoski, Birgit Nilsson, Hugo Hasslo, Elisabeth Söderström, Eric Sædén, Karita Mattila, Anne Sofie von Otter, and many others. It’s highly likely that you will encounter singers (Gitta-Maria Sjöberg, Kirsten Schultz) and composers (Fartein Valen, Laci Boldemann, Poul Schierbeck) that you may have never heard before (I know I did!) Oh, yes, and it’s all topped off with a bit of Björk!

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 208. Happy Birthday, Gundula Janowitz!



From a very young age I was interested in today’s birthday celebrant, the great Gundula Janowitz, at least partially because of a similarity between her first name and my last name! But even more than that, I was drawn to the ethereal purity of her voice, possessed of an immediately identifiable timbre unlike that of any other singer. From the 1960s through the 1980s, Janowitz was the reigning queen of the jugendlich dramatisch soprano repertoire, excelling in the roles of Mozart, Strauss and Wagner (the so-called wagneriennes blanches heroines), as well as being a Bach singer of the highest order and an exceptional Lieder singer. What is there not to love? Janowitz was also a frequent visitor to the recording studio, and to this day her recordings form a cornerstone of the Deutsche Grammophon catalog. On today’s episode, however, I stick firmly to her live and radio recordings, some of them quite rare, of the repertoire for which she was so justly celebrated. We sample live recordings of her Arabella, Fiordiligi, Agathe, and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, as well as a more surprising Elisabetta, the conflicted queen in Verdi’s Don Carlo. Also highlighted is her exceptional and career-defining performance of the role of Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio, in a rare live 1977 from the Orange Festival. Guest vocalists include Lucia Popp and Franco Corelli. This is a mouthful, so I’ll say it for all of us: Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag an eine der gefeiertsten und verehrtesten Sopranistinnen des 20. Jahrhunderts!

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 206. Jerry Hadley



Jerry Hadley (16 June 1952 – 18 July 2007) is regarded by many as the most gifted American lyric tenor of the late 20th century. Last month he would have celebrated his 71st birthday. And today is the sixteenth anniversary of his untimely death. I knew Jerry well in the early 2000s when he was dating one of my best friends. Our friendship developed separately from that: in those years in which he was working at rebuilding his voice and career we worked together on a cross-section of his old and new repertoire. At the time of his death, he was no longer romantically involved with my friend, so he and I had drifted apart. Nevertheless, it hit me very, very hard, and I mourn his loss to this day. On that front, I have quite a few things to say about singers and mental illness, and the ruthlessness, implacability, and heartlessness of a profession which so often chews up the most vulnerable of us and spits them back out. When Jerry was at his best, his art sustained him, but the challenges ultimately became too much for him to face. But this episode is primarily a celebration: my primary objective is to present my friend at his exceptional best, in performances, both live and studio, which celebrate his voice, artistry, and spirit, performances which provided his public with some of the finest tenor singing they would ever hear, in that, or any other, era.

WARNING: THIS EPISODE CONTAINS A DISCUSSION OF SUICIDE AND SUICIDAL IDEATION.

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 204. Roberta Alexander Sings America



Posting a few days early in celebration of the Fourth of July and in further recognition of the beloved American soprano Roberta Alexander, whose birthday we celebrated on Countermelody last March. Ms. Alexander has made a number of exquisite recordings over the years, many of them for the small Dutch label Etcetera. Many of these releases feature songs by the greatest American composers: Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Samuel Barber, as well as two releases featuring light classical and Broadway songs. The recordings range in date from 1976 (a live performance of Ives at the Holland Festival, in honor of the American Bicentennial) through 2009 (a live performance of Roberta as Maria in Porgy and Bess conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt). We also hear material by Berlin, Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Alec Wilder, Bock and Harnick, John Jacob Niles, and Tom Lehrer, accompanied by pianists Reinbert de Leeuw, Roger Vignoles, Alfred Heller, Brian Masuda, Tan Crone, and David Triestram and conductors Kees Bakels and Edo de Waart. Throughout, Roberta Alexander’s approach to this material is perfectly on target, revealing both pathos and a crackling sense of (often sardonic) humor, all grounded in a love of the music of her native country and wrapped in a red, white, and blue bow.

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 202. William Parker (Pride 2023)



Today’s episode celebrates the life and legacy of lyric baritone William Parker (05 August 1943 – 29 March 1993), the finest American recitalist of the late twentieth century and one of the most beautiful baritone voices I have ever heard. His mastery of the German, American (and, especially for me, French) song repertoire sends one scrambling back to the earlier days of recorded sound to find suitable parallels. Though we had many friends and colleagues in common, I never met him personally. But this week, at my request as I was preparing this episode, many who loved him have been in touch with me: family, friends, colleagues, lovers, and they have provided me with a wealth of beautiful reminiscences and memories of their beloved Will. I have also compiled a setlist for the episode which displays the full breadth and depth of his artistry. At the end of his life, Will, dying of AIDS, created an initiative called the AIDS Quilt Songbook, to which some of the greatest composers and poets of the day provided songs and texts. Like the AIDS Quilt itself, this is a living legacy which continues to expand and grow. There are numerous works from the Songbook in its various iterations, performed not just by Will, but also by Kurt Ollmann and Anthony Dean Griffey, which serve not only as a painful reminder of an entire generation lost to AIDS, but also as a moving reminder of the LGBTQ+ community’s ability to face down ignorance, hatred, prejudice, even death, and in the end not only to triumph, but to provide an example for present and future generations of our resilience.

