Category Archives: Twentieth Century Music

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 254. Holy Week with the Romantics



Once again we have reached the climax of the penitential season of Lent, the most theologically significant week in the Christian calendar, namely Holy Week. Even for those who are not observant Christians, this period, standing as it does on the threshold of spring, the season of rebirth, can be a time of meditation and remembrance. To help support this contemplative moment I have compiled selections from some of the larger oratorios and liturgical works composed during the Romantic era performed by some of the greatest classical vocalists of the last century. Composers include Brahms, Dvořák, Rossini, Schubert, Franck, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Elgar; singers include sopranos Margaret Marshall, Leontyne Price, Pilar Lorengar, Judith Raskin, and Elizabeth Harwood; mezzo-sopranos Betty Allen, Alfreda Hodgson, and Shirley Verrett; tenors David Rendall, Alejandro Ramírez, and Richard Lewis; and bass-baritones Tom Krause and Franz Crass led by conductors Andrew Davis, Eugene Ormandy, James Conlon, George Szell, Rafael Kubelik, Michel Corboz, and Herbert von Karajan. No matter what your faith or belief system, there is an outpouring of beautiful music and singing contained in this episode that will fully engage your mind and spirit.

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 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 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 245. Tell It to the World – Germany



Here is the second of a two part series in celebration of David Savran’s new book, Tell It to the World: The Broadway Musical Abroad, a monumental study on transnationalism and the Broadway-style musical. In the first part, David and I spoke about (and played examples from) the rich culture surrounding musicals in South Korea. Today’s episode focuses on Germany and the influx of Broadway musicals since World War II. Although the German-speaking world has a long tradition of popular music theatre, most notably operetta, the arrival of American musicals (beginning in 1955 with Kiss Me, Kate) made a very big splash. In 1961, My Fair Lady opened in West Berlin, became a sensational success, and permanently changed the shape of German musical theatre. Both Kiss Me, Kate and My Fair Lady are part of the first wave of Broadway musicals that have become part of the standard repertoire in state-subsidized theatre (the others include Cabaret, Anatevka (Fiddler on the Roof), West Side Story, La Cage aux Folles, and Hair).

We also look at the development of home-grown Broadway-style musicals in both West and East Germany from the 1960s through the 1980s and their subsequent impact on the work of experimental theatre makers. The next to last chapter of the book studies the musical farces directed by the great theatrical innovator, Herbert Fritsch, since 2011. The last focuses on the work of Barrie Kosky at the Komische Oper Berlin and how he turned that house into the foremost theatre in Germany for innovative re-imaginings of Broadway musicals, with emphasis on iconoclastic stagings by Kosky (and other directors) of the work of Kurt Weill. We play examples from many of the thrilling productions about which David writes which deserve to be known by a much wider audience. Along the way we also listen to nearly a century’s worth of performances by some legendary performers of German operetta and musicals, including Fritzi Massary, Olive Moorefield, Gisela May, Max Hansen, Dagmar Manzel, Horst Schulze, Ruth Rosenfeld, Julia Migenes, Julia Koci, and the late Rainer Luhn.

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 243. Ethel Ennis (BHM 2024)



Today’s “Forgotten Diva” takes us outside of the realm of opera and into the rich musical field of jazz. I have been in musical heaven the past few days as I’ve been savoring the output of the great Ethel Ennis (28 November 1932 – 17 February 2019). In her native Baltimore she was known as the “First Lady of Jazz,” and while this might cause some persons to look askance at such a claim, I can only say that they have not yet sampled the vocal, musical and interpretive majesty that is Ethel Ennis! Because of her superlative gifts, worldwide fame kept nipping at her heels, and yet she had no interest in being “famous.” She just wanted to make music, and that’s exactly what she did, remaining in the city of her birth, where she performed regularly at certain clubs, including one she and her husband Earl Arnett ran in the 1980s called “Ethel’s Place.” She had recording contracts with both Capitol Records and RCA, for whom she released some monumental albums in the 1950s and 1960s, and later in her career, as her artistry become more refined, burnished, and inward-looking, she also recorded a number of spectacular live recordings on small, independent labels. Recordings sampled on this episode cover the musical gamut from the Great American Songbook to quirky non-standards, to contemporary pop. If you hear Ethel Ennis interpret just one song, I predict that you will become an immediate fan for life.

