George Jellinek & The Vocal Scene

When I heard the announcement on WQXR this morning that George Jellinek had died at the age of ninety, I remembered two things; meeting him at the Centennial gala for The New York Singing Teachers Association at the Kosciuszko Foundation in April '06, and the sound of his voice on The Vocal Scene, which was rich and warm—a tumbler of cognac on a cold Winter night.  

The history of a people is found in its songs 

- George Jellinek

I was standing right behind Jellinek when he gave the toast at NYSTA's gala.  He raised a champagne glass in his left hand, stood stock still, and worked a quiet sorcery on everyone in the candlelit room, invoking the names of great singers and voice teachers in that distinctive voice.  Afterward, we clinked glasses and I introduced myself (he inquired about my Hungarian last name), and quickly found myself in a discussion about Herman Klein, NYSTA's first chairman (a history of NYSTA's founders can be read in VOICEPrints, May/June 2006), and one of the personages Jellinek spoke about.

The fascinating thing is that Klein and Jellinek furthered the art of il bel canto as though cut from the same cloth; Klein with his many books on singers and articles for the Gramophone; Jellinek with his radio program and articles for Fanfare Magazine.  It is not an exaggeration to assert that, between the two, one receives a comprehensive overview of singers and the art of singing.  The wealth and breath of intelligent commentary and insight is astonishing.

George Jellinek introduced several generations to the world of beautiful singing through The Vocal Scene.  One can only hope that these legendary broadcasts will be aired again (or at least available in some form) to nurture, educate and inspire future audiences.

It's great listening. 

An article in The New Yorker commemorating Jellinek's last broadcast can be read here, while an interview with Beverly Sills can be heard here.  His autobiography, The Road to Radio, is available at Amazon.