If ever there was a voice to stop die-hard criminals in their tracks, it was Gundula Janowitz’s limpid, otherworldly soprano – a good choice in the film The Shawshank Redemption for the stunning moment when Mozart’s Canzonetta sull’aria (sung by Gundula and Edith Mathis) echoes round the prison yard. Her voice was as close as can be imagined to a stream of pure beauty. She was at her luminous best in Mozart, Schubert (her ‘Du bist die Ruh’ will make your hair stand on end), Weber and Richard Strauss. If you want to hear what an angel sounds like, listen to her Gabriel on Haydn’s Creation conducted by Herbert von Karajan. She retired from the stage in 1990 but still sings the odd Lied.
In her own words: ‘I will put my handbag on the piano. If you make more than two mistakes, I will hit you with it.’
Greatest recording: Gundula Janowitz: The Golden Voice DG 477 5832