Still Falls the Rain, New All-Britten Album From Tenor Nicholas Phan, is Available October 9 and Features Narration by Actor Alan Cumming

Named one of NPR’s Favorite Artists of 2011, American tenor Nicholas Phan returns to the music of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) on a new album available October 9 from Avie.  On the eve of the Britten centenary, Still Falls the Rain showcases both the great British composer’s remarkable gift as a collaborator and Phan’s increasingly lauded interpretative powers. The album features The Heart of the Matter, a song cycle for tenor, narrator, horn, and piano, performed here by renowned actor Alan Cumming, as well as the principal hornist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Jennifer Montone, and pianist Myra Huang, Phan’s long-time recital partner.  The album also includes: A Birthday Hansel, Op. 92; Canticle V – The Death of Saint Narcissus, Op. 89; Folksong Arrangements for Voice and Harp, with the award-winning Israeli harpist Sivan Magen; and Folksong Arrangements for Voice and Piano, including “Greensleeves” and “The Holly and the Ivy.”   Phan’s previous Britten release, his solo debut recording, Winter Words, was a breakthrough project for Phan; it made many “Best of 2011” lists, including those of the New York Times, the New Yorker, Time Out New York, the Boston Globe, and the Toronto Star.  Phan will celebrate the release of Still Falls the Rain with a Britten program at New York’s popular downtown music club Le Poisson Rouge on October 15.

“My idea for Still Falls the Rain was to focus on Britten as a collaborator – he wrote much of his music for specific musicians, which accounts for some of the unusual instrumental combinations in his vocal chamber music,” says Phan. The previous album, Winter Words, contained song repertoire that Britten created for his life-partner, tenor Peter Pears, including the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo and the cycle of Thomas Hardy settings which gave the album its name.  For the second album, the musical focus is Britten’s relationships with other musicians. In addition to The Heart of the Matter – inspired by the poet Edith Sitwell and hornist Dennis Brain – the remainder of the album consists of the complete songs that the composer wrote for Pears to perform with harpist Osian Ellis when, toward the end of his life, Britten himself was too ill to accompany Pears in recital.

For The Heart of the Matter, Phan happily – and gratefully – engaged the noted actor Alan Cumming as narrator.  Phan explains the background of this work and his appreciation for Cumming’s contribution:

Britten conceived of this piece for a special night at the Aldeburgh Festival, and it was only performed once in his lifetime.  He wanted to showcase the poetry of Edith Sitwell, who was famous at the time for being a reader.  So there are spoken poems as part of this piece in addition to the poetry that Britten set to music.  We were so lucky to get Alan Cumming to come and read these spoken portions of the piece.  Alan is just amazing on the album because he’s a master of dealing with text.  He is such a virtuoso that he just performed all of the roles in Macbeth in a one-man production of Shakespeare’s play – both at Lincoln Center and at the National Theater of Scotland. In his reading of Sitwell’s expressively colorful poetry you can really hear how he can pull every emotional nuance out of the text.  The way he reads these poems is very moving.

 

Critical response to Phan’s first Britten album was extraordinarily enthusiastic.  The New York Times observed, “These bleakly beautiful, sometimes satirical and stunning settings of eight Thomas Hardy poems prove ideal for Nicholas Phan, the sweet-voiced young tenor, sensitively accompanied by Myra Huang.”  BBC Music gave the album its top rating, Five Stars out of Five, calling it “spacious” and “deeply moving.”  The Boston Globe commented: “Phan has a lithe, beautiful voice, but it’s his masterful characterization of these songs – by turns desolate, humorous, and turbulent – that makes such a deep impression. That’s something to be treasured, wherever it pops up.”

 

Phan discusses Still Falls the Rain in a video made during the recording sessions, available here.

 

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The Connecticut-born, Michigan-raised Phan documents his journey as a musician in his blog, http://grecchinois.blogspot.com/. The tenor explains its name: “I sing. I travel. I am half Greek and half Chinese – thus, the blog’s name, a combination of the two nationalities in French.”

Additional information about Nicholas Phan, including a complete biography, is available at the artist’s website: www.nicholas-phan.com.

 

 

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Nicholas Phan: upcoming engagements

 

Oct 4, 2012

Ottawa, Canada

National Arts Centre, Ottawa

National Arts Centre Orchestra / Pinchas Zuckerman

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

 

Oct 9, 2012

ALBUM RELEASE DATE

Still Falls the Rain

Avie Records

 

Oct 12, 2012

Ann Arbor, MI

University of Michigan

Alumni Awards Ceremony

2012 Paul Boylan Award

 

Oct 15, 2012

New York, NY

CD launch recital – Still Falls the Rain

Le Poisson Rouge

 

Dec 16, 2012

Cincinnati, OH

Music Hall

Cincinnati Symphony / Jane Glover

Handel: Messiah

 

Dec 20 & 23, 2012

New York, NY

Carnegie Hall

Musica Sacra / Kent Tritle

Handel: Messiah

 

Jan 16, 2013

Moscow, Russia – DEBUT

Tchaikovsky Concert Hall

Bolshoi Opera

Handel: Hercules

 

Jan 26, 2013

Glendale, CA

Alex Theater

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra / Helmuth Rilling

Mozart: Requiem

 

Jan 27, 2013

Los Angeles, CA

Royce Hall

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra / Helmuth Rilling

Mozart: Requiem

 

Feb 14-16, 2012

Philadelphia, PA

Kimmel Center

The Philadelphia Orchestra / Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

Orff: Carmina Burana

 

Feb 22 & 23, 2013

Birmingham, AL

Alys Stephens Center

Alabama Symphony Orchestra / Justin Brown

Britten: Les Illuminations

 

March 6-9, 2013

New York, NY

Avery Fisher Hall

New York Philharmonic / Masaaki Suzuki

Bach: Magnificat

Mendelssohn: Magnificat

 

March 24, 2013

Washington, DC

Washington National Cathedral

National Cathedral Orchestra / Michael McCarthy

Bach: St. John Passion

 

March 27 & 28, 2013

Lucerne, Switzerland

KKL Luzern Konzertsaal

Lucerne Symphony Orchestra / James Gaffigan

Bach: Mass in B minor

 

April 5 & 6, 2013

San Francisco, CA

Davies Symphony Hall

San Francisco Symphony / Bernard Labadie

Handel: Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

 

April 11-14, 2013

Cleveland, OH – DEBUT

Severance Hall

Cleveland Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst

Orff: Carmina Burana

 

May 10, 12, 16, & 18, 2013

Portland, OR 

Keller Auditorium

Portland Opera / George Manahan

Verdi: Falstaff

 

www.nicholas-phan.com

 

www.facebook.com/nicholasphantenor

 

www.twitter.com/grecchinois

 

www.grecchinois.blogspot.com/

Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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