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 241. Tell It to the World: Korea



Last month Oxford University Press published my dear friend David Savran’s Tell It to the World, a monumental study on transnationalism and the Broadway-style musical. The book focuses on two specific markets: South Korea and Germany. To help David get the word out about his book, over the next few weeks I am featuring two different episodes of Countermelody in which David and I discuss the themes and concerns of the book, as well as playing short musical examples to illustrate those points. Today’s episode focuses on South Korea and the influx of US-influenced musical styles to the country from the 1920s through to KPOP. We hear examples of the American influence on Korean popular music, from the first Korean singer to record Western-style music in the 1920s, the tragic Yun Sim-deok, through to the breezier (and occasionally psychedelic) musical stylings of such 60s pop groups as The Kim Sisters and He5, through to the folk-pop of the intense Kim Kwang-Seok and the innovative yet tradition-infused music of fusion groups Ensemble Sinawi and Jambinai. David also explains how Seoul became a center for musicals in Asia, with American musicals like Dreamgirls adapted for a specifically Korean audience, while also discussing a number of popular Korean musicals, most of them with Korean themes: Hero, The Days, Frankenstein, and Seopyeonje. This last work is based on a popular 1993 film; and both works, film and musical, spearheaded the resurgence of interest in the tradition of pansori, a uniquely Korean brand of dramatic solo theatrical performance dating back to the 18th century. Finally, and inevitably, there is a discussion of how KPOP has “infiltrated” the Korean musical, particularly with the brief appearance on Broadway of the musical KPOP.

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 240. Annabelle Bernard (BHM 2024)



Last week we celebrated the 97th birthday of our Ur-Diva, Leontyne Price. And today, continuing my Black History Month 2024 theme of “Forgotten Divas,” I present to you a Verdi soprano of similar repertoire and voice to Miss Price, Annabelle Bernard (1935-2005), whose career, unlike Price’s, was centered primarily in Europe, specifically at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, where she was a member of the company for nearly forty years. Born in New Orleans, she received her early musical training from Earl Hogan (uncle of the famous composer and conductor Moses Hogan) and Sister Mary Elise Sisson, whom Bernard herself credited with being her formative and primary musical inspiration. With the patronage of Edith Rosenwald Stern, an heiress to the Sears-Roebuck fortune, Bernard found early success in Europe, winning second prize in the Munich ARD Competition in 1960, settling in Berlin in 1962. Annabelle Bernard was married to the German tenor Karl-Ernst Mercker (1933-2021), who in addition to appearing alongside her in many performances and productions, was also a fierce advocate for his wife during her tenure in Berlin, when she would encounter racism. The two of them retired to New Orleans in 1998, where Bernard became a voice teacher at Xavier University, her alma mater. This episode includes rare live clips of the soprano in works by Verdi, Mercadante, and Dallapiccola, as well as from her sole commercial recording, excerpts from Porgy and Bess in German alongside the iconic African American baritone Lawrence Winters, released in 1964, the year before Winters’s untimely death. Mercker’s strong lyric tenor is also featured in a few brief excerpts, but the main focus is on the radiant voice and artistry of Annabelle Bernard. Believe me when I tell you that I remain on the lookout for further recordings of this magnificent artist!

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 239. Gwendolyn Killebrew (BHM 2024)



