Category Archives: Music for a World in Crisis Series

Episode 62. Gustav Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Music for a World in Crisis VI)



This week I turn to the music of Gustav Mahler, specifically his orchestral settings of poems from the influential collection of folk poetry, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, collected by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano and published in three separate volumes between 1805 and 1808. The themes of war, death, and humor, the latter often of the grimmest variety, pervades the texts that Mahler set. I present recordings of each of the fifteen orchestrated songs (several of which form movements of three of his symphonies) by such singers as Janet Baker, Christa Ludwig, Maureen Forrester, Lucia Popp, Brigitte Fassbaender, Irmgard Seefried, Bernd Weikl, Geraint Evans, Walter Berry, and many others, in performances conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Klaus Tennstedt, Wyn Morris, Bernard Haitink, and Adrian Boult. I also include a tribute to the Hungarian baritone István Gáti on the occasion of his 72nd birthday and a commemoration of the Dutch contralto Aafje Heynis on the fifth anniversary of her death. From chaos to transfiguration, Mahler conjures and depicts a world perhaps not far-removed from our own.

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


Episode 61. Margaret Price I: The Voice of Consolation (Music for a World in Crisis V)



Our world seems to be falling apart, both in the personal and in the global sense. I sustained an enormous personal loss this week when my dear friend Fred Berndt, the great German stage director, died suddenly on Friday. But we are all feeling an enormous sense of despair, of hopelessness, even of rage. Even before Fred’s death, I recognized that this episode needed to offer a message of hope to those who are finding it difficult to negotiate the world right now. The voice that has spoken to me most in my sadness is the Welsh soprano Margaret Price (1941-2011), whose distinctively cool yet engaged timbre, scrupulous musicianship, and communicative gifts prove unfailingly capable of conveying comfort and consolation to those who are distressed or grieving. I offer a survey of the career of this exemplary singer, a personal favorite of mine, in a wide range of repertoire including opera, oratorio, and art song. Composers include her specialties Mozart and Verdi, as well as Brahms, Strauss, Schumann, Schubert, Weber, Elgar, and the undervalued British composer Phyllis Tate. Collaborators include Otto Klemperer, Claudio Abbado, John Pritchard, Alain Lombard, Adrian Boult, and her mentor, the pianist and conductor James Lockhart, among many others. I hope that Margaret Price and her voice of consolation bring you much solace.

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


Episode 60. The Bach Aria Group (Full-Figured Baroque I)



Today’s episode, dedicated to historical performances of Johann Sebastian Bach, is the first in an ongoing series I have dubbed “Full-Figured Baroque.” It begins with a bang with the great Canadian soprano Lois Marshall rocketing her way through the opening salvos of “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen,” an apt way to celebrate the US election outcome after a week of even greater anxiety than usual. I describe my love for old-fashioned Bach performance, and why it still speaks to us in a genuine and elevating manner. In particular, I foreground the early years of the Bach Aria Group, founded in 1946 by the American philanthropist and collector William H. Scheide. All the singers in this episode (including Lois Marshall) performed under the aegis of this ensemble, either as members or featured guests: Eileen Farrell, Maureen Forrester, Richard Lewis, Norman Farrow, Mack Harrell, William Warfield, and Jennie Tourel. Many of the great instrumentalists associated with the group are heard in duet with these singers, including Robert Bloom, Samuel Baron, and Bernard Greenhouse. The episode ends with that most radiant of singers, Eleanor Steber, also an occasional guest of the Bach Aria Group in a fleet but full-voiced outpouring of celebratory coloratura.

YouTube Link to the documentary about the Bach Aria Group referenced in the episode:

A Time for Bach (1948)

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


Episode 58. Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder (Music for a World in Crisis IV)



