December 4, 2016

The Art of Donald Gramm

If you don't know the art of Donald Gramm—you really are missing something. He was on my radar as a young man of 17, when I started taking lessons in the late 70's, but slipped away before I could hear him live, dropping dead of a heart attack in his dermatologist's office at the age of 56. There is some strange consolation, however, in that we both sang with the New York City Opera. Suffice it to say: I really wish I could have known him. 

Gramm was a great singer. He sang on his "timbre" with impeccable diction, never yelling, never trying to be someone or something he wasn't. Whether soft or loud, his voice remained gleaming and vibrant, carrying to the back of the hall with an equal measure of metal and plushness. Dare I say it? You heard his placement. 

He also was a technical singer, and planned on giving master classes that focused on technique as much as interpretation—a prescription that is boring for an audience but necessary for the artist. 

Here he is on TV in the early 1960's, singing the songs of Charles Ives, with narration provided by Aaron Copland.

And here is Gramm singing Ned Rorem's glorious "Early in the Morning" with the composer at the piano.

Find more of his singing at Youtube. 

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