This week’s “Forgotten Diva” is the mezzo-soprano / contralto Gwendolyn Killebrew (26 August 1941 – 24 December 2021), who made an indelible contribution to opera in particular during the active years of her career (1965 – 2009). Though the majority of her career was centered at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf, she sang the world over with some of the most important opera companies (including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, the Salzburg Festival, Bayreuth, Washington Opera, Santa Fe Opera, La Monnaie, and the Bayerische Staatsoper), conductors (Pierre Boulez, Gary Bertini, Michael Gielen, Herbert von Karajan, Zubin Mehta, Georg Solti), and stage directors (Patrice Chéreau, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, August Everding, Giancarlo del Monaco, Christof Loy, and John Dew). She had an enormous repertoire from Monteverdi and Handel to Henze and Fortner, excelling in particular in various Wagner roles. She was also a superb actor, who, through the use minimal gestures and stage business, made an enormous impact. This episode presents her in a wide range of material, including both live and commercial recordings ranging from Cavalieri to Zimmermann, alongside such fellow singers as Teresa Stratas, Carlo Bergonzi, Hermann Prey, Stuart Burrows, Sherrill Milnes, and Gail Gilmore led by conductors Leonard Bernstein, Gary Bertini, Bohumil Gregor, Berislav Klobučar, James Levine, Heinz Wallberg, and Eve Queler. Of special interest is a rare live recording of her prize-winning performance of “Asie” from Ravel’s Shéhérazade at the 1967 International Voice Competition in Montréal. The episode opens with brief memorial tributes to soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez and pianist Thomas Muraco.

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 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 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 225. Joya Sherrill



This week’s episode is the first in what I hope will be a series featuring vocalists who performed with Duke Ellington, Today’s artist is the playful and sophisticated Joya Sherrill (20 August 1924 – 28 June 2010) who, by a series of happy “accidents,” became one of the best-remembered and most enduring of Ellington’s songsters while still a teenager. For she was not only a musically- and vocally-gifted singer, she was also a lyricist and composer. She herself composed the lyrics to the Billy Strayhorn classic “Take the ‘A’ Train,” as well as another Ellington standard, “Kissing Bug,” she also was the first singer to record “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and numerous other Ellington and Strayhorn standards. Though she left the Ellington Orchestra before 1950, she continued to appear with them in various projects, including his 1957 television extravaganza A Drum Is a Woman (alongside soprano Margaret Tynes), and My People, his 1963 extravaganza commemorating the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation. She also performed with the Benny Goodman Orchestra on their 1962 tour of Russia, and was the first African American host of a children’s television program, Time for Joya (later renamed Joya’s Fun School) which began in 1970 and ran in reruns until 1982 on local New York television. In this endeavor she was assisted by another powerhouse Black musician, Luther Henderson, who also arranged and conducted her altogether individual 1959 studio album, Sugar and Spice, which put a sophisticated spin on old Mother Goose rhymes. As late as 1994 she continued to perform and record the music of Duke Ellington and others. Here is an artist whose combination of élan and exuberance is well worth rediscovering and celebrating.

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 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 220. La Fiamma (The Haunted Opera House II)



A year ago, I posted an episode entitled “The Haunted Opera House” that featured a wide range of spooky, witchy, Halloween-appropriate 20th century operas from Prokofiev to Penderecki. This year I focus in on one of the works from that episode, Ottorino Respighi’s 1934 masterpiece La Fiamma, based on a 1908 play on witch hunts and witchcraft in 16th century Norway by the novelist and playwright Hans Wiers-Jenssen entitled Anna Pedersdotter, the Witch. This work also formed the basis for the Carl Dreyer film Day of Wrath. Respighi and his librettist Claudio Guastalla transferred the action to seventh-century Ravenna in the early days of Christianity. Musically the work combines Respighi’s interest with Gregorian chant, modal scales and harmonies, and the work of Claudio Monteverdi with his penchant for stunning orchestrations. The dramatically potent result was his most famous operatic work, but after an initial succès d’estime, it has only retained the slightest hold on the operatic fringes. Nevertheless, the heroine Silvana in particular is a role that great sopranos have made their own over the years, including Claudia Muzio, Gina Cigna, Giuseppina Cobelli, and Rosa Raisa (none of whom sadly recorded any excerpts) through Montserrat Caballé, Nelly Miricioiu, Ilona Tokody, Stefka Evstatieva, and Mara Coleva. I tell the story of the opera while offering substantial excerpts, which, in addition to the sopranos mentioned above, also include such operatic heavyweights as James McCracken, Carlo Tagliabue, Deborah Voigt, Giacinto Prandelli, Delcina Stevenson, Felicity Palmer, Juan Pons, Anna Moffo, and Mignon Dunn, among others. Just the thing to scare you out of your skin this Halloween!