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 201. Britten – Pears (Pride 2023)



Today’s episode explores the lives and loves of two of the most significant figures in twentieth century music: Benjamin Britten, the dean of British composers and the tenor Peter Pears, his partner, lover, inspiration and muse for nearly forty years. When as a lost young gay boy I first encountered their music-making I intuited that these two men were lovers, that they represented a way forward for me out of a lonely and forlorn childhood. Whether in the many songs and cycles that Britten fashioned for him or the operatic roles, beginning with the title role of Peter Grimes, that were tailor-made for him, Pears remains the ideal interpreter of his partner’s music, possessed as he was of a distinctive (some would say peculiar) voice, supple, reedy yet surprisingly powerful, along with pinpoint musical precision, plangent expressivity and dramatic aptitude. The episode features excerpts from many of Britten’s most explicitly gay compositions, surprising for a man living in Britain while sex between men was still illegal, including the operas Peter Grimes, Curlew River, Billy Budd, and Death in Venice and his settings of poetry by Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Auden, and Francis Quarles. We also hear Pears and Britten in live and recorded performance of songs and arias by other composers, including composers Britten revered (Schumann, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Frank Bridge), and those of whose music he was much less fond (including Vaughan Williams and Brahms). The episode contains more biographical information than your typical Countermelody episode, and does not shy away from some of the thorniest questions that one must confront when discussing these two controversial figures. But in the end it is first and foremost a celebration of the music Britten and Pears made together and the love they shared for 40 years. The episode begins with a heartfelt (and heartbroken) tribute to the great Glenda Jackson, who died this week at the age of 87.

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 200. Whole Lotta Lotte (Lehmann!)



Today we observe a significant event in the history of Countermelody, namely, our 200th episode! I decided that there was no better way to celebrate than to devote a full episode to the great Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976), who vies with Claudia Muzio as one of my two favorite singers of all time. Lehmann was originally a conservatory flunkie, but somehow got her act together to become one of the most expressive and imaginative singers, both of opera and of art song, that ever lived. From the first time I heard this warm, enveloping voice allied to a theatrical, emotional style of delivery, I was in love. Though I have frequently featured her in individual cuts on the podcast, this is the first time she has been featured on her own episode. She is heard in live, studio, and radio recordings made between the years 1916 and 1958, all of which reveal her in all aspects of her sublime artistry and in the company of some of the greatest artists of her era, from Arturo Toscanini to Richard Tauber to George Szell, to her preferred accompanist, Paul Ulanowsky. Choosing the selections for this week’s program was like reencountering an old friend. The episode begins with a brief tribute to the late Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, who died a week ago at the age of 70 and to the evocative singer Astrud Gilberto, who died this past week at the age of 83.

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 198. Cesare Valletti



Today’s episode celebrates the Italian tenore di grazia Cesare Valletti (18 December 1923 – 13 May 2000), perhaps the last in a lineage of Italian lyric tenors. Valletti studied under his illustrious predecessor Tito Schipa and rapidly conquered first the Italian opera houses, and then the world stages, with his small-scale but superbly produced voice and his spontaneous yet exacting musicianship. From 1953 through 1960 he was a mainstay of the Metropolitan Opera and also performed at opera houses and festivals worldwide under some of the greatest conductors and at the side of the greatest singers of his day. We hear a sampling of his greatest operatic roles, including duets with Eleanor Steber, Rosanna Carteri, and Maria Callas, as well as the repertoire in which – nearly unique for an Italian singer – he excelled: art song. The combination of his Italianate timbre with his scrupulous and imaginative musicianship makes for an ineffable and deeply satisfying artistic experience. He made five LPs of recital repertoire, including two live recitals from the stage of Town Hall in New York City, excerpts of which are all offered here. The episode begins with a tribute to the beloved Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Tina Turner, who died on Tuesday at the age of 83.

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 197. Theatre Dreams



I’ve been plotting an episode on the subject of Dreams for a while. Given the profusion of music that references that altered state of consciousness, my challenge was narrowing down the topic. I chose to focus today on theater music (opera, operetta, and musicals) that references actual rather than figurative dreams. Even within these parameters, there was a plethora of material and as usual my repertoire choices are strangely and uniquely my own. So on this episode you’ll hear everything from a 1965 recording of Tevye’s Dream from Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, from the first Israeli production of the musical; Renata Scotto in late career essaying the haunted dreamscapes of Arnold Schoenberg’s monodrama Erwartung; Mattiwilda Dobbs in a rare 1952 recording of “Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben” from Mozart’s Zaide; excerpts from unusual French and German operettas featuring Robert Massard and Charles Kullman, respectively; birthday tributes to Birgit Nilsson and Richard Tauber; and the great Welsh bass Geraint Evans in a live performance of Bottom’s Dream from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And much, much more, including a teaser of next week’s subject the Italian lyric tenor Cesare Valletti; and Janet Baker live in recital in 1966, a preview of the first in a series of bonus episodes that will feature rare LPs from my personal collection. As always, thanks for your support; enjoy!

