Episode 120. Bethany Beardslee

Episode 120. Bethany Beardslee



Today’s episode celebrates a pioneer in the performance of twentieth century vocal music in anticipation of her 96th birthday on Christmas Day. Bethany Beardslee was a titan who set standards in the performance of the music of Arnold Schoenberg and Milton Babbitt in particular, but who also acted as muse to a host of mid-twentieth century avant garde composers whose work she premiered and often recorded. But she was also a member of the pioneering early music ensemble New York Pro Musica in the late 1950s and was an innovator in programming daring and diverse recital repertoire which combined Lieder and melodies with the contemporary music for which she was best known. This episode samples her recordings over the course of more than thirty years, and includes composers such as John Dowland, Robert Schumann, Claude Debussy, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, and Johannes Brahms alongside such twentieth century giants as Anton Webern, Ernst Krenek, Igor Stravinsky, Ben Weber, Mel Powell, Robert Helps, Fred Lerdahl, and Godfrey Winham, her second husband. Throughout the course of a career devoted to, to paraphrase the title of her autobiography, “singing the unsingable,” Bethany Beardslee combined rock solid-technique and silvery tone with peerless musicianship and interpretive acuity to set standards that have yet to be surpassed. Please join me in celebrating this great artist.


Traditional German: O du fröhliche. Lotte Lehmann, Hermann Weigert, Mitglieder der Berliner Staatsopernorchester [1925]

Alban Berg, Theodor Storm: Schließe mir die Augen beide [two versions, 1900, 1925]. Bethany Beardslee, Jacques Monod [1951]

Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann, Friedrich Rückert: Aus den östlichen Rosen, Op. 25/25. Bethany Beardslee, Lois Shapiro [1984]

Ben Weber

Ben Weber: Concert Aria after Solomon, Op. 29 (excerpt). Bethany Beardslee, Chamber orchestra conducted by Frank Brieff [1950]

Anton Webern

Anton Webern, August Strindberg: Schien mir’s, als ich sah die Sonne, Op. 12/3. Bethany Beardslee, Jacques Monod [1951]

Milton Babbitt

Milton Babbitt, August Stramm: Verzweifelt; Allmacht (Du [song cycle], Nos. 4 and 5). Bethany Beardslee, Robert Helps [1961]

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky, text from the Book of Lamentations: Excerpt from Threni. Bethany Beardslee, Beatrice Krebs, Igor Stravinsky, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Schola Cantorum [1959]

Ernst Krenek

Ernst Krenek: In Schritten vorgeorgenet (excerpt from Sestina). Bethany Beardslee, Instrumental ensemble conducted by Ernst Krenek [1958]

Milton Babbitt, Dylan Thomas: Forever falling night (excerpt from Vision and Prayer). Bethany Beardslee [1971]

John Dowland: Lady, If You So Spight Mee. Bethany Beardslee, Paul Maynard [1959]

Noah Greenberg

Anonymous Villancico: Ay de mi qu’en terra agena. Bethany Beardslee, Robert White, Gordon Myers, Noah Greenberg, New York Pro Musica [1960]

Robert Craft and Igor Stravinsky

Alban Berg, Peter Altenberg [né Richard Engländer]: Sahst du nach dem Gewitterregen den Wald (Altenberg-Lieder, Op. 4/2). Bethany Beardslee, Robert Craft, Columbia Symphony Orchestra [1959]

Alban Berg, Charles Baudelaire (German translation by Stefan George): Der Wein der Liebenden (excerpt from Der Wein). Bethany Beardslee, Robert Craft, Columbia Symphony Orchestra [1960]

Stefan George

Arnold Schoenberg, Stefan George: Excerpts from Das buch der hängenden gärten, Op. 15. II. Hain in diesen paradiesen; IV. Da meine lippen relos sind; VIII. Wenn ich heut nicht deinen leib berühre; XIII. Du lehnest wieder eine silberweide. Bethany Beardslee, Robert Helps [1962]

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg, Ernest Guiraud (German translation by Otto Erich Hartleben). Two excerpts from Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21: VII. Der kranke Mond; XVII. Parodie. Bethany Beardslee, Robert Craft, Columbia Chamber Ensemble [Robert Helps, Isidore Cohen, Charles McCracken, Ernest Bright, Murray Panitz] [1962]

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Pietro Metastasio: Lieto così talvolta (Adriano in Siria). Bethany Beardslee, Basil Reeve, James Bolle, The Musica Viva Ensemble [1967]

Philomel premiere, Amherst College, 1964

Milton Babbitt, John Hollander: Pressed into one fell moment (excerpt from Part III of Philomel). Bethany Beardslee [1969]

Fred Lerdahl

Fred Lerdahl, James Joyce: She was a young thin pale soft shy (excerpt from Wake). Bethany Beardslee, David Epstein, Boston Symphony Chamber Players [Joseph Silverstein, Burton Fine, Jules Eskin, Ann Hobson Pilot, Everett Firth, Arthur Press, Charles Smith] [1970]

Robert Helps, James Purdy: And there is so much more (The Running Sun, song cycle, No. 5). Bethany Beardslee, Robert Helps [1977]

Godfrey Winham and Bethany Beardslee

Godfrey Winham, William Shakespeare: Let me not to the marriage (To Prove My Love, song cycle, No. 1). Bethany Beardslee, Robert Helps [live Westminster 26.06.74]

Milton Babbitt, Gerard Manley Hopkins: No worst, there is none (excerpt from A Solo Requiem). Bethany Beardslee, Continuum [Cheryl Seltzer, Joel Sachs] [1980]

Mel Powell

Mel Powell, Charles Baudelaire (English translation by Roy Campbell): excerpt from Lines from Baudelaire’s “Meditation” (Little Companion Pieces, No. 4). Bethany Beardslee, Sequoia String Quartet [Yoko Matsuda, Miwako Watanabe, James Dunham, Robert Martin] [1980]

Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland, e.e. cummings: Song. Bethany Beardslee, Robert Helps [1977]

Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy, Paul Verlaine: L’ombre des arbres (Ariettes oubliées, L.63b/3). Bethany Beardslee, Robert Helps [1989]

Johannes Brahms, Georg Friedrich Daumer: Wir wandelten, wir zwei zusammen, Op. 96/2. Bethany Beardslee, Richard Goode [1986]

Arnold Schoenberg, Ernest Guiraud (German translation by Otto Erich Hartleben): O alter Duft aus Märchenzeit (Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21/21). Bethany Beardslee, Robert Craft, Columbia Chamber Ensemble [Robert Helps, Isidore Cohen, Charles McCracken, Ernest Bright, Murray Panitz] [1962]

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