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 218. Edith Piaf, storyteller



Today is the 60th anniversary of the death of Edith Piaf, the greatest singer in the history of French popular music. She died on the eve of my third birthday, and since I have always allowed myself to indulge in a favorite singer or topic for my birthday episodes, I am focusing on La Môme Piaf, whose uniquely powerful voice and interpretations have been of central importance to me since the first time I heard her. When I take on such an iconic figure for a podcast episode, I try to examine them from a unique or unusual perspective. Today vis-à-vis Piaf, I focus on her unique performing style which combined subtlety and dramatic understatement alongside violent emotions and extroverted vocalism as reflected in her live performances and recordings. In this regard, I find an unusually cogent comparison with the Korean tradition of pansouri singing, which is a topic addressed by my brilliant friend, the theatre scholar David Savran, in his new book, Tell It to the World, which is being published by Oxford in early 2024. But mostly I dissect a number of Piaf’s most powerful story-songs such as “L’accordéoniste,” “Les amants d’un jour,” “Milord,” and “La foule,” written by composers and lyricists such as Marguerite Monnot, Michel Rivgauche, and Michel Emer, who were powerful allies in her search for material that best suited her extraordinary and iconoclastic gifts, which have come to personify the heart and soul of la ville de lumière, her beloved Paris.

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 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 207. Henry Wright and Pals



Today’s episode is first and foremost a tribute to a forgotten African American trailblazer, the pop singer Henry Wright, born in 1933, who, in the late fifties, claimed Italy as his adoptive country after touring there as a vocal soloist with Lionel Hampton. With a voice as suave and seductive as any of the great crooners of the 1950s and 1960s, Henry Wright first came to international prominence as the voice on the record to which Sophia Loren performed her legendary striptease in the 1962 film Ieri, oggi, domani [Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow]. He went on to make a great impact on Italian pop music throughout the 1960s. Your fearless podcaster discovered this fascinating singer almost by accident sometime in the past year and he (that is, I) have been collecting his rare and valuable recordings which I am thrilled to share with my listening public. Many of these songs exist in earlier versions, either from the Great American Songbook, from Italian films, from early American singers of R&B, from Italian pop stars of the 1950s, even from Viennese operetta! So I had the idea of playing those original versions alongside Henry Wright’s recordings. Thus you will encounter singers like Ricky Nelson, Peggy Lee, Tony Dallara, Peter Alexander, Mina, Petula Clark, Vittorio de Sica (who in his acting days was an Italian matinee idol!) and even opera legends Miguel Fleta and Richard Tauber. It’s a fascinating episode (if I do say so myself!) and I am thrilled beyond words to introduce the seductive, charming, compelling Henry Wright to my listeners. The episode begins with memorial tributes to recently departed pop music greats Tony Bennett and Sinéad O’Connor.

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 205. Eileen Farrell: Bach/Pop



Eileen Farrell (13 February 1920 – 23 March 2002) was one of the finest and most versatile singers that the United States has ever produced. She began her career as a radio singer, the star of her own program, Eileen Farrell Sings, which ran from 1941 to 1945, which offered a wide range of music from the pop songs of the era to opera. In the 1950s and early 1960s Farrell was involved with the legendary Bach Aria Group, originally founded in 1946 by scholar and philanthropist William H. Scheide, which consisted of a quartet of singers (which in Farrell’s time included tenor Jan Peerce, alto Carol Smith, and bass Norman Farrow) and a group of the most gifted instrumental soloists of the era (including oboist Robert Bloom, flautist Julius Baker, and violinist Maurice Wilk). Alongside their pathbreaking performances, they made a series of celebrated recordings for RCA and American Decca, excerpts of which are heard on this episode. Though Farrell had a huge voice, it was well-suited to the music of Bach, which she performed with suppleness, flexibility, poise, and power. Farrell may have been but a reluctant opera star, but her most long-lasting musical love was probably the Great American Songbook. Years beyond her official retirement, indeed well into her 70s, she continued to record both standards and less-familiar material, and her recordings of pop songs from the 1960s through the 1990s – buoyant, playful, perceptive, often heartbreaking and always deeply musical – form a substantial component of her recorded legacy. In this episode I contrast her performances of these two disparate styles of music, recorded over the course of forty years, to shed light on her continuing supremacy among American sopranos.