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 196. Grace Bumbry In Memoriam



This past week the world of opera was plunged in mourning at the news of the death of the unique, the irreplaceable Grace Bumbry (04 January 1937 – 07 May 2023), an artist equal parts daredevil and refined, whose artistry enchanted us for more than sixty years. In recent months many of us anxiously awaited news of her health after she suffered a stroke last October, from which she miraculously if temporarily rebounded. Though the news of her death was therefore not unexpected, it is both momentous and sombre in that it signals the end of an era. In October I produced a pair of episodes in her honor, the second of which, published exclusively on Patreon, celebrated her prowess as a Lieder singer. As such, she carried on the tradition and bore the mantel of the great Lotte Lehmann, her teacher and mentor; Bumbry said of her: “Lotte Lehmann will always remain for me the most important person in my entire musical life.” The episode features examples of Bumbry’s Lieder singing over the course of more than forty years, with a particular focus on her rare 1976 EMI release with pianist Geoffrey Parsons of Songs by Schumann and Schubert, which is heard in its entirety. Though I am bereft at her passing, I celebrate her mastery of a subtle and refined art form which formed the cornerstone of her artistry.

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 193. Alexander Kipnis



If I were to indulge in the foolish task of dubbing certain artists the “Greatest Ever,” I would have little hesitation in naming Ukrainian-American bass Alexander Kipnis (1891–1978) “the greatest” in several categories: greatest Wagner bass, greatest low-voiced Lieder singer, just maybe even the greatest bass ever captured on recording. Though I am trying to wean myself of these designations, I have no difficulty in naming Kipnis my favorite bass. In this episode, his operatic impersonations, though legendary, are touched on but peripherally: the focus instead is on his contributions in art song, specifically Lieder. Despite his heavily-accented German (which to my ear only increases the power of his interpretations in songs like Schubert’s “Aufenthalt” or Wolf’s Michelangelo-Lieder), Kipnis was as keenly attuned to text and its musical setting than any singer of art song before or since. As usual of late in my episodes, I begin with several short contrasting examples that illustrate the “why” question: why was this artist so important, and why does he remain so? There follow a few all-too-brief examples of Kipnis in opera, including examples stretching back to his earliest recordings in 1916, when he was barely 25 years old. Then follow a further examination of Kipnis’s Lieder recordings, including a rare 1943 radio broadcast of Schumann’s Dichterliebe accompanied by Wolfgang Rosé, the son-in-law of Gustav Mahler, as well as recordings issued under the aegis of the Hugo Wolf Society and the Johannes Brahms Society, and his matchless early recordings of the songs of Franz Schubert, which were my introduction not only to Kipnis’s magisterial voice, but also the songs themselves. In all of this material, whether tender, ardent, humorous, or transcendent, Kipnis’s dignity and humanity shine through.

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 191. Music for Holy Week



Welcome to all listeners both old and new to the podcast! This week I am focusing on music related to the Christian observation of Holy Week: oratorios, motets, cantatas, songs and song cycles, even operas from Renaissance to contemporary, performed by a wide range of singers. Alongside podcast favorites Jennie Tourel, Roberta Alexander, Eugene Holmes, Hugues Cuénod, Mitsuko Shirai, Muriel Smith, and others, I also feature performances by recently departed vocal giants Virginia Zeani and James Bowman (both of whom will be foregrounded in next week’s episode), as well as the sublime British mezzo-soprano Diana Montague, who celebrates her birthday this week. We also hear her husband, the magnificent tenor David Rendall, as well as their extraordinarily gifted son, baritone Huw Montague Rendall, whom I was privileged to meet in Berlin this past week. We also hear a variety of settings of the 13th century Stabat Mater text from Giovanni Felice Sances in the 17th century to the more thorny twentieth-century idiom of the Swiss Frank Martin and the African American Julia Perry. Contemplative art songs by Schubert, Wolf, Hindemith, Finzi, and Andriessen round out the episode.

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 189. Marni Nixon



Today, in another of my Women’s History Month episodes, I present to you the extraordinarily versatile, even chameleon-like singer and actor Marni Nixon (22 February 1930 – 24 July 2016), who is no doubt best-known today as the so-called “Ghostess with the Mostest.” Born into a musical family in California, she became involved from an early age with the movies, and by a marvelous set of circumstances became The Voice for a number of Hollywood actresses not known for their singing voices, among them Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Her skill in matching the vocal and speech characteristics of each of these performers is exceptional, but she was so much more than that. She pioneered the work of many 20th century giants, including Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Charles Ives, and Anton Webern. She hosted a local Seattled children’s television program called Boomerang that netted her four Emmy Awards. She performed on opera stages and concert platforms around the world. She recorded widely, everything from Mary Poppins to Pierrot Lunaire, and in the mid-1970s was the first singer to perform and record Schoenberg’s cabaret songs, his so-called Brettl-Lieder, works that are now standard repertoire. She studied with Viennese soprano Vera Schwarz as well as the iconic Lotte Lehmann, and actively performed and recorded for more than 50 years. Her late career saw an extraordinary return to the musical stage, where she starred in both new work and revivals both on and Off-Broadway. Guiding us along the trajectory of her career is my good friend Thomas Bagwell, currently a coach and conductor at The Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, who was a colleague and good friend of Marni Nixon’s for the last 25 years of her life. His anecdotes and reminscences are interspersed with examples (often familiar, more often rare) of Marni’s vast recorded legacy, which give testament not only to her versatility, but to her flawless musicality and depth of expression.

