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Tenor Nicholas Phan’s grand orchestral tour, 2012-2013

Nicholas Phan wraps up the summer of 2012 with a performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos at the Hollywood Bowl; soon after, he re-joins the Spanish maestro – with whom he has frequently collaborated – for his Denmark debut, performing that same work with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. The peripatetic tenor, who was named one of NPR’s Favorite Artists of 2011, then continues a new season of music-making that takes him from Canada to Russia to Switzerland, and covers the United States from coast to coast: a nonstop, grand tour of orchestral concert appearances, with repertoire ranging from Bach and Handel to Britten as well as Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. Highlights include his return to the New York Philharmonic (March) for the second consecutive season, where he will join the orchestra for its Bach Variations festival, and debuts in two other great musical cities – first in Moscow, with concert performances of Handel’s Hercules at the storied Bolshoi Opera (January), and then in Cleveland’s magnificent Severance Hall, where he’ll perform Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst (April). In between concert appearances this fall, Phan releases a new recording: Still Falls the Rain, the follow-up to his previous and widely acclaimed all-Britten album for Avie. He also picks up a major award from his alma mater, the University of Michigan.
Phan’s first fall date with an orchestra comes in October, when he performs the tenor solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Pinchas Zukerman. The month of December finds the tenor in the spotlight for performances of Handel’s Messiah, with the Cincinnati Symphony led by Jane Glover, and with Musica Sacra conducted by Kent Tritle at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The New Year commences with performances of Mozart’s Requiem with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra led by Helmuth Rilling (January), and continues with a February reunion with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos for performances of Carmina Burana with The Philadelphia Orchestra (February). The tenor then travels to Alabama, New York, Washington, and Switzerland (March), before returning to the West Coast for performances of Handel’s Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day with the San Francisco Symphony under Bernard Labadie (April). Phan’s final stop in the spring is Portland Opera, where he performs the role of Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff – a role Phan last performed in his company debut with Glyndebourne Opera in 2009. A complete list of upcoming engagements follows below.
“I am excited to spend a season immersed in such a range of material. This kind of solo work provides challenges and opportunities that are distinct from operatic repertoire, and which are truly fulfilling,” says Phan, adding, “It is thrilling to anticipate working with so many distinguished orchestras and conductors.”
Away from the concert stage, two important events mark Phan’s calendar in the early fall: the release of a new recording and a special award from his alma mater. Still Falls the Rain, slotted for release by Avie on October 9, is Phan’s second album centered on the songs of Benjamin Britten. The first, Winter Words, was released to widespread critical praise in September 2011. The new album was recorded in January 2012, with pianist Myra Huang, Phan’s frequent recital partner and his collaborator on Winter Words; Jennifer Montone, Principal Horn of The Philadelphia Orchestra; harpist Sivan Magen; and actor Alan Cumming. A CD launch recital is planned for October 15 at New York’s trendy Bleecker Street music venue Le Poisson Rouge. Winter Words, his solo debut recording, 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.
“My idea for this new album 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, the tenor Peter Pears – 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 album consists of 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.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Phan will receive the University’s 2012 Paul Boylan Award on October 12 at the Alumni Awards Ceremony. The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments and significant contributions in the field of music, theatre, or dance, by a recent graduate from the University’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Previous winners include countertenor David Daniels and composer Derek Bermel.
“I am thrilled to have been nominated for this award,” says Phan, “U of M gave me a substantial and reliable musical formation; perhaps even more importantly, it opened my mind and spirit to languages, literature, and taught me to think critically. I am looking forward to offering my thanks to my teachers in person in October.”
In addition to the release of his Britten album in fall 2011, Phan’s 2011-12 season involved several other key firsts and high-profile appearances: debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic; the premiere of A Sunbeam’s Architecture, a new orchestral song cycle by Elliot Carter at a concert celebrating the composer’s 103rd birthday; and his role debut as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Atlanta Opera. In the spring, Phan joined pianist Jeremy Denk for a performance of Schumann’s Dichterliebe presented by the Chicago Symphony. Veteran critic John von Rhein reported that this iconic Romantic song cycle was sung with “great depth of feeling, by the compelling Nicholas Phan,” noting: “Phan’s instrument has sweetness and presence, and, accomplished lieder singer that he is, he varied its coloration to suit the interior life of Heine’s words and Schumann’s music. The American tenor is such a probing interpreter that the full range of emotions – from delight to surprise to disillusion to bitterness – was conveyed, turning each lied into a miniature drama.”
The Connecticut-born, Michigan-raised Phan documents his journey as a musician in his blog, 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:
Critical Acclaim for Nicholas Phan
“The ravishing beauty of his tone lingered in the ear.”
– Chicago Sun-Times
“The artist behind the voice takes complete possession of the music.”
– Philadelphia Inquirer
“Phan’s instrument has sweetness and presence, and, accomplished lieder singer that he is, he varied its coloration to suit the interior life of Heine’s words and Schumann’s music. The American tenor is such a probing interpreter that the full range of emotions – from delight to surprise to disillusion to bitterness – was conveyed, turning each lied into a miniature drama.”
Chicago Tribune
Praise for Winter Words
“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.”
            – New York Times
“Five stars out of five. Spacious, deeply moving.”
      BBC Music
“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.”
            – Boston Globe
Nicholas Phan: upcoming engagements
Aug 28 & 30, 2012
Los Angeles, CA
Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles Philharmonic / Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
Orff: Carmina Burana
Sept 6-7, 2012
Copenhagen, Denmark – DEBUT
Danish National Symphony Orchestra / Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
Orff: Carmina Burana
Oct 4, 2012
Ottawa, Canada
National Arts Centre, Ottawa
National Arts Centre Orchestra / Pinchas Zuckerman
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
Oct 9, 2012
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
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
Los Angeles, 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, and 18, 2013
Portland, OR
Keller Auditorium
Portland Opera / George Manahan
Verdi: Falstaff
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©21C Media Group, August 2012

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