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 203. Jobriath and Jackie Shane (Pride 2023)



Today’s Pride 2023 episode focuses on two pathbreaking pop artists from the 1960s and 1970s, who were undervalued or even reviled at the time in which they were active, but whose contribution, importance, and influence on today’s pop music scene is indisputable. In reverse chronological order, Bruce Wayne Campbell (1946–1983), a brilliant if emotionally unstable pianist, composer, and singer, was refashioned by a 1970s entrepreneur/Svengali named Jerry Brandt, into the would-be pop icon Jobriath. Brandt secured Jobriath a lucrative deal with Elektra Records and plastered Jobriath’s face (and body) all over the media, including a huge billboard at Times Square and trumpeted him as “rock’s truest fairy,” (in contrast to pretenders or closeted figures like David Bowie, Marc Almond, and Elton John). The relentless overexposure, coupled with the unapologetic homophobia of the rock music scene, led to a spectacular fall from grace, and Jobriath’s premature death ad the age of 36, one of the earliest victims of the AIDS epidemic. By contast, Jackie Shane (1940–2019) was raised in a loving supportive environment, and announced her true gender to her mother at the age of 13. She went on to become first a fixture on the chitlin circuit, performing alongside such figures as Chubby Checker, Little Richard, and Etta James, finally establishing herself as one of the premier figures on the Toronto music scene in the 1960s. Jackie’s career also had its ups and downs, its near-misses, and was marred by catastrophic associations with various toxic males. As a result, she finally walked away from her massive local celebrity in 1971 and never looked back. But throughout her abbreviated career and beyond, she kept a strong sense of self and never allowed herself to be used or abused. Interest in Jackie surged in 2014 with the release of an elaborate CD retrospective which was subsequently nominated for an Emmy. Jackie was philosophical about this new interest in her work, but was grateful that she had not, as she had previously feared, been forgotten. Both of these artists are generously represented on the episode with musical examples that highlight their historical importance as well as their influence on future generations of queer musical artists that extends to the present day.

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 199. Tina and the Expats



If you’re like me (and I hope that, at least in this way, you are!) you have adored Tina Turner since you first became aware of her. In my case, it was circa 1971, seeing her perform “Proud Mary” on television. At the time I was a pretty snooty (and snotty) kid much more prone to Mahler and Britten than I was to pop music. But something about Tina got to me. And when, against all odds, her star rose again in the 1980s, I was once again drawn into her orbit. So when she died last week in Switzerland, aged 83, I was really thrown for a loop. For a week I racked my brains about how I could pay proper tribute to a figure who, as one of the biggest pop stars in the world, not only changed the face of music, but also of our culture in general. Normally I prefer to stay focused on an artist’s work, but in Tina’s case, her compelling personal story also commanded attention, and in a way the two are inseparable. As much as we rightly revile Ike Turner for his inexcusable abuse and torture of his wife and everyone else around him, he was also a musical innovator in the rock ‘n’ roll scene and one who, one hopes at least, recognized the genius of Anna Mae Bullock, whom he plucked from obscurity to assume the persona of his wife and co-creator. Even if his contributions are now irreparably tainted, it was Tina who was the lifeblood of that duo, and who became known as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. In my podcast I often focus on US artists, predominantly those of color, who chose to relocate to Europe and forge careers there. I have devoted a lot of time, space, and research to the Black opera singers who came here, but there is an equally fascinating story to be told about the pop singers of many eras and genres, who also chose to make Europe their home. Though this episode focuses primarily on Tina and some of the less-explored material throughout her career, I seek to contextualize her by also discussing the many African American singers, from Adelaide Hall to Joséphine Baker, from Donna Summer to Dee Dee Bridgewater, who either spent formative time in Europe or settled there permanently. Along with the aforementioned favorites, I also focus on lesser-known artists such as Beauty Milton, Vickie Henderson, Betty Dorsey, Salena Jones, and Bertice Reading (my latest mega-discovery). It has been cathartic and inspirational for me to create this episode; I hope it provides a similar experience for 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. 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 195. Forgotten Broadway III