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 187. Elly Ameling Sings Bach



An artist whose singing has been with me throughout my entire life journey is Dutch soprano Elly Ameling, who on February 8 celebrated her 90th birthday. Ameling was most celebrated as a singer of art song, and justly so, but another repertoire she performed with particular grace and aplomb was the music of the baroque, specifically the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. This, the first of a pair of Ameling episodes planned for this season, presents her exclusively in that repertoire, in live performances and recordings over the course of her career’s prime, from the mid-sixties through the mid-eighties. I have chosen to focus on three works which she performed frequently and for which we have more than one recorded example extant: Cantata 51, “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen”; Cantata 202, “Weichet nur,” the so-called Wedding Cantata; and the St. Matthew Passion. I feature extended excerpts from each of these works as well as a smattering of Ameling performances of other Bach works, as well a song once wrongly attributed to Bach, “Bist du bei mir.” Throughout this episode, Ameling’s key artistic virtues are on full display: a crystalline voice of ineffable purity; an impeccable vocal technique that encompassed long-limbed cantilena as well as rapid-fire coloratura; and a verbal acuity that, even in such technically challenging music, always put the words first and foremost. She is the ideal Bach singer, and, dare I say it, maybe the finest Bach soprano that ever lived.

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 183. Martina Arroyo (Black History Month 2023)



Last week on Feburary 2, the beloved African American soprano Martina Arroyo turned 86 years old. Although the Countermelody birthday tribute to Ms. Arroyo is a week late, it is nonetheless profoundly heartfelt. I have always valued the artistry and voice of this artist who often referred to herself as “The Other One” (because she was so frequently confused with today’s birthday diva, Leontyne Price). In preparing this episode, however, I flipped over into fan girl mode: was there anything that Martina Arroyo could not do? Of course she was celebrated as one of the premiere Verdi sopranos of her day (or, indeed, of the twentieth century), and there are ample examples on the episode that give testament to her supremacy in that repertoire. But she was also an intrepid performer of contemporary music, creating important works by both Karlheinz Stockhausen and Samuel Barber. Her performances of baroque music, while very much following an earlier style of performance practice, are vivid and insightful. Her affinity with French grand opera style is off the charts, as evidenced by an excerpt from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine. She also could have pursued a path as a Mozart and Strauss singer, and selections by both of these composers prove her mastery of this genre as well. She also had the power to be a full-fledged dramatic soprano, as shown by her live performances of Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder and the title role in Puccini’s Turandot. And yet her subtlety as a recitalist is shown in live and studio Lieder performances. And the fervor and vigor of her performance of spirituals is a thing of joy. This episode is full of surprises but one thing is not surprising at all: the degree of dedication and commitment of this artist, which continues to this day with the performance and education initiative of the Martina Arroyo Foundation. (The episode begins with a brief tribute to Burt Bacharach, who died yesterday at the age of 94.)

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 182. Dorothy Maynor (Black History Month 2023)



I lead off my new episodes for Black History Month 2023 with one of the most glorious voices ever captured on recordings, Dorothy Maynor (03 September 1910 – 19 February 1996), one of the most glorious lyric soprano voices ever captured on recording. Discovered by Serge Koussevitzky in the late 1930s and championed by him and a host of other conductors (including Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy), she became renowned as a recitalist but, because of restrictions of the era placed upon Black singers, never sang on any operatic stage. Nevertheless, her studio recordings of arias by Mozart, Debussy, and Charpentier are legendary. Our appreciation of Maynor the singer is greatly enhanced by the presence of live radio recordings as well as a recently-issued live 1940 song recital from the Library of Congress. It is one of the great injustices of musical history that gifted Black singers of Maynor’s caliber from that era were outrightly denied the opportunity to perform in staged opera performances at venues like the Metropolitan Opera. Dorothy Maynor nonetheless persevered and left an incredible legacy, and not just a vocal one: in 1963, the year of her retirement from singing, she founded the Harlem School of the Arts, for which, before she stepped down as President in 1979, she raised more than $2 million dollars for the construction of a new facility for the institution. She also was the first African American singer to perform at a presidential inaugural (both for Harry S. Truman in 1949 and Dwight D. Eisenhower four years later), as well as the first African American to sit on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera. This episode features Maynor in live, studio, and radio recordings of repertoire by Bach, Handel, Schubert, and Mendelssohn, as well as some of the finest recordings of spirituals ever made. Also heard are the songs of three Black composers, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Cecil Cohen, and R. Nathaniel Dett, the latter of which Maynor studied with at the Hampton Institute, whose work Maynor frequently programmed on her recitals. The episode opens with a joyous birthday tribute to next week’s subject, Martina Arroyo, whose 1974 album of spirituals was backed by the Choir of the Harlem School of the Arts conducted by Maynor herself.

