Songs for Mezzo-Soprano with Organ

Sir Edward Elgar, Richard Wagner

SARAH ROSE TAYLOR, mezzo soprano




“Nigel’s Potts’ inspired organ arrangement of Wagner’s orchestral version lends an appropriately exalted feeling to music conceived in the composer’s post-Tristan vein, opera rather than art song... This CD is memorable for giving many of us on this side of the Atlantic our first chance to hear New York-based English mezzo Sarah Rose Taylor. With her ravishingly beautiful voice, her sensitivity to nuances in a poetic text, and her skill at molding the contour of a vocal line, it is no surprise to hear that she has been much in demand as recitalist, opera singer, and vocalist in choral works. This is a great new voice that you simply must hear... A definite plus here is Nigel Potts’ performance of his transcription of Elgar’s orchestral setting... Together with a performance by harpist Grace Cloutier that helps illuminate Elgar’s rich harmonies to perfection, we feel that we haven’t missed anything by not having an orchestra... Potts’ prowess is also on display in his transcription of The Prelude to Act I of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, which goes beyond the usual standards of organ transcription to actually sound better than most orchestral versions I’ve heard... Finally, this is one beautiful sounding album.”
Phil Muse, Audio Society of Atlanta [January 2016]
“This disc offers an interesting pairing of composers and works, as well as some intriguing arrangements of the compositions for symphonic organ and harp… The arrangements and transcriptions for organ by Nigel Potts give a more operatic resonance to the songs and are remarkably successful in capturing the colors and nuances of the orchestral versions of the Wesendonck Lieder and of Elgar’s vocal settings. For Wagner’s five songs...Potts elicits a wide range of dynamics and detail from the organ, ably partnered by Cloutier’s harp, and Sarah Rose Taylor lends her rich, dark mezzo to the lush texture of the work. Taylor’s instrument is of a goodly size with a firm, nicely focused lower register and an expressive top... Taylor gives a fine account of [Elgar's Sea Songs], especially the two lullabies and the climactic finish, and the instrumentalists conjure up a multi-shaded palette of “orchestral” color. Similarly, in the closing section of The Dream of Gerontius, Potts, Cloutier, and Taylor give a dreamy account of the soul’s journey through death and judgment to the lake of Purgatory... the sound on the recording is warm, vivid, and affecting. The CD comes with excellent notes, complete texts, and artist bios. Not only is the album interesting for its repertoire tastefully and compellingly performed, but it makes yet another case for understanding the far-reaching influence of Richard Wagner’s “Music of the Future” on not only the late 19th century but on subsequent generations. Recommended!”
Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, Fanfare [November/December 2015]
“...ultimately this is a spotlight for Sarah Rose Taylor. She has a very beautful mezzo-soprano voice, filled with lyrical tenderness and power as needed. I am very impressed with her vocal artistry. Ms. Taylor's ravishing voice, the organ (and harp) arrangements and the Potts/Cloutier realizations of these exceptional works make this program a very special one. This is music of a fleeting eternity of moments in lives and the mood is captured with a touching resonance on this disk. It is unforgettable and Sarah Rose Taylor is a marvel!”
Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate [6 November 2015]
“I approached this disc with trepidation. To be honest, I generally do not like romantic organ transcriptions, but on hearing this disc, I had to take that back. Nigel Potts is a remarkable organist who lets his instrument breathe... The pieces the artists chose to present are quite challenging, and not the least was how the organ would stack up against the masterful orchestrations of Elgar and Wagner... The Wesendonk Lieder are very well known in their orchestral guise and there have been many great recordings of them. What struck me at first hearing was how good the organ transcription was [of the Wesendonk Lieder] (and I can say this with all the works on this disc). The Mezzo Soprano was also first class too... Sarah Rose Taylor’s voice is warm and creamy. [...of The Sea Pictures by Sir Edward Elgar] This is the first recording I have heard outside the orchestral setting and I was quite skeptical. One thing, along with the masterly transcription, was the addition of the harp, masterly played by Grace Cloutier. This really provided that added something that helped make this transcription make you believe that it had never been written for orchestra... [The Angel’s Farewell] proved to be a very effective piece to end this disc. It is quiet and full of warmth and consolation and was well representative of this disc and the commitment and care that all artists have delivered. Bravo”
Geoff Pearce, Music & Vision [October 2015]
[ * * * * ] “Mezzo-soprano Sarah Rose Taylor does a fine job exploring the über-Romantic pathos of the songs, and the works gain in intensity when Potts follows them with the prelude to the first act of Tristan und Isolde itself... Concluding this fascinating CD with The Angel’s Farewell from The Dream of Gerontius produces an effect quite different from the one that would result from the more-usual conclusion of Tristan-related recordings with the Liebestod. Here there is an ultimately hopeful, if somewhat ambiguous, conclusion to this foray into Wagner and Elgar; and the result, especially in light of the pervasive presence of the organ, is to encourage listeners familiar with these works to rethink them and their implications in some highly intriguing ways.“
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [July 2015]
The coupling of Elgar with Wagner on this recording is as natural as the combining of bread with butter, or gin with tonic. Elgar was passionate about Wagner’s music and as Peter Dennison pointed out in an article in Music and Letters (April 1985) Elgar, like Strauss and Mahler, made an eager distillation of Wagner’s styles and techniques in such a manner that his own artistic voice was enriched by them rather than enfeebled in mere imitation. More specifically in relation to Wagner’s Tristan Prelude (included here) and Liebestod, Elgar wrote in his programme of a Wagner memorial concert at which he was present less than a month after Wagner’s death "this is the finest thing of Wagner’s that I have heard up to the present. I shall never forget this." And written into his vocal score of the opera he wrote: "this book contains the Height, - the Depth, - the Breadth, - the sweetness, - the sorrow, - the Best and the whole of the Best of this world and the Next." A passionate endorsement of everything he felt and a reminder, too, of those heartfelt words he used about his own Dream of Gerontius writing at the conclusion of The Angel’s Farewell (also included here) "this is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept and loved and hated, like another; my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew: this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory".

