I’ve a few Wiegenlied in my repertoire now (Wiegenlied meaning Cradle Song, of course). The first I sang was Mozart’s – it was the first solo song given to me to have a go at – and it was over a year after that before I could even sing it badly! Then there’s Brahms’ Lullaby, which with people tend to be more familiar.
Gundula Janowitz was born in Berlin in 1937, but grew up in Austria. She made her formal operatic debut in 1959 with Vienna State Opera and gave her final operatic performance in 1990 though continued to give recitals until 1997, at the age of 60. Her lyric soprano type voice is revered for its brightness and crystal purity, its tremelo-free sound and rapid vibrato. She kept her fresh, angelic tone until well into her middle years.
For comparison, try Janet Baker’s mezzo version. Equally beautiful, but different.
An excerpt of Gundula’s portrayal of the Countess in Mozart’s Figaro features in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption. I didn’t know that! It’s one of my favourite films and stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Adapted from a Stephen King short novel, it tells the story of young banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is convicted for murder and placed in a prison under a brutal dictatorial-type regime. I’m not going to spoil the film for anybody who has not seen it; the bit in which Janowitz’ voice is heard is where the Andy character, having been given the post of prison librarian, has managed to persuade the powers that be to buy books and music. When the music arrives, he locks himself into the library and plays the music over loudspeakers to all his fellow inmates. He is of course, punished for this.
Enjoy the music and I do recommend the film if you haven’t yet seen it.