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 181. Nicolai Gedda in Song



Today’s episode is a special request from one of my most dedicated listeners, and one with which I am happy to comply. It is already seven years this month since the death of the great Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda (11 July 1925 – 8 January 2017). One of the most cultivated singers of the twentieth century, Gedda not only had a rock-solid technique and an instantly recognizable timbre, but he was a brilliant musician and a polyglot of the first order, singing a wide range of repertoire and styles in a host of languages. He was also a prolific recording artist. Though he sang an enormous range of operatic roles, in this episode, I have decided to focus entirely on a slightly lesser-known aspect of his career: his work in art song. Gedda was a master of French style, but also celebrated for his performances of Russian music. And one of the three languages he spoke while he was growing up was German, which lends his work in that language a real authenticity as well. In listening to recordings of song repertoire, I was struck by the frequent added spontaneity and commitment of his live versus his studio performances, so the episode features a large number of selections culled from Gedda’s live recitals. Gedda is accompanied by some of the most exceptional pianists of his time: Alexis Weissenberg, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Gerald Moore, Geoffrey Parsons, Dalton Baldwin, Erik Werba, Hermann Reutter, and his compatriot and most frequent collaborator Jan Eyron. Another extraordinary aspect of Gedda’s singing was his longevity. We hear him in songs by Strauss, Berlioz, Schubert, Janáček, Duparc, Grieg, Schumann, Fauré, Respighi, and Gounod, recorded over a period of nearly 40 years. Here is another singer who was active into the twilight of his life and sang into his seventies with both the intimacy and clarion power that were his musical trademarks.

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 180. Anna Moffo Reappraised



The Italian-American lyric coloratura soprano Anna Moffo (1932-2006) is, for many, one of the great singers of the past century. My first exposure to this artist was one of two, frankly, disastrous recordings released in the mid-1970s, in which the voice was a mere shadow of its former self, and in which her vocal defects and mannerisms had overtaken the intrinsic beauty of her voice. But there are so many exceptional qualities to Moffo as an artist, musician, and media star, that I felt compelled to do a frank reappraisal of her contribution to the lyric art. And am I glad that I did! I discovered an artist of great integrity who, in her best work, attained a similar level to any of the other great singers performing during that period. Unlike any other opera singer that I can think of, she conquered three distinct markets with equal success: first in Italy (where she rose to overnight stardom in the late 1950s and went on in the 1960s to become the star of her own eponymous television series); then in the United States throughout the 1960s; and finally, in the late 1960s and 70s, in Germany. But hers is also a cautionary tale of “too much, too soon” and the potentially destructive power of the media which has significance also in today’s opera world. Throughout the episode, live and studio examples of Moffo’s work, both bad and (mostly) good over the course of more than twenty years, are offered to support my discussion of her importance and influence as an artist, one that continues to this day. Vocal guest stars include tenors Carlo Bergonzi, Rudolf Schock, Giuseppe di Stefano, and Sergio Franchi, and musical collaborators include Tullio Serafin, Gerald Moore, Lorin Maazel, Hans Rosbaud, Fernando Previtali, Lehman Engel, Oliviero de Fabritiis, René Leibowitz, Kurt Eichhorn, Berislav Klobučar, and Franco Ferrara. For those who love Moffo, for those who hate her, and for those who find themselves somewhere in between, this episode is (dare I say it?) required listening.

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 178. Andrzej Hiolski



This week I have been tantalizing my followers with the promise of a tall, dark, handsome singer who was born on January 1. I shall keep you in suspense no longer: he is the great Polish baritone Andrzej Hiolski, born in Lvov in New Year’s Day 1922 and died in Krakow on 26 February 2000. I have known of Hiolski for years because of his association with the works of the late Krzysztof Penderecki, but I began digging deeper into his legacy a few years ago and was absolutely stunned at what I found: a singer with a near-perfect technique with a powerful voice with a slightly burred timbre characterized by both beauty, range, and subtlety of expression. I have been collecting his recordings for a few years now and have featured him at every possible opportunity on the podcast, including twice already in the current season. But this episode is devoted entirely to him and it may well serve, strange as it may seem for an artist who is so revered and treasured in his native country, as an introduction for many of my listeners to one of the great baritone voices of the twentieth century. The episode features recordings and performances, many of them exceedingly rare, ranging over more than 50 years, and includes music by Verdi, Wagner, Schubert, Mahler, Bach, Leoncavallo, Mozart, Tosti, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Giordano, but also a generous helping of music by Hiolski’s compatriots, including Karol Szymanowski, Frédéric Chopin, Augustyn Bloch, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Stanisław Moniuszko, Tadeusz Baird, Tadeusz Szeligowski, as well as, of course, Penderecki. Guest vocalists include the supercharged Greek-American mezzo Tatiana Troyanos and the delectable Polish soprano Alina Bolechowska, as well as the venerable Polish bass Adamo Didur, an early mentor of Hiolski’s. who now joins company with Jorma Hynninen and Gérard Souzay in the triumvirate of my favorite baritones of all time!

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 177. Great Singers at Twilight



For the last episode of 2022, I begin a series of episodes which was one of the reasons I began Countermelody in the fall of 2019: a celebration of great singing from great singers in the late years of their lives and careers. In the early years of the recording industry, a long-retired artist such as Adelina Patti would consent to leave recorded documents of their voices for future generations to experience. Oftentimes a cherished artist will make a guest cameo appearance at an important event (think of Leontyne Price coming out of retirement at age 74 and singing “God Bless America” at the September 30, 2001 memorial concert at Carnegie Hall). Other times, artists like Johnny Mathis, Regina Resnik, or Helen Donath, simply never retire, but continue to bestow their artistry upon us decade after decade. Sometimes, as is the case of Lotte Lenya, a performer finds herself later in her life on a mission which demands that she resume performing, in Lenya’s case, as a means of securing the musical legacy of her late husband Kurt Weill. There is also, in the case of someone like Alberta Hunter or Elisabeth Welch, the thrill of a jazz or pop artist at the end of her life experiencing a career resurgence at the end of a long life. In the classical world, artists late in their lives can still give extraordinary performances of art song, which makes fewer demands on their voices than taxing operatic roles, while allowing full display of their deepened artistry and experience. There are also operatic roles specifically designed for the more mature artist: roles like Schigolch in Lulu, or the Countess in Pique-Dame, among many others, which are sampled here in performances by Hans Hotter and Rita Gorr, respectively. There are also those rare and exceptional artists who are able to perform movingly even into their nineties, like the Ukrainian bass Mark Reizen, or the verismo soprano Magda Olivero; or after having suffered catastrophic physical setbacks, like the German tenor Karl Erb, the African American baritone Robert McFerrin, or the pop icon Joni Mitchell. These artists (along with many others) and this topic seems deeply appropriate as 2022 draws to a close and we look forward to the inevitable challenges, the blank slate, the looming horizon, of the year to come.

