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Tenor Nicholas Phan in 2022-23: Bach with NY Philharmonic & Premieres of New Song Cycles by Lembit Beecher, Joel Puckett & Nico Muhly

Nicholas Phan (photo: Clubsoda Productions)

(September 2022)—Two-time Grammy nominated tenor Nicholas Phan is “one of the world’s most remarkable singers” (Boston Globe), and the coming season showcases his artistry in music ranging from masterworks of the Classical and Baroque to new song cycles composed expressly for his voice. He returns to the New York Philharmonic under Jaap van Zweden for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (March 23–25); joins Boston Baroque for the same composer’s Mass in B minor (Oct 15 & 16); sings Lurcanio in Handel’s Ariodante on a European tour with Baroque ensemble Il Pomo D’Oro that takes in the Essen Philharmonie, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música and Paris’s Théâtre Champs-Élysées (Nov 3–9); joins the Philadelphia Orchestra for Handel’s Messiah (Dec 15 & 16); returns to the Dallas Symphony for Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang (March 2, 3, & 5); and sings Beethoven’s Ninth and a hymn setting by Lili Boulanger with the Seattle Symphony (Dec 28–31). No less sought after in new music, Phan gives the world premiere performances of two song cycles that were recently written for him: Lembit Beecher’s A Year to the Day for The Violin Channel (Oct 7) and Joel Puckett’s There Was A Child Went Forth with “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra (April 30). Returning to a cycle he premiered in early 2022, he also performs Aaron Jay Kernis’s Earth with Santa Fe Pro Musica (Jan 28 & 29), and he joins San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra and Daniel Hope for the orchestral premiere of Nico Muhly’s cycle Stranger (May 11, 13 & 14), the original version of which is the title track of the tenor’s most recent recording; as San Francisco Classical Voice marvels: “If you love Phan’s voice and artistry, and if you care about the ongoing reckoning of classical music with racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identity, Stranger is a must.”

Upcoming highlights: Bach with NY Philharmonic & Boston Baroque

Having made a specialty of the notoriously difficult role of the Evangelist in both passion settings by J.S. Bach, Phan has previously undertaken both Evangelists with many ensembles, including the Strasbourg Philharmonic, Oregon Bach Festival, Apollo’s Fire, Colorado Symphony and John Nelson’s Chicago Bach Project. Reviewing his performance of the role in the St. Matthew Passion with the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall, the New York Times observed:

“The standout among the vocal soloists was the tenor Nicholas Phan, who brought his youthful, tender yet penetrating voice, as well as flawless German diction and affecting immediacy, to the long, challenging part of the Evangelist, the narrator. He has impressive control of his vibrato, sometimes singing high-lying, plaintive phrases with focused sound and choirboy purity. He was so invested in the narrative, you would have thought he was telling us the passion story for the first time.”

For his upcoming return to the New York Philharmonic, the tenor reprises his interpretation of the Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion under the baton of Music Director Jaap van Zweden (March 23–25). The performances mark Phan’s second Bach collaboration with the orchestra, following their account of the composer’s Magnificat under the leadership of Masaaki Suzuki. Phan has also performed the tenor arias in Bach’s Mass in B minor extensively around the world, with the Cleveland Orchestra, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, Oregon Bach Festival, Luzern Symphony, St. Louis Symphony and, most recently, the Los Angeles Master Chorale at LA’s Disney Hall. He revisits the work this fall to open Boston Baroque’s 50th anniversary season (Oct 15 & 16).

Recent highlights: Chicago’s Collaborative Works Festival and Stranger

Phan launched the present season in early September by curating and performing in the eleventh Collaborative Works Festival of the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC), where he is now in his twelfth season as Artistic Director. The 2022 festival, “The Song of Chicago,” explored the city’s rich association with song through concerts celebrating prominent composers with connections to Chicago, including its many trailblazing Black composers, and examining Carl Sandburg’s seminal folksong anthology, The American Songbag. The festival performances will be broadcast on CAIC’s website from late September through early October.

Reviewing the festival, the Chicago Tribune wrote of Phan’s curation:

“‘The Song of Chicago’ proved, once again, that CAIC is no pedestrian programmer. As tenor and Artistic Director Nicholas Phan made clear during his interstitial comments, this ‘Song of Chicago’ had not just a chorus but a well-researched thesis, arguing that Chicago was uniquely nurturing to composers in the 20th century.”

