Richard Hundley

Richard Hundley has focused his compositional career primarily on the art song. He has expressed that his primary goal is to musically reveal, "how I feel about the words. A song is like a short story, and from the first notes played by the piano I am telling the listener how I feel about the text."

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About

Richard Albert Hundley was born on September 1, 1931, in Cincinnati, Ohio to a father who was an itinerant laborer, and a mother who was a housewife. Around the age of seven, Richard went to live permanently with his paternal grandmother, Anna Susan Campbell, in Covington, Kentucky. His grandmother’s influence would reverberate most deeply throughout Hundley’s life. Her supportive presence provided an environment that allowed his inborn love of music and compositional gift to flourish. She never hindered his creativity nor stifled his imagination or spontaneity. Her deep pride, loving admiration and encouragement of his musical talent can be largely credited with his becoming a professional musician.

In his early teens, Richard continued piano studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where he was put in the charge of Illona Voorm, a Hungarian pedagogue, formerly an assistant to Belà Bartok and a strong disciplinarian. Within a few years of study, Hundley appeared as soloist with the Northern Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and with the Cincinnati Symphony under the baton of Thor Johnson. Madame Illona Voorm took an undisciplined talent and through a formal instruction method cultivated a young performer capable of comfortably performing with seasoned musicians. Her solid musical training prepared him to enter the competitive world of professional music.

During high school, Richard was introduced to the mother of a classmate, Mary Rodgers Fossit. The resulting friendship would profoundly and permanently influence him.  Mary Rodgers Fossit was a poet and introduced Richard to the works of Gertrude Stein, Baudelaire, Kathryn Mansfield, D. H. Lawrence, W. H. Auden, and the biographies of Frederic Chopin and Peter Illytch Tchaikovsky by Herbert Weinstock. She also introduced him to the music of Jean Sibelius and Sergei Rachmaninov. She provided a sympathetic environment where he could express his innermost thoughts and feelings and his lifelong, deep love of the arts was nurtured through this warm relationship.

In 1950, Hundley moved to New York City to study piano at the Manhattan School of Music.  After one year, financial strain led to him leaving the school.  For several years, he vacillated between New York and Kentucky, but in 1957, settled permanently in New York City.  In 1960, Richard auditioned for and won a position in the Metropolitan Opera Chorus.  During this time, he ingratiated himself to many of the singers and began showing them his music. Annaliese Rothenberger, Rosalind Elias, Anna Moffo, Teresa Stratas, Lili Chookasian, John Reardon, Betty Allen began to include his songs on their recitals.  Saying it was “hard to have dead men’s music ringing in my ears”, Richard resigned his position in 1964 to focus on his own composing.

In 1967, Hundley began to accompany the vocal studio of the great soprano, Zinka Milanov.  He says, “I confessed to her that I was very interested in finding out what the art of bel canto was really all about, she replied ‘No one can show you better than I can.’  Zinka Milanov often told me that her singing had given her supreme joy in life. My relationship with this great singer gave me one of the deepest inspirations of my (Hundley’s emphasis) life.”  His work with Milanov combined with his own singing experience is an important element whose effect on his style cannot be underestimated. The influence can be found in his vocal lines that are always lyrical and grateful to sing. He crafts beautiful melodies in which the melodic shape and rhythm are worked until a balance between the emotional meaning and textual clarity is reached.

During the late 1960’s, Hundley was invited and participated two summers at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire.  Richard Hundley studied composition with Israel Citkowitz, William Flanagan, Harold Knapik and Virgil Thomson.  His compositional style and structures vary greatly and there is no clear delineation of style period in his solo vocal works. He uses musical devices (dissonance, intervallic movement, and melisma), elements of texture (staccato and legato, full chords and delicate counter melodies) and the full range of the voice and piano to illustrate the verses. His vocal line and piano accompaniment combine to reinforce each other in a manner that leaves them inseparable.

In 1987 the Carnegie Hall International American Music Competition, designated Richard Hundley as one of only twelve standard American composers for vocalists. He continues to live and compose in New York City.  Tenor Paul Sperry states, “Richard Hundley says his objective is to crystallize emotion. He succeeds amazingly well. Some of his pieces are heart-stoppingly beautiful. His melodies stay in the mind. In his harmonies and open spacings, he sounds American. He understands both the voice and piano perfectly….He writes every kind of song: slow, fast, wet, dry, funny, moving, waltzes, fox-trots, major statements, little bonbons.”  His songs are performed around the world, and continue to grow in popularity with singers and audiences alike.

