NICK TOURS THE EAST COAST WITH MUSICIANS FROM MARLBORO FESTIVAL PERFORMING BEETHOVEN & VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
"Musicians from Marlboro, the touring ensemble from the Vermont chamber music gathering, are regular visitors to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, each concert bearing a few glimpses into the storied summer festival’s approach to its craft. Sometimes, though, the group offers something more. That was the case Sunday, when its latest iteration included Nicholas Phan, a tenor who, in a short time, has become one of the world’s most remarkable singers.
The reasons for his success were apparent during an incisive performance of “On Wenlock Edge,” Vaughan Williams’s song cycle for tenor, piano, and string quartet...One could admire, in Phan’s performance, the variety of shadings in his voice, the naturalness of his phrasing, and the evenness of his vocal range. But that was all secondary to the sheer intensity with which he inflected every word. It was there in the fragile, whispered opening of “From far, from eve and morning” and in the torrent of anguish in “Is my team ploughing” and “Bredon Hill.” Even when the mood lightened, there was no moment where you did not feel the sheer force of Phan’s projection.
He was, in an odd way, almost as impressive in a selection of five of Beethoven’s settings of Irish folk songs for voice and piano trio. These are not Beethoven’s most distinguished creations, and the rather banal texts suffer in comparison to Housman’s. But there was no less depth in Phan’s artistic investment, and he made the stories these songs told compelling and poignant..."
"...Their intensity rose with the arrival of tenor Nicholas Phan. He and pianist Lydia Brown joined the strings for Vaughan Williams’ On Wenlock Edge, and this combination found meaning in the words of the song cycle: Brown’s gusts of wind in the first song, the recurring bells of the fifth. Each song was granted its own atmosphere.
Phan’s voice -- here as well as in five movements from Beethoven’s Irische Lieder -- is a thing of wonder. He has a warm, centered basic sound that he shades in smart ways to sharpen meanings. He toggled back and forth between a warm vibrato and a timbre a good deal more bald but still beautiful. To Beethoven, he brought a slightly less formal sound..."
"Every year Musicians from Marlboro, the touring branch of the esteemed summer festival in Vermont, shows off its goods at Boston’s Gardner Museum. This time around brought a special treat: two works by Beethoven and Vaughan Williams that featured the extraordinary young tenor, Nicholas Phan.
I first heard Phan several years ago on the Debut Series in The Boston Celebrity Series, then as Papageno in Mozart’s Magic Flute with Boston Baroque. I have several of his CDs, and I have been repeatedly awed and transported by his voice, stage presence, and charisma. 'Gods and Monsters', his latest CD, was released a few weeks ago. Phan is on the way to becoming a national treasure...
For the five Beethoven folksongs, ”Irish Lieder,” Ross and cellist Yoo were joined by the distinguished pianist Lydia Brown....A spellbinding storyteller, Phan sang these songs wonderfully, with lots of personality and a voice one could listen to all day. The beautiful diction, perfect pitch, expressiveness, and grace that he exhibited here were on display again in his rendition of Ralph Vaughan William’s song cycle 'On Wenlock’s Edge.'... I have several recordings of this memorable cycle; none of these performances are as captivating as Phan’s was on Sunday. Lydia Brown played the often harp-like piano part extremely well. This performance will surely be among the finest I’ll hear in the year to come..."
"...Giving these simple songs dramatic significance was man of the hour the tenor Nicholas Phan....The love stories and soldiers’ tales came to us as though from a virile belletrist. Phan’s vocal resources spanned the divide between the drawing room and the theater in indrawing manner. Whether declamatory or intimate, whether as swain or dying soldier, he appealed to our better angels, makingof these modest songs great art. His partners Roos and Yoo and pianist Lydia Brown (warm of voice and lapidary of phrase) were onboard with every nuance.
The journey continued from Ireland to England via Vaughan Williams On Wenlock Edge, a deeply moving setting of poems from Housman’s 'A Shropshire Lad.' The ensemble of string quartet and piano gave an orchestral support that permitted Phan operatic heft at times. Indeed, he was never Pearish or preciously pastoral, as are some in this role. Rather he embodied the machismo of the regretfully nostalgic vagabond in Vaughan Williams’s five-years-earlier Songs of Travel(from R.L. Stevenson). Moments to treasure included Phan’s masterful diminuendo on “…the winds’ twelve quarters”, in the second song, and the shimmering, characterful overture to the fifth song, which evokes larks and steeples. The extended postlude banished all sense of time and place..."
Nicholas Phan Launches 2017 with New Solo Album, Gods & Monsters; Tours East Coast Cities with Musicians from Marlboro Festival; and Debuts at London’s Wigmore Hall
Tenor Nicholas Phan launches the New Year auspiciously with the release on January 13 of Gods & Monsters, his fourth solo album on the Avie label. Teaming up once again with his long-time recital partner, Myra Huang, on the new recording Phan sings a wide-ranging program of German lieder inspired by fairy tales, traversing both familiar and lesser-known works by Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Beethoven, Schumann, Wolf and Mendelssohn. “Gods & Monsters” will also be Phan’s program when he makes his debut at London’s world-renowned Wigmore Hall on February 26. Before that major career milestone, the tenor sings selections from Beethoven’s Irish Folk Songs and Vaughan Williams’s song cycle On Wenlock Edge on a tour with musicians from the Marlboro Festival that features stops at Boston’s Isabella Gardner Museum (Jan 22), New York’s Carnegie Hall (Weill Hall, Jan 23), the Library of Congress in Washington DC (Jan 25), and the Perelman Theater in Philadelphia (Jan 26). Click here to see a video preview of Gods & Monsters.
