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Nico Muhly: Stranger etc

Nicholas Phan (tenor), Reginald Mobley (countertenor), Colin Jacobsen (violin), Lisa Kaplan (piano); The Knights; Brooklyn Rider/Eric Jacobsen (Avie)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Nico Muhly
Stranger; Lorne ys my Likinge; Impossible Things
Nicholas Phan (tenor), Reginald Mobley (countertenor), Colin Jacobsen (violin), Lisa Kaplan (piano); The Knights; Brooklyn Rider/Eric Jacobsen
Avie AV2517   63:48 mins

This personal and deeply-felt album from star tenor Nicholas Phan offers a powerful exploration of what ‘national identity’ might mean. Born to Greek and Chinese parents and raised in America, Phan notes in his introduction that ‘as a bi-racial, gay man immersed in the world of Western classical vocal music, I am perpetually relating to the words and music of creators whose experience is largely different than that of my own.’ For Phan, commissioning Stranger proved a revelation. Here at last was a piece that properly spoke to Phan’s ‘own complicated story of national identity’. Scored for tenor and string quartet, the song cycle draws on four varied texts that range from academic writing on the history of Chinese railroad workers, to a transcription of an interview with a Sicilian woman who arrived at Ellis Island in 1911. Muhly’s crisply unsentimental settings afford due space to these insightfully-chosen texts and Phan’s crystal-clear delivery is beautiful in its restraint.

Lorne ys my Likinge for tenor, countertenor and piano sets the drama outside Christ’s tomb as depicted in the 19th Chester Mystery Play, and receives a radiant performance from countertenor Reginald Mobley and dynamic accompaniment from pianist Lisa Kaplan. Impossible Things, a ‘duo concerto’ for voice, violin and string orchestra, sets poetry by CP Cavafy translated into English by Daniel Mendelsohn. Phan, on splendidly expressive form, is well matched by violinist Colin Jacobsen and chamber collective The Knights.

Kate Wakeling

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