A Hushed Beauty Permeates Daniels' Immaculate Delivery and A
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 09/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For an artist as remarkably gifted as countertenor David Daniels, his recording output has been miserably paltry as this is his first solo recital effort since 2004's beautiful repertoire of French art songs on Berlioz: Les Nuits d'Été. Even as new performers proliferate in his decreasingly rarefied voice range, Daniels remains more than a pioneer in expanding the boundaries of his voice type. He brings immense dramatic skill and vocal dexterity to almost everything he sings, and at 42, he has produced a burnished quality to his delivery that is quite unlike any other countertenor. I'm sure the inevitable maturity in his approach may frustrate purists who wish he would regain his boyish coloratura technique. Nevertheless, the sure footing he displays with the impeccably chosen selection of Bach's cantatas showcases one of the finest, most enduring voices in the classical world.
Daniels starts the program with two key sections of Bach's famous setting for the Latin Mass, the Mass in B minor (BWV 232), which was assembled just before the composer's death but was primarily made up mostly of earlier pieces. The first is the quietly majestic "Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris", an aria for alto voice with oboe d'amore obbligato. It shows off the genuine beauty in Daniels' delivery without calling undue attention to himself. The second is the more mournful "Agnus Dei", another alto aria, this one in G minor with violin obbligato. It was derived from a lost wedding cantata circa 1725, a surprising source since the tone here is more funereal. One of Bach's grander choral-orchestral works, St. John Passion (BWV 245) allows Daniels to traverse his lower range with fluidity on "Von den Stricken", an aria describing when Jesus is arrested. The singer, however, really shines on the climactic "Es ist vollbracht" where he shifts from forlorn to defiant and back again with lightning-quick precision, accompanied all the while by the viola de gamba.
Like St. John Passion, St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) was written for Good Friday vespers services, but it represents a more lyrically robust work. "Du lieber Heiland du...Buß and Reu" establishes the mercurial mood of the Passion with a gently scolding recitative followed by a poignant aria. Easily the most familiar piece here is "Erbarme dich" which Daniels sings with breathtaking beauty as an ethereal prayer on Peter's repentance. There is an almost romantic quality to his phrasing that contrasts dramatically with the implied violence in the next aria, "Erbarm es Gott!", as Jesus is being tortured. You can really sense the return to faith expressed in "Können Tränen". Compare these exceptional performances with those of contralto Stephanie Blythe stellar work on 2004's Handel & Bach Arias, and you realize the broad dramatic range to be mined from these alto solos.
The last three cantatas on the recording reflect more complex arrangements that really draw out Daniels' masterful interpretative skills. Nearly seventeen minutes long, "Ich Habe Genug" (BWV 82a) is a wondrous lament that amounts to a religious awakening emboldened with the idea of dying for Christ. The fuller quality in the arrangement of "Vergnügte Ruh, Beliebte Seelenlust" (BWV 170) produces a hymn-like paean to the contentment found in the soul of someone completely dedicated to Christ. The shortest of the cantatas, "Was Mir Behagt, Ist Nur Die Muntre Jagd" (BMV 208), speaks to the beauty of the land with the help of a pair of gentle voice flutes that add to the pastoral quality of the piece. Daniels' warm, round tones are perfectly accompanied by longtime collaborator Harry Bicket who leads the vastly talented period-instrument ensemble of the English Concert. Strongly recommended."
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 10/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"DAVID DANIELS ROMANTICIZES BACH? LIKE IT OR NOT!!!!! This is the first David Daniels Baroque Virgins Classic recording since 2002, when he recorded his much acclaimed Handel oratorio arias.
For this new release he returns to the Baroque Era with several significant sacred arias and cantatas by Bach, some of which are solos from the Passions according to St.Matthew and St. John and cantatas that include a very popular often recorded 'Ich habe genug' These were all recorded in London in September, 2007.
It is notable that Daniels has waited until his vocal skills and musical maturity has come to their highest point, and this was quite astute of him to do so. Many professional singers and amateurs as well will readily admit that to sing great Handel is far easier than to sing great Bach.
As to his overall performance on this disc, it is vocal perfection: excellent diction(always one of his strong points), resonant tone quality and certainly a command of the material.
Having said all of the above,I add my own VERY PERSONAL reaction; as a 'Bach-a-holic' and a lover of Bach tradition,I find Daniel's interpretation to be highly romantic and not really what I prefer. But then, Daniels has explained via internet etc. that he fully intended to perform this music in the style of German lieder such as Schubert, Schumann etc.; and in that respect he is highly successful! There is no doubt in my mind that this recording will be well received by most listeners, as it should be.
Most, if not all, of these well known alto solos have been recorded by several excellent countertenors, my favorite being Michael Chance, who I feel is the consummate Bach interpreter. But Daniels will certainly have his share of adulation from his interpretation. This is definitely a SUPERB recording, so I will put on my 'Schubertian' ear and enjoy it many times over.
Harry Bicket conducts the English Consort, one of the finest chanmber orchestras for Baroque and Classical music interpretations, and demos this very well on this recording.
LIKE FINE WINE
SONG CYCLIST | La Romain, Trinidad and Tobago | 12/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"They really say that wine gets better with age. This is the most gorgeous singing I've heard from a counter tenor in a while. David Daniels took some time for me to like and after his Tamerlano in Bajazet with Biondi, I was hooked. This albumn is an absolute joy. I think the two most beautiful notes I've ever heard are sung in the 'Qui sedes ad dextram Patris'I believe in the third line he sings and its on 'DEXtram' and 'PAtris'. Sorry cant tell you the notation, but its absolutely sublime.
David Daniels is now 42 and after his debut in 1992 at the are of 26 his voice has ripened to a beautiful alto. He has a stronger sense of the text and shaping the music. He sounds as though he's bringing his entire life experiences into the music. In the little documentary about the recording on Emi Classics, you could see it in his eyes that he has lived and grown. I love this recording and I was moved to tears with his rendition of Erbarme Dich. A Bach lover like myself could not have asked for anything more."
A Very Pleasant Surprise
Stephen McLeod | New York, NY USA | 04/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen Daniels twice on stage, once in Handel's Giulio Cesare, and more recently in Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice, both at the Met. Now I like Handel as much as the next guy, but his operas can get a little tedious. As for the Gluck, Daniels had stepped up to take over the part when the scheduled singer, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, had sadly passed away. I thought he was OK, but his voice didn't fill that big room and I left with the desire to hear this guy up close, as on a CD. I was not familiar with the Handel CD at the time.
In the meantime, I have become obsessed with Bach's cantatas and Passions. I have been listening and studying the cantatas for over 2 years now and haven't scratched the surface.
I almost didn't get this record for a number of reasons. For one thing, I love the male alto voice, but recital albums tend to give us too much of a good thing. For another, I naturally suspected that David Daniels was not much more than the flavor of the week (as today we are saddled with mediocrities such as Desay and Netrebko because they look presentable on stage - but I digress). What a great good fortune it was then to get this along with Daniels's Handel recital album! The warmth and fluidity of the voice, and seeming effortless flexibility of technique are remarkable. This album has that AND a treasure chest of Bach at the same time. Daniels's rendition of the St Matthew Passion recitatives and arias gave me chills. This music is as close to the Great Mystery as I get these days, and Daniels makes a very convincing case for the truth and spirit of Master Bach's musical evangelism.
Get this music if you like Bach, if you like male altos and the sublime music that Bach wrote for them, if you like great singing. I'll bet you won't regret it."