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Nicholas Phan Follows 2018 Grammy Nomination with Release of New Solo Album, Illuminations, This Friday (April 20)

Nicholas Phan’s new solo album for Avie RecordsIlluminations – drops this Friday, April 20, on the heels of his 2018 Grammy nomination for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. On the new recording, the tenor reunites with his long-time recital partner, pianist Myra Huang, besides joining forces with the adventurous Brooklyn-based orchestral collective, The Knights, and the award-winning Telegraph Quartet. Comprising compositions by Benjamin Britten, Claude Debussy, and Gabriel Fauré, the album is a collection of vocal music inspired by the poetry of two scandalous figures of the Parisian Belle Époque, Paul Verlaine and his younger lover, Arthur Rimbaud. Click here to see a video preview of Illuminations.

Phan featured selections from the album in a recital with Huang at San Francisco’s historic Herbst Theater last week, crowning his four-year residency with San Francisco Performances. His upcoming performance highlights include appearances with the Orchestre d’Auvergne in orchestral song cycles by Britten and Gerald Finzi (May 24 & 25); a performance of the tenor’s own English Renaissance pastiche song cycle, A Painted Tale, at the Chautauqua Festival (July 23); his Cabrillo Music Festival debut in the West Coast premiere of Nico Muhly’s orchestral song cycle, Impossible Things (Aug 12); his return to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Beethoven and Orff with Bramwell Tovey and Emmanuel Ax at the Hollywood Bowl (Aug 28 & 30); and his participation in ongoing Bernstein centenary celebrations. These see Phan headline Candide with the Toronto Symphony (April 26 & 28) and make two appearances at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony during its summer-long tribute to the great composer-conductor, first in Bernstein’s Songfest with Bramwell Tovey (Aug 4) and then in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass under Herbert Blomstedt (July 21).


The poetry and salaciously intertwined lives of Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud were the inspiration for the music of Illuminations, which boasts three important song cycles: Fauré’s La bonne chanson, Debussy’s Ariettes oubliées, and Britten’s Les Illuminations. All three works are settings of poems written just before and during the period in which Verlaine and Rimbaud scandalized all of Paris. Shortly after his marriage to the young Mathilde Mauté, Verlaine was sent poems written by Rimbaud, then aged 17. Upon reading them, Verlaine invited the young country-boy prodigy to Paris, initiating a tumultuous affair that would end with Verlaine shooting Rimbaud in the hand during a lovers’ quarrel that got out of hand one fateful night in Belgium.

Says Phan:

“The story behind these songs has all the ingredients of what we would now know think of as great reality television: a broken marriage, sexual confusion, lovers’ quarrels – all fueled by rampant alcoholism. That it inspired some of the most revolutionary poetry and music of the last century is mind-boggling, and makes it all the more interesting to juxtapose these important song cycles with one other.”

For this recording, Phan has many collaborators in addition to his regular recital partner of 17 years, Myra Huang, whom Opera News considers “among the top accompanists of her generation.” For Fauré’s song cycle, they are joined by the Telegraph Quartet, winner of the 2016 Walter W. Naumburg Chamber Award. Phan reunites with another frequent collaborator, the pioneering orchestral collective The Knights, for Britten’s Les Illuminations.

Illuminations is Phan’s fifth solo album for Avie. His previous recordings for the label are a collection of German lieder titled Gods & Monsters, which was nominated for the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album; two celebrated collections of songs by Benjamin Britten; and A Painted Tale: a pastiche cycle of early English songs assembled by the tenor himself, which was chosen as one of the “Best Classical Albums of 2015” by the Chicago Tribune and named a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice.” He also appears with the Cleveland-based Baroque ensemble, Apollo’s Fire, on Avie’s recent release of Bach’s St. John Passion, which the New York Times calls “first-rate, a good choice, … notable, especially, for Nicholas Phan’s Evangelist.”


Nicholas Phan, tenor
Myra Huang, piano
Telegraph Quartet
The Knights (Colin & Eric Jacobsen, artistic directors)
Available April 20, 2018, on Avie Records 

Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)
La bonne chanson, Op. 61

1. Une sainte en son aureole
2. Puisque l’aube grandit
3. La lune blanche luit dans les bois
4. J’allais par des chemins perfidies
5. J’ai presque peur, en vérité
6. Avant que tu ne t’en ailles
7. Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d’été
8. N’est-ce pas?
9. L’hiver a cessé

Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Ariettes oubliées, L. 60

10. C’est l’extase langoureuse
11. Il pleure dans mon coeur
12. L’ombre des arbres
13. Chevaux de bois
14. Aquarelles I – Green
15. Aquarelles II – Spleen 

Benjamin Britten (1913–1976)
Les Illuminations, Op. 18

16. I. Fanfare
17. II. Villes
18. IIIa. Phrase
19. IIIb. Antique
20. IV. Royauté
21. V. Marine
22. VI. Interlude
23. VII. Being beauteous
24. VIII. Parade
25. IX. Départ


Nicholas Phan: upcoming engagements 

April 21
Cleveland, OH
Gamble Hall
Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival / Dirk Garner
Bach: St. John Passion 

April 26 & 28
Toronto, Canada
Roy Thomson Hall
Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Bramwell Tovey
Bernstein: Candide (title role) 

May 24 & 25
Clermont-Ferrand, France
Opéra-Théâtre de Clermont-Ferrand
Orchestre D’Auvergne / Jean-Jacques Kantorow
Britten: Serenade for tenor, horn & strings 

June 9
Berkeley, CA
First Congregational Church
Berkeley Festival & Exhibition / Musicians from the Valley of the Moon Festival
Schubert: selected songs
Schumann: selected songs 

July 14
Eugene, OR
Silva Hall
Oregon Bach Festival / John Nelson
Mendelssohn: Elijah 

July 21
Lenox, MA
Koussevitzky Music Shed
Tanglewood Music Festival / Herbert Blomstedt
Haydn: Lord Nelson Mass 

July 23
Chautauqua, NY
Lenna Hall
Chautauqua Institution
Various: A Painted Tale
(with Ann Marie Morgan, viola da gamba; Michael Leopold, lutes)

Aug 4
Lenox, MA
Koussevitzky Music Shed
Tanglewood Music Festival / Bramwell Tovey
Bernstein: Songfest 

Aug 12
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Cabrillo Music Festival / Cristian Macelaru
Nico Muhly: Impossible Things (West Coast premiere) 

Aug 15
Rockport, ME
Rockport Opera House
Screen Door Music Festival
Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge 

Aug 19
Rockport, ME
Rockport Opera House
Screen Door Music Festival / Palaver Strings
Britten: Les Illuminations 

Aug 23
Skaneateles, NY
First Presbyterian Church
Skaneateles Music Festival
Schubert: Auf dem Strom
Schubert: selected songs
(with Inon Barnatan, piano; Julia Bruskin, cello)

Aug 24
Skaneateles, NY
First Presbyterian Church
Skaneateles Music Festival
Britten: selected songs
Vaughan Williams: selected songs
TBA: selected songs
(with Inon Barnatan, piano; Anthony Marwood, violin) 

Aug 28 & 30
Los Angeles, CA
Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles Philharmonic / Bramwell Tovey
Beethoven: Choral Fantasy
Orff: Carmina Burana


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© 21C Media Group, April 2018

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