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 175. The Young Fritz Wunderlich



I’ve heard and enjoyed many a German lyric tenor, but if there was ever a greater one than Fritz Wunderlich (26 September 1930 – 17 September 1966), I’ve never heard him! What is it about this singer, who first of all, possessed a voice of such matchless visceral beauty, and who conveyed such joy and enthusiasm in the sheer act of singing, that cannot fail to engage us. My beloved “not-boyfriend” refers to Wunderlich’s voice and artistry as possessing more “face” than nearly any other singer in history, and I do think he’s on to something. The very simplicity of his utterance conveys a sort of “Everyman” quality to everything he sang. This, alongside the precision of his delivery of text pulls the listener in and almost compels them to listen. In today’s episode, I offer recordings from the 1950s, when Wunderlich was just beginning his career. His early musical experience centered around popular music of the time, and we hear him in this repertoire, as well as operetta, Lieder, so-called “early music,” as well as the more standard operatic repertoire (Mozart, Puccini, Strauss), the majority of which were recorded before 1960. His partners in song in this episode include names both familiar (Anneliese Rothenberger, Pilar Lorengar, Hilde Güden) as well as those who are less well-remembered (Trude Eipperle, Helmut Krebs, Herbert Brauer, Friederike Sailer) who nevertheless are equally memorable. As a tribute to the season, there are a number of excerpts from Puccini’s La Bohème, the first act of which which is set, of course, on Christmas Eve. If these selections alone do not bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye, you’d do well to check your pulse! The episode begins with a tribute to the late tenor John Aler (04 October 1949 – 10 December 2022).

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 174. Song of Songs



This week is a continuation of my memorial tribute to my dear friend and colleague Susan May Schneider, who died last week after a long struggle with cancer. Susan’s husband Gary, a composer and conductor, wrote a stunning song cycle for Susan using texts from the biblical Song of Songs, and this episode is bookended with their live 2000 performance of two of those songs. I supplement this with further material which all use texts based on the Song of Songs. This includes choral works by composers from Brumel and Palestrina, Walton and Bairstow to Penderecki and Daniel-Lesur; pop songs by India Adams and Kate Bush; orchestral song cycles, cantatas, and oratorios performed by Lois Marshall, Elly Ameling, Jennie Tourel, Leontyne Price, Eleanor Steber, and Suzanne Danco; and works from such surprising compositional sources as Stockhausen and Vangelis.

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 173. Orchesterlieder I



This week is the first of a series of episodes focusing on songs with orchestral accompaniment. The genre is almost a contradiction in terms: the intimacy and textual focus of art song with the sometimes strenuous vocal demands of singing over an orchestra. The most celebrated and successful of such songs (by Berlioz, Mahler, Ravel, Barber, Strauss, and others) are heard over and over on symphonic concerts when vocal soloists are the featured guests. And rightly so, for they are among the most glorious classical music written for the human voice. Typically for Countermelody, however, today’s episode, however, will focus on repertoire and composers that are less celebrated to the point of being virtually unknown. Composers heard include Frank Martin, Alexander Zemlinsky, Jean Sibelius, Giuseppe Martucci, Franz Schreker, Othmar Schoeck, Antonín Dvořák, Alberto Ginastera, Alphons Diepenbrock and the two Andrés, Jolivet and Caplet, alongside many others, performed by such favorites as Gwyneth Jones, Phyllis Curtin, Peter Schreier, Gundula Janowitz, Yi-Kwei Sze, Mirella Freni, Francisco Araiza, Elisabeth Söderström, and Bernard Kruysen. Also heard are Helen Donath and Andrzej Hiolski, singers soon to be featured on their own episodes, alongside lesser-remembered names such as Arthur Loosli, Irene Gubrud, and Colette Herzog. Conductors include Kurt Sanderling, Antal Doráti, Herbert Kegel, Bohumil Gregor, Hermann Scherchen, and Lorin Maazel. I “guarantee” that your ears will be enchanted and your musical horizons will be expanded by this episode.