Last summer, I produced a miniseries of episodes on Countermelody entitled “Forgotten Broadway,” the third and final segment of which was originally published as a bonus episode for my Patreon supporters. This week, my last one for the moment in New York City, is a busy one, so I have decided to pay tribute to the city by publishing that third Forgotten Broadway episode for all of my listeners. As I was preparing the series last summer, I enlisted the input and expertise of my dear pal John Coughlan. Like the first two episodes in the sequence, this one is once again, a veritable potpourri of delights, vocal, interpretive, and musical. It begins with a tribute to birthday icon Carol Burnett, who, at the beginning of her career, appeared in two different Broadway musicals, the second of which, 1964’s Fade Out Fade In, is featured. Additional shows presented include, among many others, Salvation, Raisin, Mack and Mabel, Redhead, I Had a Ball, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Baker Street, performed by such favorites as Lisa Kirk, Melba Moore, Gwen Verdon, Robert Weede, Mary Tyler Moore, Rosemary Clooney, Liz Callaway, and Peggy Lee, alongside such lesser-known lights as Diana Davila, Walter Willison, Salena Jones, and Gilbert Price. In addition, there is the “added plus” [sic] of Bea Arthur delivering a comic monologue from the 1955 Shoestring Revue that will have you in absolute stitches. And just for the gays (and all those with equally good taste), Judy and Liza each stop by, Judy to deliver a Frank Loesser show-stopper, while Liza offers more of “A Quiet Thing,” from her first Broadway show Flora the Red Menace.

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 192. Virginia Zeani: The Soul of the Voice



A number of significant classical and opera singers have died in this calendar year, and this episode pays tribute to three of them. First, James Bowman, the most significant British countertenor since Alfred Deller, who died on March 27th in his 82nd year. Second, Melitta Muszely, the Austrian jugendlich dramatisch soprano of Hungarian origin who died in her native Vienna at the age of 95 on January 18. And finally, a loss which reverberated around the operatic world with particularly poignancy and finality, the great Romanian soprano Virginia Zeani, who died on March 20 at the age of 97. While the focus of the episode is on Zeani, I also discuss the significance and contributions of Bowman and Muszely in detail, as well as offering examples of some of their best recordings. In the case of Zeani, I offer a thorough career and biographical overview, including excerpts from her rare studio recordings as well as live material from both the early and late years of her performing career. Also included are recordings by her teachers Lydia Lipowska and Aureliano Pertile, and her husband, the Italian-Russian bass Nicola Rossi Lemeni. And leave it to me to find a way of bringing three such disparate artists as Bowman, Muszely, and Zeani together at the conclusion of 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 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 188. Sarah Reese



Greatness expresses itself in different ways. Sometimes in indisputable artistic talents, and other times in profound displays of humanity. And sometimes, as in the case of today’s subject, Sarah Reese, it’s both. The soprano, who just this week celebrated a landmark birthday, is a singer of rare gifts whose career encompassed some of the world’s greatest stages and concert halls who later in life returned to the region where she grew up (in Sarah’s case, South Carolina), to give back to the community as a music teacher and choir director, in which capacity she has positively impacted the lives of countless students who came into contact with her warmth, skill, and generosity of spirit. Earlier on in her personal saga, Sarah made history when in the late 1960s she was the first female Black student at Furman University in Greenville. Through her persistence, courage, and determination, she rose above the ostracism and abuse she experienced there to become enshrined as a legend, with the school’s theater recently permanently renamed in her honor. Though her voice and artistry were acknowledged worldwide, her recorded legacy is small, with only one commercial recording (Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard) which nevertheless won a Grammy award in 1993. It is our great good fortune that in recent years a number of precious live recordings have emerged that show quite clearly the range and extent of her gifts. I present all of them here on this episode: from a concert recording of Verdi’s rare 1848 opera Il corsaro co-starring legendary Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, to a broadcast concert with the Detroit Symphony led by Isaiah Jackson in which she sings Mozart and Verdi arias, as well as Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. The episode concludes with a recently resurfaced 1988 performance of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem led by Herbert von Karajan the year before his death, one in which Sarah Reese’s heavenly soprano bestows a comforting benediction upon us all. Blessings upon this living legend, and gratitude galore!

