NICO MUHLY (b.1981): Stranger (w/Brooklyn Rider), Lorne ys my Likinge (w/Reginald Mobley [countertenor], Lisa Kaplan [piano]), Impossible Things(w/Colin Jacobsen [violin], The Knights, Eric Jacobsen)

Catalogue Number: 08Y039

Label: Avie

Reference: AV02517

Format: CD

Price: $17.98

Description: This is, first and foremost, a deeply moving recital of emotionally compelling and communicative works. Secondarily, it is a kind of "concept album", exploring themes of ethnic, national, and personal identity, based on the history and background of both composer and primary soloist. Phan, from a diverse background, had something of an artistic identity crisis when trying to select repertoire from "his" country in the early 2000s; Muhly, who traces his ancestry as Belorussian Jewish, French, Irish, and German, is also all too familiar with the question ‘No, but where do you really come from?’ This meeting of minds begat Stranger, a song cycle that eloquently explores the experiences of arrivals at Ellis Island, through vivid settings of texts about the history of Chinese railroad workers; an interview with a Sicilian woman who arrived at Ellis Island in 1911; an account of officially sanctioned racism experienced by a Chinese-American man; a "letter to the editor" about the casual mistreatment of immigrants; and a letter from a woman to her husband serving in the U.S. Army in 1945. The vocal line of the commissioned work is tailored to Phan's flexible and expressive voice; Muhly's music is always tonal, melodically assured, and often moved forward by post-minimalistic rhythmic and harmonic progressions. Lorne Ys My Likinge is a setting of the 19th Chester Mystery Play, which tells of the women at Christ’s tomb after the Resurrection. As the composer says, "Like many Passiontide texts, this play is simultaneously violent, still, impassioned, and mystical" - and so is the music, with its direct, impassioned settings of the dialogue, typical of the Mystery Plays, and dramatic piano accompaniment. Impossible Things sets poems by C.P. Cavafy, ambiguous, sensual, and always accompanied by a dark undercurrent of doubt and despair that taints the voluptuous eroticism of his imagery. The music is appropriately rich of texture, melodically and harmonically generous but always with a sense of underlying melancholy and strain, and subject to rapidly dispelled outbursts of barely restrained passion. Nicholas Phan (tenor).

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