Additional highlights for Phan in the first half of 2017 include a new recording with Apollo’s Fire, slated for release in March, of Bach’s St. John Passion, in which he sings both the Evangelist and tenor arias; a return engagement with the Cleveland Orchestra for performances of that same work led by music director Franz Welser-Möst; a fully staged performance of the Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Colorado Symphony and Cristian Măcelaru; a debut with the Nashville Symphony for performances and a live recording of John Harbison’s Requiem, led by the orchestra’s music director, Giancarlo Guerrero; and two programs with the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by music director Michael Tilson Thomas (June 23-26) and Herbert Blomstedt (Feb 1-3 & 5)... (READ MORE)
98.7 WFMT Chicago includes nick's 'live from wfmt' broadcast among its 'best of 2016' performances
On November 21, 2016, Nick joined WFMT for a live performance of English and French songs by Bernstein, Ives, Rorem, Heggie, Copland, Debussy, and Ferre. He was accompanied by pianist Craig Terry, music director of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center.
NICK MAKES HIS role debut as the title role in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex with Esa-pekka salonen and Philharmonia Orchestra
"...In his best work, Salonen has always proved adept at blending structural precision with a kind of stealthy emotional luxuriance. He did it again on Sunday in Zellerbach Hall, leading his orchestra, the robust Lund Male Chorus and a small cast of superb vocal soloists through the stately but poignant tale of Oedipus’ downfall...Tenor Nicholas Phan threw himself into the title role with a valiant blend of elegance and almost heedless fervor..."
"...Tenor Nicholas Phan brought elegant tone and expressive phrasing to the title role..."
"...With his Italian-sounding Latin pronunciation and the bel canto coloratura Stravinsky wrote into the part, Nicholas Phan’s Oedipus called to mind the tragic heroes of Bellini and Donizetti. His powerful, piercing tenor was ideal for the prideful monarch — Phan even incorporated some genuine shouting as the paranoid Oedipus accuses Creon of plotting against him. Elsewhere, the tenor made use of his lovely, floating head-voice in order to imbue his seemingly confident character with a certain vulnerability..."
"Nicholas Phan as Oedipus delivered a performance both convincing and moving, his smooth vocals tackling a difficult range of notes with fluidity and emotion.."
NICK's role debut as tamino in mozart's Magic FLute with boston baroque now streaming on 99.5 WCRB boston
Hear one of the highlights of the concert season on-demand, as Martin Pearlman leads a stellar cast in one of Mozart's most effervescent operas, on WCRB In Concert.
In 1989, 16 years after its founding, Boston Baroque and music director Martin Pearlman made history when they presented the first all period-instrument production of Mozart's The Magic Flute here in the United States. Nearly 30 years later in April of this year, Pearlman returned to this marvelous work with another shimmering historically-informed performance. Recorded on April 16, 2016, at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall.
Hear the program on-demand by clicking HERE
NICK SERVES AS ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF FIFTH ANNUAL COLLABORATIVE WORKS FESTIVAL
"The Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago is devoting its fifth annual Collaborative Works Festival to exploring Verlaine's influence on French music, with two salon concerts devoted to melodies set to his poetry and texts by other Symbolist poets. The first of these concerts, Wednesday night at the Poetry Foundation, was devoted to Debussy songs, beautifully presented by tenor Nicholas Phan, CAIC's artistic director; soprano Sarah Shafer; and mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, with pianists Matthew Gemmill and Scott Allen Jarrett.
As a means of furthering CAIC's mission to increase the performance and appreciation of the art song repertory locally, Wednesday's Debussy concert was a treasurable addition to the series, bringing to light exquisite vocal miniatures that seldom surface in recital, in an appropriately intimate, salon-style venue...
In his helpful spoken remarks, Phan pointed out Chicago's indirect connection with the "Ariettes oubliees": Debussy dedicated the revised version of the cycle (1903) to the great Scottish soprano Mary Garden, the original Melisande in his opera "Pelleas et Melisande," who later became director of the Chicago Civic Opera, an early-20th-century precursor of Lyric Opera.
Phan, sensitively accompanied by Jarrett, caught the shifting emotions of the six "Ariettes" with an abundance of feeling for words and music, precise French diction and a particularly expressive use of head voice...the tenor was at his best when floating soft, lyrical lines that confided in the listener; one will not soon forget the rapt inwardness of his "L'ombre des arbres." His storytelling skills came to the fore in the excited rush of "Chevaux de bois," a joyous depiction of a fairground carousel that turns into a lullaby. There wasn't a note or syllable out of place here, and Jarrett got the ethereal accompaniment just right."
"The Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago opened this fall’s festival of song on Wednesday evening in the intimate space of the Poetry Foundation. The theme for this year’s Collaborative Arts Festival, “La Bonne Chanson,” highlights the French poet Paul Verlaine and those he influenced. The focus for this concert was on songs of Claude Debussy...As festival founder Nicholas Phan wrote in the program notes, Verlaine’s style tended toward vagueness of phrase and subtle metaphors full of nuance. Phan and his colleagues delivered these atmospheric songs with compelling advocacy...Tenor Nicholas Phan took center stage for Ariettes oubliées, in which he used the room’s acoustics to his benefit. Both Phan’s dynamics and manner were one with the music in every vignette, revealing many guises of affection and anguish.
In the sensual C’est l’extase langoureuse (It is the languorous ecstasy), Phan’s shimmering voice aptly portrayed two lovers entwined with both themselves and nature. With candid and frisky flair he ended the toccata-like Chevaux de bois (Wooden horses) on a strong note, notwithstanding its slightly uneven beginning. The flexible tenor brought color and shade together in Spleen, named for the human organ once thought to be the origin of ill temper, and navigated the shifts in tempo, painting the two-faced nature of a lover in ennui..."