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 186. Roberta Alexander in Opera



Today it is with the utmost excitement that I bring you an episode devoted to one of my favorite singers of all time, soprano Roberta Alexander, who celebrates her birthday today, March 3rd! I remember first encountering this radiant voice of burnished silver back when I was in graduate school when I discovered her early recordings of art song, including albums devoted to Charles Ives and Richard Strauss. Over the course of a long and successful career she has sung in all major opera houses around the world and in concert halls under the batons of countless distinguished maestri. What is it that makes this voice so special? Alongside a rock-solid vocal technique that has allowed her to sing well into her seventies, she is also gifted with impeccable musicianship and staggering stylistic versatility. For me it is not only the unusual color of the voice, both shimmering and profound (the chiaroscuro!), but even more so, her dedication to communication through clarity of diction and razor-sharp dramatic precision that sends her into the realm of the all-time greats. This episode focuses on Roberta’s versatility and prowess on the operatic stage, featuring live and studio recordings over more than thirty years of works by composers from Handel, Gluck, and Mozart, through twentieth century masters such as Janácek, Gershwin, and Berthold Goldschmidt. We also hear an excerpt from one of Roberta’s favorites among her recordings, a rare 1982 live performance of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder. Speaking of Lieder, an upcoming episode this spring will focus on our diva on the concert platform. It was my great honor to meet Roberta in person when she was performing in Berlin in 2022 and therefore it is also to her as a friend that I extend my heartiest good wishes for a happy birthday. I had to remind myself not to fan girl as I was recording the narration for this episode, but I’m not sure I succeeded!

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 185. Black Pop Icons auf Deutsch (Black History Month 2023)



There are advantages to being one’s own boss, and one of those is that when Frau Corona (AKA Madame Covid) comes to visit, one can reshuffle and recalibrate one’s plans to fit the exigencies of the moment. Hence today’s episode, a watered-down version of the larger topic (Black Emigré Pop Singers) which I intended to address today. Instead, I offer you many of your favorite Black pop artists of the 1950s and 1960s performing songs in German. Some of these are versions of chart toppers with new German words; some of them are songs specifically composed for these artists for the German market. The common variable of these songs, whether they are known or unknown, is that they are all delightful, and that one of those delights is seeing how these artists come to terms with the difficulties of the German language. Featured are jazz singers (Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald), pop groups (The Supremes, The Temptations) and solo artists (Nat King Cole, Marvin Gaye, Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, and Dionne Warwick). Ms. Warwick is further featured in a number of less-familiar classics by the late Burt Bacharach which she recorded not only in German, but also in French and Italian. (Say it with me now: Geh’! Geh’!… Geh’! Geh’!)

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 184. Eugene Holmes (Black History Month 2023)



Eugene Holmes (1932 – 2007), baritone supreme, should be remembered as one of the most significant voices of the Twentieth Century and a Black singer on a par with the most revered and celebrated. Though he participated in the creation of some important work (including by Gian Carlo Menotti, Gunther Schuller, and Frederick Delius), and performed with San Francisco Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, New York City Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera Regional Company, his career remained centered for more than thirty years at his home company, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. The rare recorded documents that we have of Eugene Holmes, including two self-produced LPs of spirituals and three different recordings of Delius’s rare opera Koanga (two of them live), reveal a voice of rare magnitude, range, power, and sensitivity, qualities which made him one of the premier Verdi baritones of his day. But due to a number of factors, including his modesty and his unwillingness to travel far from home, he did not achieve the international recognition that he deserved. I have pulled together all of the recorded material of Eugene Holmes that I could find, and present excerpts from these varied sources. Guest vocalists appearing opposite Holmes include sopranos Claudia Lindsey, Gwyneth Jones, and Barbara Carter, and tenors János B. Nagy and Giorgio Aristo. In the production of this podcast, I was greatly aided by reminiscences provided by his colleagues Bonita Hyman, the German-based African American mezzo-soprano; Stephen Harrison, the retired musical director of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein; and Heribert Klein, member of the committee of UNICEF Deutschland, an organization to which Eugene Holmes was deeply committed.

