Richard Hundley

Richard Hundley

1931 - 2018
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.” 


The performers in the audio clips provided on the right are Esther Jane Hardenbergh, soprano and Mutsumi Moteki, pianoTo listen, please click on the track name itself.


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
Songs & Song Collections BY Hundley (entered to date)

Audio PLaylist

CD / DVD / MP3