Songs for Countertenor and Soprano

Juliana Hall


World Premiere Recordings



“What could be more satisfying in the creative world of recorded music than to have a composer, at the height of her powers, compose in the genres in which she seems most at home and assemble exceptional artists to perform and record these works? Juliana Hall’s CD Love’s Signature (2017) represents the culmination of all these factors and more... [Hall's] compositions exhibit an impressive sensitivity to the setting of the words, with her varied and nuanced interpretation of the texts... Soprano Susan Narucki and pianist Donald Berman form a singer-pianist partnership that seems ideally suited to this repertoire... As with the Taylor/Hall combination in the Shakespeare songs, Narucki and Berman sound very much at ease, not only with the musical language of these cycles, but also with the give and take of an equal partnership... The CD is an organic package of composition, performance, recording, and booklet. In conclusion, the music of Juliana Hall is fresh and constantly surprising. She does not experiment with avant-garde sounds or forms, yet she has found a way to take elements of existing musical idioms and incorporate them into an original style that is always innovative and thoroughly delightful.”
Monica Buckland, IAWM Journal [May 2018]
“Until receiving this disc, I was unfamiliar with the music of Ms. Hall. That was very much my misfortune, because if I am allowed to make judgments about her solely from the songs on this disc, I would say she is a composer of great talent... Her music is tonal, very accessible, colorful and often profound. That word "profound" is not a word I like to throw around, but it does apply here, at least some of the time, and for once too, there is nothing that sounds cutesy or pretentious in her works. The music is often very somber, sometimes dead-serious, but there is ample wit and lightheartedness mixed in as well... What will certainly be to your liking are the performances on this disc. In the Shakespeare songs Darryl Taylor divulges the finest countertenor voice I have ever heard. Period. He sounds perfectly natural, with never a hint of anything falsetto in his tones. He also sings with a fine grasp on the drama in the text, expressing it with all-out commitment. A fine artist he is. Of course, the composer on the piano adds the final measure of authority to these performances. Susan Narucki also sings splendidly throughout the other two collections and veteran pianist Donald Berman accompanies her with subtlety and a deft touch that pulls back for deference and pushes forward for assertiveness at just the right moments. MSR Classics' sound reproduction is clear and well balanced... My verdict – highly recommended!”
Robert Cummings, ClassicalNet [October 2017]
“Juliana Hall has been one of our coun­try’s most able and prolific art song composers for almost three decades, with more than thirty song cycles and sets to her credit. Unfortunately, there are rather few recordings of her works, which makes this new collection from MSR all the more significant and wel­come. It pairs one of her most recent cycles with two works written more than a quarter century ago. One comes away from this disk with a profound appreciation for the excellence and innovation of her music as well as the hope that many more people will come to explore and enjoy it... [Darryl Taylor's] sound is rich and opulent and his shaping of phrase and pointing of text is exemplary... The composer accompanies him here, and her considerable skills as a pianist are on grand display. The two earlier works are sung by soprano Susan Narucki, a decorated artist who has sung in more than 100 world premieres over the course of nearly three decades. She is in vocally fine fettle... She is attentive to the smallest of details, yet sings with the kind of natural freedom and openness that can truly bring a song to life. Pianist Donald Berman, a much admired specialist in new music and the partner of one’s dreams, plays superbly.”
Gregory Berg, NATS Journal [Fall 2017]
“[Juliana Hall's] sensitivity to words is on impressive display on Love’s Signature... these songs show Hall to be a composer who savours lyrical lines and harmonies peppered with gentle spices... O Mistress Mine receives fresh performances by countertenor Darryl Taylor and the composer as pianist... [In Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush] Dickinson’s words come across with crystalline clarity in Hall’s tender incarnations, which capture both the genial and witty sides of this most versatile of American poets... Soprano Susan Narucki and pianist Donald Berman illuminate the varied pleasures in the Dickinson and Moore cycles.”
Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone [April 2017]
“The songs’ novelty is wholly organic, never contrived, and the composer perpetuates the American Art Song tradition of Beach, Barber, and Bolcom with music of ingenuity and integrity...Anyone who doubts the health of the Art of Song should hear this performance. In it, composer, poet, singer, and pianist uphold the standards established when Schubert made songs of the words of Goethe and Heine and when Pears and Britten performed them.”
Joseph Newsome, Voix de Arts / Deep Roots Magazine [April 2017]
“The use of a countertenor gives the music a...prevailing tenderness to the music... Hall’s own piano playing is exemplary and, where appropriate, powerful, but it is the obvious connection between her and Taylor that defines the success of this performance... Donald Berman confirms his status as a superbly equipped pianist as well as a sensitive accompanist... Narucki is surely the perfect interpreter. Narucki’s way with the lines of “Propriety” is superbly varied and, on occasion, verges on the magical.”
Colin Clarke, Fanfare [May/June 2017]
“[In O Mistress Mine] gorgeous language is woven through a piano line that ranges from the piquant to the smooth. The choice of countertenor to voice these songs is an inspired one, and Darryl Taylor delivers the words with sensitivity and emotional involvement, while the composer herself provides first-rate accompaniment... a pleasant, involving and attractively structured cycle... [Hall's settings] they fit the texts well and give Narucki and Berman ample opportunity to emote and express. All these works are world première recordings, and all will be of interest to fans of modern music for vocal recitals.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [March 2017]
LOVE’S SIGNATURE traverses time and space to celebrate various types of love: characters from the plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) reveal universal human experiences of love throughout different times in our lives; the letters of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) exemplify the love we have for those specific people in our circles who touch us more personally; and the poems of Marianne Moore (1887-1972) speak of how one’s love for an art form like music can provide inspiration and beauty to enrich life.

