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Doda Conrad (Bass)

Born: February 19, 1905 - Breslau, Silesia, Germany (after World War II, this city became part of Poland)
Died: December 26, 1997 - Blois, France

The German bass, Doda Conrad, was the son of Dr. Walther H. Freund (1874-1952), a pediatrician in Breslau, and the famous German-born soprano Marya Freund (born Henschel; 1876-1966). Doda was born "Konrad Freund". He was called Doda, because his older brother Stefan Freund (1904-1974) could not say "Konrad", and called his baby brother "Doda". He began his studies in Milan and then in New York as a student of Emilio de Gogorza, and in London with Blanche Marchesi.

Doda Conrad came to France, then entered the stage at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin in Paris, and in 1932 performed his first recital at the hall of the Paris Ecole normale. He then studied the French song repertoire and entered the circle around the famous composer, conductor and music educator Nadia Boulanger. Under her direction he sang on June 30, 1938 at the Theater House of Princess Winaretta de Polignac in Paris in the premiere of the opera Le Diable boiteux by Jean Français. Since 1936 he received the impression crucial for his future artistic work. His presentation of Lieder by Schubert and Frédéric Chopin as well as the works of modern French composers set benchmarks for a whole generation of Lieder singers in France. An intelligent and thoughtful musician", extremely well connected to many great artistic icons of his day from "the salons of Paris… to America’s cultural magnates," Conrad was a renowned performer across the globe. His international fame as a concert singer was based above all on his undisputed musical authority in style and taste in all the aspects of a large and eclectic repertoire, which embraces five centuries of music. The Lieder cycles of Schubert, Robert Schumann, and of Johannes Brahms, of Gabriel Fauré, and of Claude Debussy, had in Conrad one of their truly great interpreters.

During World War II, Doda Conrad joined the United States Army and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. From his enlistment in 1942 to the end of the war Conrad saw service across Europe and the Mediterranean, from Algeria to Naples and Marseilles. Following the Allied victory he found himself serving under General Lucius Clay with the occupying armies. While in Germany Conrad met Lt. Col. Mason Hammond, an early member of the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives), who suggested Conrad join the MFAA as a member of Capt. Calvin Hathaway’s team in Berlin. In the summer of 1945 Conrad travelled through Germany to Berlin and there he witnessed first hand the destruction that had occurred in the Friedrichshain Flak Tower. According to Conrad, the fifth floor of this immense, bombproof shelter had been used to store artworks removed from the Berlin Museums in the final weeks of the war. A fire broke out in the tower, allegedly caused by Russian soldiers when they entered the city, and many works of art were destroyed. Conrad described the scene as a room filled with dust and ashes up to their knees along with paintings by Raphael and Bellini, the Pergamon Altar, and dozens of porcelain and bronze sculptures. He and other officers sorted through the debris, collecting what was salvageable into baskets.

While in Berlin, Doda Conrad encountered opposition to the primary goals of the MFAA. In the mess hall one evening, a Russian-American Colonel informed Conrad of a collection of over one hundred small, 18th century porcelain figurines from the Palace of Sans-Souci in his possession. Conrad asserted that the objects should be entrusted to the MFAA to be returned to the palace, however the Colonel argued that as one of the victors of the war he only wanted to keep the figurines for his children, not intending to make a profit from selling them. Feeling that this was a complete contradiction to the ethics of the MFAA, Conrad promptly reported the Colonel and the objects were eventually sequestered and returned.

Doda Conrad was transferred to the Munich Collecting Point in the fall of 1945 and began his work sealing damaged roofs to protect the furniture depositories. He was also responsible for the automobile lot and a group of one hundred men hired to guard and work in the building. In addition, he also organised regular expeditions to the countryside to take possession of newly discovered objects. While at the Collecting Point, he realised that three out of the five Vermeer paintings in the collection were of questionable legitimacy, and indeed, the paintings were forgeries by Han van Meegeren. Conrad also participated in the recoveries of the Veit Stoss altarpiece, which had been hidden in Nuremberg behind a faux wall, and a prized Pleyel harpsichord, belonging to the acclaimed harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, which had been found in the recreation room of military government headquarters in Alt Oetting, Bavaria.

After the War and his service with the MFAA, Doda Conrad returned (as well as Nadia Boulanger) to North America and resumed his career as a vocalist. Between 1947 and 1957 he performed every year in New York vocal works, which were written for his voice, including Mouvement du coeur (a collective composition work, dedicated to the memory F. Chopin, Henry Sauguet, Francis Poulenc, Ned Rorem, Georges Auric, Jean Fran¢aix, Léo Préger and Darius Milhaud), Visions infernales by Henri Sauguet, the Cantate Mephisto by Jean Fran¢aix and Le Cornet-Rilke by Sauguet. He also included contemporary works in his tour abroad.

Doda Conrad's reputation as an exponent of the music of J.S. Bach is not alone that of that a singer whom Pablo Casals chose as the only vocal soloist in orchestra concerts under his direction at the Bach Bicentennial Festival in Prades (June 1950), but also that of the distinguished scholar whose erudition is the fruit of long study and experience under the guidance and inspiration of such outstanding personalities as Nadia Boulanger, Marya Freund, and Wanda Landowska; and in his recording of two solo cantatas BWV 56 and BWV 82 he had ample proof to confirm this reputation.

In 1965, Doda Conrad gave up his singing career and now became devoted to education according to the methods of his teacher Nadia Boulanger. He settled in Paris, where he founded the 'Société l'Erémurus' in the Paris Salle Gaveau, and established the Saison Musicale de Royaumont, which he led as director from 1956 to 1965. The Journées musicales of Langeais were also under his leadership. He died in Paris in late 1997.

Recordings: on HMV, Pathé and Polydor and Vox (Winterreise by Schubert with Lili Kraus at the piano), mostly Lieder recordings, including quartets with Comtesse Marie-Blanche de Polignac, Irène Khedroff and Hugues Cuénod. In addition, he was a writer. His autobiography, Dodascalies, was published shortly before his death.

Source: Rescuing Da Vinci Website [based on “Recital by Doda Conrad.” New York Times, January 19, 1945; Joel Kasow: Review of Doda Conrad: Dodascalies: Ma chronique du XXi siècle, Kultur Kiosque; Doda Conrad: Dodascalies: Ma chronique du XXi siècle (Arles: Actes Sud, 1997)]; Operissimo Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (May 2008); Liner notes to LP 'Bach: Church Cantatas #56 & #82' (Vox, 1950)"; Stephen Falk (Wayne, PA, USA - a relative of Doda Conrad)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2008); Teri Noel Towe (May 2008); Stephen Falk (January 2009)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Nadia Boulanger


BWV 4 [2nd]

Charles Henderson


BWV 56, BWV 82

Jean de Rohozinski


BWV 233

Links to other Sites

Doda Conrad (Rescuing Da Vinci)

Autobiographies: Régine Crespin, Doda Conrad, Hugues Cuénod (Kultur Kiosque)

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