This followed a full summer of festival appearances and the release of his newest album for Avie Records, Stranger: Works for Tenor by Nico Muhly. Recorded with Brooklyn Rider, countertenor Reginald Mobley, Grammy-winning pianist Lisa Kaplan, violinist Colin Jacobsen, conductor Eric Jacobsen and The Knights, the album offers the world premiere recordings of three major works for tenor by Muhly: Impossible Things, Lorne Ys My Likinge, and Stranger, in the original version for tenor and string quartet. Van Magazine writes:

“Phan’s deceptively halcyon tenor – clear and crystalline, but able, on a dime, to reflect the explosive storms of human experience – is an ideal vehicle for the emotional capaciousness that Muhly gives his texts. … Phan’s tenor weaves itself into a lavender haze of unconditional love and unencumbered longing, accented by a holy minimalism in Brooklyn Rider’s accompaniment.”

San Francisco Classical Voice confirms: “The heart immediately opens at the sound of Phan’s voice, which conveys the opening lines of Stranger with consummate warmth and touching vulnerability.” The album marks Phan’s eighth Avie release. Two of his solo recordings for the label, Gods and Monsters and Clairières, were both nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album, in 2017 and 2020 respectively, making Phan the first singer of Asian descent to be nominated in the category, which the Academy has awarded since 1959.

High-resolution photos can be downloaded here.

Nicholas Phan: upcoming engagements

Sep 21, 28, & Oct 5
Chicago, IL (online broadcasts of works recorded live, Sep 6-11)
Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago
     Sept 21: CONCERT I – Chicago’s Own
Kathryn Henry, soprano
Zoie Reams, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Kuang-Hao Huang, piano
Songs by Clarice Assad, Ernst Bacon, Cecil Cohen, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Reena Esmail, Stacy Garrop, Lita Grier, Eric Malmquist, Ned Rorem, Joseph Schwantner, Dolores White
     Sept 28: CONCERT II – Music & Poetry
Whitney Morrison, soprano
Zoie Reams, mezzo-soprano
Lunga Eric Hallam, tenor
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Robert Sims, baritone
Shannon McGinnis, piano
Songs by Margaret Bonds, Cecil Cohen, R. Nathaniel Dett, Nora Holt, Betty Jackson King, Will Liverman, Shawn Okpebholo, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Irene Britton Smith
     Oct 5: CONCERT III – The American Songbag
Pauline Tan, mezzo-soprano
Lunga Eric Hallam, tenor
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Anthony Reed, bass
Yasuko Oura, piano
Songs and folk song arrangements by Ernst Bacon, Margaret Bonds, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Steven Mark Kohn, Eric Malmquist, Alan Smith, Howard Swanson, George Walker

Oct 7
Online: The Violin Channel
Lembit BEECHER: A Year to the Day (world premiere; with Augustin Hadelich, violin; Karen Ouzounian, cello; Orion Weiss, piano)

Oct 15 & 16
Boston, MA
Boston Baroque / Martin Pearlman
BACH: Mass in B minor

Nov 3–9: Tour with Il Pomo d’Oro / George Petrou
     Nov 3: Barcelona, Spain
     Nov 5: Essen, Germany
     Nov 7: Paris, France
     Nov 9: La Coruña, Spain
HANDEL: Ariodante (Lurcanio)

Dec 5
New York, NY
Music from Copland House
Lembit BEECHER: Three Immigrant Songs
Jake HEGGIE: These Strangers
Selected songs by Missy MAZZOLI, PRICE, and CRAWFORD SEEGER

Dec 15 & 16
Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia Orchestra / Jeannette Sorrell
HANDEL: Messiah

Dec 28–31
Seattle, WA
Seattle Symphony / David Danzmayr
L. BOULANGER: Vieille prière bouddhique
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9

Jan 28 & 29
Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe Pro Musica / Sarah Ioannides
Aaron Jay KERNIS: Earth

March 2, 3 & 5
Dallas, TX
Dallas Symphony / Paul McCreesh

March 23–25
New York, NY
New York Philharmonic / Jaap van Zweden
BACH: St. Matthew Passion (Evangelist)

April 30
Bethesda, ME
“The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra / Col. Jason K. Fettig
Joel PUCKETT: There Was A Child Went Forth (world premiere)

May 11, 13 & 14
San Francisco, CA
New Century Chamber Orchestra / Daniel Hope

Nico MUHLY: Stranger (world premiere of orchestral version)

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© 21C Media Group, September 2022


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