Countertenor Darryl Taylor sang the title role in Phillip Glass’ Akhnaten for Long Beach Opera, Los Angeles Opera’s groundbreaking production of Dido and Aeneas and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice for the Utrecht Games at the Soestdijk Palace in the Netherlands. He has also performed Pergolesi’s and Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater with Lyra Baroque Orchestra of St. Paul, and has appeared with the Carmel Bach Festival, Bach Collegium San Diego under Richard Egarr, and in Havana and Shanghai. In addition to recitals at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall in New York, Liszt Music Academy in Budapest and Spanish television and radio broadcasts from Barcelona’s Palau de la Música, Taylor has also been heard in Handel’s Messiah at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Taylor founded the African American Art Song Alliance in 1997, and is much sought after as a lecturer on African-American Art Song, having given lecturerecitals and master classes at the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, University of Michigan, Florida State University, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and many others. His varied repertoire includes songs, many of which were composed specifically for him, by notable composers, including Robert Owens, George Walker, Adolphus Hailstork, William Grant Still, John Musto, Lori Laitman, Deon Nielsen Price and Hale Smith. Taylor’s recordings on the Naxos and Albany labels have received high praise. His release Love Rejoices: Songs of H. Leslie Adams was a Number One Critic’s Choice for American Record Guide in 2001, and his recording of the complete Solo Cantatas by Rosanna Scalfi Marcello (Naxos) was a Critic’s Choice in Opera News magazine. Taylor is a Professor of Voice at the University of California, Irvine.
[ www.darryltaylor.com ]