–Esther Jane Hardenbergh

Related Information

Recordings

Drifts & Shadows: American Song for the New Millennium

(Tom Cipullo, Daron Aric Hagen, Martin Hennessy, Richard Hundley and Lee Hoiby)

2007

Under the Bluest Sky... Songs of Richard Hundley

(Richard Hundley)

2007

Dwell in Possibility: Dickinson in Song

(Ernst Bacon, Aaron Copland, Celius Dougherty, John Woods Duke, Lee Hoiby, Richard Hundley, Jake Heggie, Lori Laitman, Libby Larsen, Etta Parker, Simon Sargon, Leo Smit and Richard Pearson Thomas)

2004

American Song Recital

(Leonard Bernstein, William Bolcom, Paul Bowles, John Corigliano, John Woods Duke, Richard Hundley, Lori Laitman, John Musto and Richard Pearson Thomas)

1992

Works By Thomson, Bowles, Hoiby, Hundley

(Paul Bowles, Lee Hoiby, Richard Hundley, John Musto, Virgil Thomson and Tennessee Williams)

1988

Songs

A Package of Cookies

Richard Hundley

Virgil Thomson

Awake the Sleeping Sun

Richard Hundley

Ballad on Queen Anne's Death

Richard Hundley

Bartholomew Green

Richard Hundley

James Purdy

Birds, U.S.A.

Richard Hundley

James Purdy

Come Ready and See Me

Richard Hundley

James Purdy

Epitaph on a Wife

Richard Hundley

Epitaph of a Young Girl

Richard Hundley

Evening Hours

Richard Hundley

James Purdy

For Your Delight

Richard Hundley

Robert Louis Stevenson

Heart, We Will Forget Him

Richard Hundley

Emily Dickinson

I Do

Richard Hundley

James Purdy

Isaac Greentree

Richard Hundley

Anonymous

Letter from Emily

Richard Hundley

Emily Dickinson

Lions

Richard Hundley

James Purdy

Maiden Snow

Richard Hundley

Kenneth Patchen

Moonlight's Watermelon

Richard Hundley

José García Villa

Song Collection: Octaves and Sweet Sounds

My Master Hath a Garden

Richard Hundley

Anonymous

O My Darling Troubles Heaven with Her Loveliness

Richard Hundley

Kenneth Patchen

Octaves and Sweet Sounds

Song Collection

Richard Hundley

E. E. Cummings

James Joyce

James Purdy

Gertrude Stein

José García Villa

Postcard from Spain

Richard Hundley

Screw Spring

Richard Hundley

William M. Hoffman

Seashore Girls

Richard Hundley

E. E. Cummings

Song Collection: Octaves and Sweet Sounds

Softly the Summer

Richard Hundley

Richard Hundley

Spring

Richard Hundley

William Shakespeare

Straightway Beauty On Me Waits

Richard Hundley

James Purdy

Song Collection: Octaves and Sweet Sounds

Strings in the Earth and Air

Richard Hundley

James Joyce

Song Collection: Octaves and Sweet Sounds

Sweet River

Richard Hundley

Sweet Suffolk Owl

Richard Hundley

The Astronomers

Richard Hundley

Anonymous

Waterbird

Richard Hundley

James Purdy

Well Welcome

Richard Hundley

Gertrude Stein

Song Collection: Octaves and Sweet Sounds

When Children Are Playing Alone on the Green

Richard Hundley

Robert Louis Stevenson

When Orpheus Played

Richard Hundley

William Shakespeare

Wild Plum

Richard Hundley

Orrick Glenday Johns

Will There Really Be a Morning?

Richard Hundley

Emily Dickinson

Audio

Track:

    Sheet Music

    15 Art Songs by American Composers (High Voice)

    Composer(s): Dominick Argento, Leonard Bernstein, Theodore Chanler, Aaron Copland, John Duke, Richard Hundley, Ned Rorem

    Voice Type: High

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    15 Art Songs by American Composers (Low Voice)

    Composer(s): Dominick Argento, Leonard Bernstein, Theodore Chanler, Aaron Copland, John Duke, Richard Hundley, Ned Rorem

    Voice Type: Low

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    Ballad on Queen Anne's Death

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Find at your Local Library

    Eight Songs

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

    Four Songs

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

    For Your Delight

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Find at your Local Library

    Maiden Snow

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Find at your Local Library

    Octaves and Sweet Sounds (High Voice)

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Song(s): 1. Strings in the Earth and Air Text: James Joyce
    2. Seashore Girls Text: E. E. Cummings
    3. Moonlight's Watermelon Text: Jose Garcia Villa
    4. Straightway Beauty On Me Waits Text: James Purdy
    5. Well Welcome Text: Gertrude Stein

    Voice Type: High

    Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

    Octaves and Sweet Sounds (Medium Voice)

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Song(s): 1. Strings in the Earth and Air Text: James Joyce
    2. Seashore Girls Text: E. E. Cummings
    3. Moonlight's Watermelon Text: Jose Garcia Villa
    4. Straightway Beauty On Me Waits Text: James Purdy
    5. Well Welcome Text: Gertrude Stein

    Voice Type: Medium

    Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

    Postcard from Spain

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Find at your Local Library

    Ten Songs (For High Voice and Piano)

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Voice Type: High

    Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

    Two Settings of Emily Dickinson

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    Will There Really Be a Morning?

    Composer(s): Richard Hundley

    Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

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