As the worldwide pandemic renews its threat and creates general unrest, panic, anger, and depression, as well as illness and death for so many, we turn as always to music for solace. One of the central pieces that I have always turned to in times of personal turmoil has been Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder. Over the years I have listened to and derived comfort from dozens and dozens of recordings and live performances. In this episode, I feature eight different sopranos, (Elisabeth Söderström, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Edda Moser, Soile Isokoski, Margaret Price, Teresa Żylis-Gara, Lucia Popp, and Sena Jurinac), each of whom makes her mark in a distinctive way on one of the four songs in the series. I also read each of the poems in my own English translation. These performances are supplemented by excerpts from Elektra, Daphne, and Die Ägyptische Helena performed by Rose Pauly, Hilde Güden, Christa Ludwig, and Walter Berry, as well as the world premiere 1985 performance of “Malven,” Strauss’s last completed work, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa; and the Oboe Concerto played by Léon Goossens in its first commercial recording from 1947.  Featured conductors in the episode include Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink, Zubin Mehta, Marek Janowski, Georg Solti, Karl Böhm, Heinrich Hollreiser, Fritz Busch, Alceo Galliera, and Milan Horvat. A bonus episode for my Patreon supporters will feature twelve more of my favorite sopranos, each one singing one of these autumnal Lieder. As we world citizens face the great unknown, these artists help lift our spirits and reorient our perspective.

Links to my previous Music for a World in Crisis episodes:

Episode 26: Calling You

Episode 27: That Time of Evening

Episode 29: A Social Isolation Schubertiade

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


Episode 29. A Social Isolation Schubertiade (Music for a World in Crisis III)



Franz Schubert is the composer who speaks to me like no other. His insight into the human condition is profound: in particular, he explores that narrow strip of land where joy and sorrow meet, converse, and commiserate. I have devoted this episode entirely to performances of his Lieder, the songs divided into three separate (and often overlapping) categories: those dealing with mental states, those that seek to bridge gaps of time and space, and those that address social isolation. Featured are some of my favorite singers: Irmgard Seefried, Walter Berry, Alexander Kipnis, Janet Baker, Hans Hotter, Judith Raskin, Gundula Janowitz, Heinrich Rehkemper, Christa Ludwig, Peter Schreier, Brigitte Fassbaender, Gérard Souzay, and Karl Erb (with a few additional surprises along the way), accompanied by such great collaborative pianists as Erik Werba, Irwin Gage, Hertha Klust, John Newmark, Dalton Baldwin, Aribert Reimann, András Schiff, Paul Hamburger, and Bruno Walter, among others. I am particularly proud of this episode and hope that it brings you comfort and solace, as only Schubert can.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glories of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. 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 interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please also visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content. And please head to our Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your support at whatever level you can afford.


Episode 27. That Time of Evening (Music for a World in Crisis II)



Today’s episode, spontaneously crafted over the course of a few hours, features live performances of three longer works that, each in its own way, has something very specific to offer us as we face the uncertainty of our immediate future. First, a 1946 performance of Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody featuring the African American contralto Carol Brice with Serge Koussevitzky leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra. There follows a live performance from 1954 of French soprano Françoise Ogéas performing the title role of Debussy’s Rossetti-based cantata La damoiselle élue with mezzo-soprano Ginette Guillamat as the Récitante. Debussy specialist Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht leads the forces of the ORTF. The third major work in today’s episode is Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, in a live Carnegie Hall performance from October 10, 1958 by Eleanor Steber, who commissioned and premiered the work, accompanied by pianist Edwin Bitcliffe. Guest vocal appearances by Jewel Brown singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and Marian Anderson performing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” round out the episode.

Countermelody is a new podcast devoted to the glories of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. 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 interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please also visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content. And please head to our Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your support at whatever level you can afford.


Episode 26. Calling You (Music for a World in Crisis)



The world is in chaos. We don’t know from one day to the next, or one hour to the next, what is going to happen. I am currently halfway around the world from home and wondering what the coming weeks will bring. This week I have decided to feature music that addresses reaching out to loved ones across enormous gaps of time and space, the yearning for a home lost and the ambivalence with which we face the changing seasons. But all is not hopelessness: at the end of the episode, I offer several pop songs by some of my favorite singers that address the promise of healing and reunion, no matter how difficult the process. In this episode, marking the six-month anniversary of Countermelody, I’m featuring Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Hina Spani, Rosa Ponselle, Meta Seinemeyer, Anne Roselle, Claudia Muzio, Eidé Noréna, Eileen Farrell, Kathleen Ferrier, Martha Flowers, Janis Ian, Chi Coltrane, and Dusty Springfield. I also offer a recording I made in 2006 of “Danny Boy,” and I explain the song’s significance to me.

Countermelody is a new podcast devoted to the glories of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. 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 interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please also visit the Countermelody website for updates, additional content, and to pledge your support. www.countermelodypodcast.com