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 172. Ned Rorem In Memoriam



Greetings to all from my former home of Manhattan! Upon landing here a week ago, I was greeted by the news of the death of Ned Rorem, the man previously known as “America’s Greatest Living Composer,” who just last month had celebrated his 99th birthday. Though he won the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1976 for his orchestral work Air Music, Rorem was most celebrated for his vocal music, in particular his art songs. In this episode, I will delve into that aspect of his output, from his earliest published work to his extraordinary late masterpiece Evidence of Things Not Seen. The episode features singers who collaborated closely with the composer, including Phyllis Curtin, Donald Gramm, Beverly Wolff, Regina Sarfaty, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, Kurt Ollmann, and others. Many other singers were also drawn to Rorem’s songs, including Leontyne Price, Jan DeGaetani, Martina Arroyo, and Laura Aikin, all of whom are represented here. As celebrated as a frank and forthright diarist and essayist as he was as a composer, Rorem (like his British counterpart Benjamin Britten) had extraordinary taste in the poetry and texts he chose to set. In this episode alone, we hear compositions set to words of Sylvia Plath, Paul Goodman, Walt Whitman, Paul Monette, Theodore Roethke, Frank O’Hara, and others. The episode concludes with a tribute to another musician who died earlier the same day, the American collaborative pianist David Triestram, who accompanies his dear colleague and friend Roberta Alexander in Leonard Bernstein’s poignant and timely song “Some Other Time.”

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 171. November Birthday Gals



Tomorrow morning I leave for three weeks and I’ve been desperately trying to come up with topics that would be a bit easier to produce while I’m away. What could be easier than birthdays for this month and next? Well… leave it to your intrepid producer to make that as complicated as it could be. But there’s a good reason: so many exceptional singers have birthdays this month and next! In fact, November is so chock full of such artists that I decided to focus exclusively on the Birthday Girls. And what a lineup! Iconic divas like Joan Sutherland and Victoria de los Ángeles; tragically short-lived singers like Saramae Endich and the beloved Lucia Popp; forgotten artists like Kjerstin Dellert, Caterina Mancini, and Geneviève Touraine; exceptional Black artists like Barbara Hendricks and Marietta Simpson: all are represented. And let’s not forget the pop divas, both celebrated (Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt), and less well-remembered (Chi Coltrane, Bonnie Bramlett). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So lift a glass, cut a piece of Geburtstagkuchen, and tune in to Countermelody in celebration of these exceptional women! [n.b. This episode was posted before the death of Ned Rorem, who will be properly commemorated in next week’s episode.]

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 170. Oralia Domínguez



Earlier this year, in an episode entitled “Women of Color Sing Mahler,” I provided many of my listeners to their first exposure to the Mexican contralto Oralia Domínguez (25 October 1925 – 25 November 2013). Domínguez is famed for her collaborations with such musical giants as Maria Callas and Herbert von Karajan, but on her own terms, she ranks alongside those monumental true contraltos like Marian Anderson and Kathleen Ferrier. Though there is no question that she was underrecorded, she left a handful of classic commercial recordings, and a plethora of recorded live performances which an artist both technically grounded and fearless in expression, one whose legato singing exuded repose just as her phenomenal coloratura singing generates genuine excitement. I cannot say enough about this artist, who has rapidly become one of my very favorites! The episode features Domínguez in a wide range of material, from Monteverdi, Handel, and Vivaldi to the meat and potatoes roles in the standard operatic repertoire (Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti, Ponchielli, Saint-Saëns, Massenet) as well as less familiar fare by Michael Tippett and Mexican composers Silvestre Revueltas and Salvador Moreno. Along the way our Earth Goddess is joined by fellow singers Joan Sutherland, Martina Arroyo, Mirella Freni, József Simándy, Monica Sinclair, and, of course, Maria Callas. A bonus episode published concurrently on Patreon presents Domínguez in extended operatic scenes and further rare song material.

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 169. Grace Bumbry



Though the great diva Grace Bumbry has often been featured on Countermelody, I have not yet done a full episode on this incomparable artist. Today’s episode seeks to remedy that, and to celebrate a singer whose contribution and influence extends back many decades and continues to this very day. Normally when I consider an artist so well-renowned, I try to offer a perspective that sheds different light on that singer. So today’s Bumbry celebration considers three aspects of her artistry that have received somewhat less attention. While her successes in a wide range of mezzo soprano repertoire are well-known and well-documented, her soprano assumptions have been somewhat more controversial. I highlight numerous scenes and arias, including from Macbeth, Salome, Turandot, and Nabucco, in both live and studio performances, that shed light on the enormous prowess and fearlessness with which she confronted these roles. Alongside such larger-than-life impersonations are Bumbry’s intimate and detailed performances as a Lieder singer, a tribute to her training under that matchless singer and teacher Lotte Lehmann, with whom Bumbry studied at the Music Academy of the West. Recordings of art song by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Strauss, Liszt, and Berlioz, made over the course of 45 years are also a testament to Bumbry’s vocal longevity and technical prowess. In recent years, Grace Bumbry has devoted her time to the care, nurturing, and training of young singers under the aegis of a program she has named “The Bumbry Way.” The episode closes with a definitive performance of the song “My Way,” which incorporates and encapsulates all the colors of this extraordinary singer in all her fearlessness, self-assurance, determination, vulnerability, and strength. Evviva “The Bumbry Way!”