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 179. The Pop Stylings of Maria Ewing



A year ago, as I was preparing my memorial Countermelody episode dedicated to Maria Ewing I was struck anew at just how naturally she had mastered the often messy “crossover” genre. Perhaps that’s because she never “crossed over” at all: this material formed part of her essence. I thought it would be a lovely thing to give a more complete picture of her work as a pop singer, using three primary sources: first, her 1990 studio pop album entitled “From this Moment On,” featuring arrangements by Richard Rodney Bennett; second, a rare release entitled “Simply Maria,” which comprises a live concert she gave at the Barbican Centre in London in 10 May 1997; and third, live and studio recordings that she made in in the early 2000s with the jazz combo Kymaera, led by guitarist Simon James. The range of material is dizzying, from Broadway classics by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Jule Styne, Harold Arlen, Cy Coleman, Kurt Weill, and George and Ira Gershwin to jazz stylings by Tom Jobim, eden ahbez, and Billy Strayhorn, with more than a few surprises along the way, and her mastery of it all is exceptional, with all of the intense commitment she showed in her operatic portrayals (and none of the condescension or preciousness associated with certain other crossover artists). I’m so thrilled to share this less well-known side of one of the great operatic singing actors of our 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 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 176. Helen Donath



Today’s episode is a celebration of the Texas-born, German-assimilated soprano Helen Donath. Very few singers can boast of a career lasting more than 50 years which yielded such consistently superb vocalism and artistry. Donath began as a soubrette with lyric-coloratura capabilities which blossomed into a jugendlich dramatisch voice capable of successfully assuming roles in Wagner, Strauss, and Weber. Today’s episode has two “gimmicks,” the first of which is that all of the selections are sung in German, even if they were originally set in French or Italian. The second gimmick is that strewn in amongst the other selections, there is a smattering of holiday-related material including works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Humperdinck, and Pfitzner. Other composers heard include Otto Nicolai, Friedrich von Flotow, Paul Hindemith, as well as numerous examples of Donath’s peerless Mozart singing and a generous helping of operettas by Lehár, Millöcker, and Johann Strauss II. Vocal guest stars are legion, and include Julia Varady, Siegfried Jerusalem, Anna Moffo, Peter Schreier, Edda Moser, Theo Adam, Werner Hollweg, and Günther Leib in performances conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Kurt Eichhorn, Rafael Kubelik, Herbert Blomstedt, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bernhard Klee, Otmar Suitner, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Gerd Albrecht, and Willi Boskovsky, as well as Klaus Donath, Helen’s husband since 1965.

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 168. The Haunted (Opera) House



This week’s episode celebrates Halloween while at the same time initiating my new ongoing series on Twentieth Century Opera. From Dvořák’s Rusalka, premiered in Prague in 1901, through Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, premiered in New York in 1991, there is a wealth of operatic material, some barely remembered today, that touches upon various aspects of the occult, be that witches, devils, exorcisms, demonic possessions, or those that conjure the dead. Alongside the aforementioned works, this episode also features work by Benjamin Britten, Gian Carlo Menotti, Igor Stravinsky, Ferruccio Busoni, Franz Schreker, Serge Prokofiev, Ottorino Respighi, and Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by Teresa Stratas. Tatiana Troyanos, George Shirley, Anna Moffo, Mack Harrell, Maralin Niska, Gwendolyn Killebrew, Jane Rhodes, and others in performances recorded between 1949 and… nearly yesterday. Some of it is folksy, some humorous, some creepy, some horrific, but it is peopled by characters that either haunt or are haunted.

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.