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Winter Words: Songs By Britten
Nicholas Phan (tenor) & Myra Huang (piano)
American tenor Nicholas Phan makes his solo recording debut with a deeply personal approach to the songs of Britten.
‘Winter Words’ is the solo debut release by American tenor Nicholas Phan. The recording was made in the wake of a recital tour in 2010-11 which culminated in his Carnegie debut at Weill Hall. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and an alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera studio Nick has performed with the opera companies of Los Angeles and Seattle, symphony orchestras of Atlanta, St. Louis and San Francisco, and the Marlboro, Ravinia and Edinburgh Festivals, among others. He sang in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez which won a Grammy Award.
Nick presents a deeply personal perspective of Britten’s music, encompassing his own performing experiences to audience reaction. He says: “I’ve been a fan of Britten since playing his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra with my youth orchestra in Detroit as a teenage violinist. But my great devotion to his music increased to an obsession when an excellent pianist and good friend asked if I’d perform with her at a small university in Missouri. She suggested Winter Words, saying, “I think these would sound really great in your voice, and I’ve wanted to play them for ages, so indulge me.” I researched and played through Britten’s settings of Hardy’s poems and before long, I was hooked.”
Approaching the performance in a small Midwestern town with some trepidation (“how would they react?”), Nick describes the audience’s overwhelmingly positive response: “my favourite piece on the program … the most lasting impression.” Such is the enduring quality of Britten’s sophisticated yet direct song writing, of which Nick is a leading torchbearer.
“Phan has both the introspection and the power for this idiosyncratic approach to Italian fire...The Hardy tableaux of Winter Words are all atmospherically evoked alongside the best...but what wins this disc its five stars is the spacious, deeply moving delivery of my favourite among all the folksong settings, 'The Last Rose of Summer'...[Huang] always catches the distant gleam and proves a superb ghost-partner in 'The Ash-Grove'” BBC Music Magazine, December 2011 ****/*****
“Phan's fresh tenor voice, Myra Huang's intelligent pianism and the recording's warm acoustic conspire to make an inviting, distinctive recording...Phan's upper range blooms, not by fanning out at the top but in a more integrated emergence of vocal brightness...his main strength is spinning a long, expressive line in ways that seem to confide in the listener.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2012
“Others have identified Phan, a young American tenor, as a star in the making, and this fine Britten recital confirms it. The voice is graceful, mellifluous and durable, but behind it lie sharp intelligence, poetic insight and a confident individuality, allowing him a deeply personal response to the Hardy cycle Winter Words. In the Seven Sonnets, Phan is equally at ease with the demands of the bel canto devices.” Sunday Times, 2nd October 2011
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An Irish Songbook
Iain Burnside and Ailish Tynan return to Signum with their second disc of Irish Songs and arrangements: this time from a range of different 20th Century composers.
Although all of the sung texts stem from Ireland's rich heritage of literature (including poems from W.B. Yeats, Thomas Moore and James Joyce), the composers featured have a more transatlantic feel, with works by John Cage and Samuel Barber programmed alongside others by Benjamin Britten and Herbert Hughes. This disc continues Burnside’s series of recital discs with Signum – in particular his 2007 disc with Ailish Tynan of Irish songs by Herbert Hughes.
“Soprano Tynan has a fresh, light, but powerful voice, which never distorts and uses vibrato sparingly. She relates symbiotically to Burnside...The disc is full of interest. There are lovely, unknown tunes, seductively sung and hauntingly harmonised. It has pathos and wild joy in equal measure. An excellent recital.” Classic FM Magazine, June 2011 *****
“Typically, they all have distinctive accompaniments, some of them little related to the melodies at all...Predictably, Burnside is always a most sensitive accompanist, not least in some of Britten's tricky piano-writing. A most distinctive disc, well recorded and well worth investigating.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2011
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Britten: Folk Songs of the British Isles
Judith Kogan (harp), Maria Jette (soprano)
Isabelle Moretti & Felicity Lott - Cantare
One of Britain’s most acclaimed and best-loved sopranos, Felicity Lott, collaborates with award-winning harpist, Isabelle Moretti, to create ‘Cantare’ – a celebration of the relationship between the harp and the voice ranging over a very varied and sometimes surprising repertoire. Dame Felicity Lott, a long time friend of Isabelle, brings her experience, charm and charisma to the vocal works chosen by both herself and the harpist. First sung by Judy Garland in the musical film The Wizard of Oz (1939), “Over the Rainbow” has become a universally known tune. Isabelle Moretti calls it her ‘cult song’, and Felicity Lott admits to humming it in the shower. Here, the harp part is an arrangement by the harpist herself. Award-winning artist Isabelle Moretti is one of the most appealing figures in the world of the harp and on today’s musical scene. Her rich and varied discography has been much acclaimed, winning such awards as the Victoire de la Musique, Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque, Prix Charles Cros, Choc du Monde de la Musique, 10 de Répertoire, and fff de Télérama.
“…a disc crammed full of various delights, with the harp singing alone in nearly half of the pieces, and acting as radiant accompanist to Felicity Lott in the remainder. …Debussy's 'La Belle au bois dormant' is a magical revelation. Lott is, of course, an ideal accomplice, whether dreamily sophisticated as here or more innocent, as in Martini's 'Plaisir d'amour'. ...Moretti's musicality shines through.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2010 ****
“...the harp is exhibited as an instrument of many colours, and of virile strength as well as blushful modesty. Wonders are performed as melodies sing forth in clear-voiced solo or a melisma is woven in the air...Felicity Lott's own singing is as delightful as ever, and the varied selection is well made.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2010
(also available to download from $10.50)
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Britten - Folksong Arrangements
Australia’s foremost tenor Steve Davislim and conductor/pianist Simone Young are reunited with Melba Recordings to present a mesmerising collection of Benjamin Britten’s Folksong Arrangements.
This new CD follows Seduction (MR301108), their highly praised exploration of orchestral songs of Richard Strauss.
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