Episode 76. William Warfield (BHM2021 IV)

Episode 76. William Warfield (Black History Month IV)



This week’s subject is one of the towering figures of 20th century music: the African American bass-baritone William Warfield (1920–2002). Though he sprang to prominence as Joe in the 1951 MGM remake of Show Boat and as Porgy opposite his then-wife Leontyne Price in the US State Department-sponsored 1952 international tour of Porgy and Bess, in my opinion his greatest accomplishments were as a concert singer. This episode focuses on his performances of Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs, his interpretations of German lieder, and, from later in his career, his narration of Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait and the poetry of Langston Hughes. I knew William Warfield, universally known to his students and younger colleagues as “Uncle Bill,” when I was one of the accompanists in his vocal studio at the University of Illinois where I was obtaining my master’s degree. His kindness and his dedication to his craft inspired us all to give of our best. It is my privilege to celebrate the unique and multi-faceted artistry of this unforgettable and treasurable man.


William Warfield and Aaron Copland

Robert Lowry, arr. Aaron Copland: At the River (Old American Songs, Set II). William Warfield; Aaron Copland [1953]

Traditional Spiritual: Deep River. William Warfield; Virgil Fox [1962]

Virgil Fox (1912-1980)
Dorothy Maynor (1910-1996)

Annie Fortescue Harrison, Meta Orred: In the Gloaming. Dorothy Maynor; Howard Barlow, The Firestone Orchestra [Voice of Firestone 31 July 1944]

William Marshall (1924 – 2003)

Traditional Spiritual: Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees. William Marshall; Unknown Pianist and Recording Date

Langston Hughes (1901 – 1967)

Langston Hughes: Negro. William Warfield [2001]

Vincent Youmans, Billy Rose, Edward Eliscu: Without a Song (Great Day). William Warfield; Lehman Engel, Columbia Symphony Orchestra [1952]

Otto Herz (1894-1976)

Traditional Sea Shanty, arr. Celius Dougherty: Shenandoah. William Warfield; Otto Herz [1952]

Screenshot of William Warfield’s appearance on the Colgate Comedy Hour.

George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin: It Ain’t Necessarily So (Porgy and Bess). William Warfield; Orchestra conducted by Al Goodman [Colgate Comedy Hour, 1 April 1951]

George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin: Porgy, Porgy, that you there… I wants to stay here (Porgy and Bess). Leontyne Price, William Warfield; Alexander Smallens, RIAS-Unterhaltungsorchester [live Berlin Titania Palast 21 September 1952]

Alexander Smallens (1889-1972)
Aaron Copland and William Warfield recording the orchestral version of the Old American Songs.

Daniel Decatur Emmett, arr. Aaron Copland: The Boatman’s Dance; Traditional American, arr. Aaron Copland: Long Time Ago; I Bought Me a Cat (Old American Songs, Set I). William Warfield; Aaron Copland, Columbia Symphony Orchestra [1963]

Johann Sebastian Bach: Es ist vollbracht (Sehet, wir gehen hinauf gen Jerusalem, BWV 159). William Warfield, Robert Bloom; Frank Brieff, Bach Aria Group

Carl Loewe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Hochzeitlied, Op. 20/1. William Warfield; Otto Herz [1952]

Robert Schumann, Joseph von Eichendorff: from Liederkreis, Op. 39: IX. Wehmut; X. Zwielicht; XI. Im Walde; XII. Frühlingsnacht. William Warfield; Otto Herz [1953]

Léopold Simoneau (1916-2006)

Robert Schumann: Blaue Auge hat das Mädchen (Spanische Liebeslieder, Op. 138/9). Léopold Simoneau, William Warfield; Arthur Gold, Robert Fizdale [1963]

Robert Fizdale (top, 1920-1995) and Arthur Gold (bottom, 1917-1990)

Robert Schumann: Flutenreicher Ebro (Spanische Liebeslieder, Op. 138/5). William Warfield; Arthur Gold, Robert Fizdale [1963]

Karl Weigl (1881 – 1949)

Karl Weigl, Hermann Hesse: O Nacht, du silberbleiche, Op. 10/5. William Warfield; David Garvey [1973]

David Garvey (1922-1995)

Aaron Copland, Carl Sandburg: Fellow citizens (from A Lincoln Portrait). William Warfield, Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic [live Royal Albert Hall 03 June 1976]

Langston Hughes: Madam and the Census Taker; Still Here. William Warfield [2001]

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906)

Paul Laurence Dunbar: Prometheus. William Warfield [live 26 May 1995]

Johannes Brahms: from Vier ernste Gesänge, Op. 121: III. O Tod, wie bitter bist du; IV. Wenn ich mit Menschen- und mit Engelszungen redete William Warfield; Otto Herz [1953]

“Uncle Bill” Warfield

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