Mezzo-soprano Sarah Rose Taylor is in demand for the warmth and beauty of her voice, and compelling musicianship. A highly versatile artist, taylor maintains an active schedule, performing across the United States, including solo engagements in New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C., as well as in Arizona, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Texas. she has also appeared in France,
Germany, Italy and the Bahamas. Her wide ranging oratorio repertoire includes performances of J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor, Handel’s Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus, Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, Debussy’s La Damoiselle Elue
and Arvo Pärt’s Passio. On the operatic stage, Taylor’s roles have included Marcellina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Third Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, La Badessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Sally in Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and Francisco in the world premiere performance of Bruce Saylor’s The Image Maker. In 2014, she performed her Weill Carnegie Hall solo debut singing selections from Elgar’s Sea Pictures with pianist Nigel Potts and harpist Grace Cloutier and the following season was invited to sing in the Tallis Scholars’ Spem in Alium Project at Carnegie Hall with Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars. In 2015, she was selected as a finalist in the Peter Elvins Vocal Competition. Born in England, Sarah Rose Taylor grew up in a rich musical choral tradition, singing in many of England’s Cathedrals with the Royal school of Church Music’s Southern Cathedral Singers. She has a Master’s Degree and an Artist Diploma in Vocal Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music, where she studied with Sherry Overholt. She continues private study with Neil Semer and coaches with former Metropolitan opera conductor Steven Crawford and Baroque specialist Rufus Müller. []

Organist Nigel Potts is respected worldwide for his expressive, assured and tasteful performances, always communicating and placing the music at the forefront. Potts has performed recitals across four continents, including distinguished venues in London, Cambridge, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, as well as in Austria, Iceland, Taiwan, New Zealand, the Bahamas and extensively across North America. A proponent of orchestral transcriptions, he has recorded an all-transcription program on the Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia for WRTI-FM, has performed his orchestral reductions of Rachmaninoff’s First and Second Piano Concertos with pianist Jeremy Filsell, and his transcriptions of Elgar and Wagner with Sarah Rose Taylor. Potts studied organ with Thomas Murray at Yale University where he graduated with a Master’s Degree. He also holds diplomas from the Conservatorium of Music in Wellington and the Trinity College of Music in London. While living in London, he studied Church Music at the Royal Academy of Music and organ with Jeremy Filsell and John Scott. A recipient of the Gillian Weir Waitangi Foundation Scholarship, Potts has held Cathedral organ scholarships in England and New Zealand. He is currently organist and Choirmaster of Christ & Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in New York City, where he oversaw the installation of their Schoenstein organ in 2008, and is also a member of the music staff at the Saint Thomas Choir School.

Harpist Grace Cloutier trained at the Juilliard School, Yale University and in France. A recipient of many prestigious awards, she has performed before audiences across the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East, and regularly appears in recital for the American Harp Society and the World Harp Congress. Cloutier has performed under the baton of many respected conductors,
including Leonard Slatkin, David Robertson and Andrew Litton. She has performed with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra and Moscow Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall,
and has participated at both the Aspen and Tanglewood Music festivals.
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
I. Der Engel (The Angel)
II. Stehe Still! (Stand still!)
III. Im Treibhaus (In the Hothouse)
IV. Schmerzen (Pains)
V. Träume (Dreams)

Prelude to Act I

SIR EDWARD ELGAR (1857-1934)
I. Sea Slumber-Song
II. In Haven (Capri)
III. Sabbath Morning at Sea
IV.Where Corals Lie
V. The Swimmer

The Angel’s Farewell

MSR Classics