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 167. Denise Duval



Denise Duval, whose 101st birthday we posthumously commemorate on October 23, will forever be associated with the music of Francis Poulenc, and specifically his operas, in which the lead soprano roles were either created by her, or were written with her in mind. This episode not only presents Duval in excerpts, in live concert and stage performances, of all three roles: Thérèse in Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Blanche de la Force in Les Dialogues des Carmélites, and the unnamed heroine in his searing 1959 monodrama La voix humaine, alongside her performance in the world premiere of her final creation for Poulenc: the brief 1961 monologue La Dame de Monte-Carlo. But Duval was a versatile singer whose many and varied roles may surprise you. I present her also in both French and Viennese operettas by Lehár, Kálmán, Planquette, Messager, and Hervé, as well as operatic roles by Ravel, Debussy, and Saint-Saëns, concert works by Florent Schmitt and Louis Durey, and, from a joint recital with Poulenc, a breathtaking excerpt from Debussy’s Proses lyriques. Duval’s unusual voice and artistic profile defy classification, but this episode seeks to present as full a portrait as possible of this great singer and actor. Heard alongside Duval are tenors Jean Giraudeau, Alain Vanzo, Michel Hamel, and Jean Pomarez; baritones Jacques Jansen, Robert Massard, and Hans Wilbrink; and in an amusing turn, Francis Poulenc himself.


Episode 166. Dan’s Picks



This week I celebrated my birthday, so today is the second of this month’s birthday celebrations. A number of my listeners have been asking me for a while to post an episode featuring my favorite singers and recordings. So here it is! We lead off with a brief memorial tribute to Angela Lansbury, who died in the early California morning of my birthday. The rest of the episode features many recordings that I first got to know as I began exploring the world of great singing on records. Leontyne Price, Maria Callas, Alexander Kipnis, Elisabeth Söderström, Richard Lewis, Renata Scotto, Adele Addison, Gundula Janowitz, Margaret Price, Teresa Stratas, Gérard Souzay: all of these artists were formative figures in my early listening experience. My appreciation of some others came later: Hina Spani, Brigitte Fassbaender, Georges Thill, Sylvia Sass, Nicolai Gedda, Kirsten Flagstad. By this late date, all of them have been favorite artists of mine for decades and are represented on the episode by some of their greatest recordings. The episode concludes with a brief tribute to the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams on the occasion of his 150th birthday, also celebrated this week.

P.S. Two years ago I did another Happy Birthday To Me episode, which featured performances by some of my favorite pop divas. The episode can be found for a limited time at the top of my LinkTree chain.

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 165. Giuseppe Verdi: A Libran Birthday Tribute



The great Giuseppe Verdi was born this week in 1813. Since his birthday occurs in the same week as mine, and since I firmly believe that I was a Verdi soprano in a former life, I am paying tribute to him this week with a series of excerpts from his works performed by exceptional singers whose birthdays also occur in the month of October. It’s astounding how many great Verdi singers were born at the time of the harvest moon: Luciano Pavarotti, Tito Gobbi, Camilla Williams, Jon Vickers, Rolando Panerai, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Sena Jurinac, and many, many more. I have assembled a setlist featuring more than 20 such singers, including more than a few surprises (the young Irmgard Seefried singing the soprano solo in the Requiem; and a few choice artists that you may have forgotten about, among them Irene Dalis, Delia Rigal, and John Alexander). This whole month will be a birthday extravaganza and this is a marvelous way to start off the celebration, if I do say so myself!

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 163. Season Four Preview



Today Countermelody is in limbo: balanced between Seasons Three and Four. Over the past few months I’ve been planning the course of the upcoming season and this episode consists of musical tidbits (bocconcini, if you will) of some of the singers and themed series that I am planning for Season Four. Included are retrospectives of singers Judith Raskin, Roberta Alexander, Sammy Davis, Jr., Helen Donath, Hugues Cuénod, Anna Moffo, Denise Duval, and Nicolai Gedda, all of whom are “sampled” today. I’m also planning programs on; “Great Singers We’ve Never Heard Of;” the music of Alec Wilder; the Black male singer as European émigré; “Behind the Iron Curtain;” explorations of both Orchestral Songs and Rare Twentieth-Century Operas; and “Great Singers in Old Age;” as well as, naturally, a closer examination of many of those New York City Opera divas to whom I provided an introduction last week. The new season will also be more interactive, with livestream interviews planned with various fascinating (and legendary!) figures in the world of opera and classical music. Thanks to all for your continued support, friendship, and listenership; see you next week for the debut of Season Four of Countermelody!

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 161. Janet Baker: Subject of the Queen



The world changed yesterday with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, whose subjects in the United Kingdom just this summer celebrated the 70th year of her reign. How do I, as a progressive (and non-British) person, neither a royalist nor an imperialist, commemorate her passing with the respect that she deserves? I found my answer, as I so often do in other of life’s conundrums, in the artistry of Janet Baker, who celebrated her 89th birthday on 17 August, and who, in her day was often known as “the English Rose.” There is something about Baker’s artistic personality: her nobility of utterance, her gravitas, her humanity, that made her a particularly striking interpreter of various queens in the operatic literature, from Alceste and Dido to Mary Stuart. And because, from the time of her Carnegie Hall debut in 1966 until her final appearance there in 1989, seven years after her official retirement from the operatic scene, she was a fixture of the New York concert scene, she also fits quite comfortably into the framework of this summer’s celebration of musical life in New York between the years 1950 and 1975. Her towering operatic performances of roles by Gluck, Donizetti, Berlioz, and Purcell, are balanced with her profoundly moving performances of music by Bach, Gurney, and Schubert. Queen Elizabeth II is further memorialized by an excerpt from the world premiere performance of Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana, composed for, and premiered six days after, her coronation in 1953.

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 160. Donald Gramm