With luminous tone and distinctive artistry, soprano Susan Narucki has earned international acclaim for nearly three decades of performances. She has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Netherlands Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Met Chamber Ensemble and on the Great Performers Series at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall with conductors such as Boulez, de Leeuw, Knussen, Levine, Salonen and Tilson Thomas. A dedicated advocate of the music of our time, Narucki has given more than 100 world premiere performances, and has enjoyed close collaborations with notable composers, including Andriessen, Carter, Crumb, Dusapin and Kurtág. Her extensive discography includes both a Grammy Award and Grammy Nomination for Best Classical Vocal Performance; her recording, The Light that Is Felt: Songs of Charles Ives (New World) with pianist Donald Berman was selected as Editor’s Choice of BBC Music Magazine. Recent appearances include Opera de Montpellier (Carter’s What Next? and Mathis Nitschke’s Jetzt), the International Fesival Cervantino and the West Coast premiere of Andriessen’s Die Materie with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Narucki’s creative projects introduce modern music to audiences outside traditional concert hall settings and illuminate broader issues in society. Her work has earned major grants from the Creative Capital Foundation, the MAP Fund for the Performing Arts/Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, UC MEXUS and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her most recent project is the critically acclaimed Cuatro Corridos (2013), a chamber opera that  addresses human trafficking across the US-Mexican border. With libretto by internationally acclaimed novelist Jorge Volpi and music by Hebert Vazquez, Arlene Sierra, Lei Liang and Hilda Paredes, Cuatro Corridos has had a dozen performances in the United States and Mexico, most recently as a special event at the 2015 FIL/Guadalajara International Book Fair. Narucki has been Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego, since 2008.
[ www.susannarucki.net ]

Pianist Donald Berman is recognized as a chief exponent of new works by living composers, overlooked music by 20th century masters and recitals that link classical and modern repertoire. Berman’s two CD releases, The Unknown Ives and The Uncovered Ruggles (New World), feature the only available recordings of the complete short piano works of Charles Ives and Carl Ruggles. Other recordings include the 4-CD set Americans in Rome: Music by Fellows of the American Academy in Rome, The Piano Music of Martin Boykan and Scott Wheeler: Tributes and Portraits (Bridge). Berman has also recorded The Light That Is Felt: Songs of Charles Ives with Susan Narucki (New World), Wasting the Night: Songs of Scott Wheeler (Naxos) and Christopher Theofanidis’s Piano Concerto (Summit), as well as music by Su Lian Tan (Arsis), Arthur Levering (New World), Martin Boykan (New World; Bridge), Tamar Diesendruck (Centaur) and Aaron Jay Kernis (Koch). Berman was a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, a faculty member at the Longy School of Music of Bard College and President of the Charles Ives Society. Recent performances by Berman include solo recitals at Bargemusic, National Sawdust, and (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York City. He has also been a featured soloist at Zankel Hall, Rockport Music Festival as well as abroad in Belgrade, Rome, Beiijing, and Israel. Berman’s principal teachers were Mildred Victor, George Barth, John Kirkpatrick and Leonard Shure.
[ www.donaldbermanpiano.com ]

Juliana Hall is an American art song composer whose works have been described as “genuinely moving” and “brilliant.” Hall has written more than 40 song cycles, vocal chamber works and instrumental solo and chamber works, and her music has been heard in concerts worldwide, with performances at the Ambassador Auditorium, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Herbst Theatre, Library of Congress, Ordway Theater, Théâtre du Châtelet, Weill Recital Hall and Wigmore Hall. Festival appearances include the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, London Festival of American Music, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Ojai Music Festival, SongFest and Tanglewood Music Center. Widely performed, Hall’s work has been programmed by the ANA Trio, Calliope’s Call, Capital Fringe, Casement Fund Song Series, CHAI Collaborative Ensemble, Cincinnati Song Initiative, Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project, Denver Art Song Project, Ensemble for These Times, Feminine Musique, Fourth Coast Ensemble, Joy in Singing, Lynx Project, Lyric Fest, Mallarmé Chamber Players, Song in the City, Sparks & Wiry Cries, Voices of Change and Zenith Ensemble. Special performances include selections from her song cycle Night Dances on Dawn Upshaw’s First Songs project at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York and a performance of her tenor song cycle The Holy Sonnets of John Donne at a Holy Week meditation service in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Several of Hall’s works have been recorded for the Albany and Vienna Modern Masters record labels, and her songs have been broadcast in the United States by NPR radio network stations, WGBH Boston and WQXR New York, and internationally by Radio France, Radio Horizon Johannesburg, Radio MonaLisa Amsterdam and the BBC. Hall began her musical career as a pianist, studying with Boris Berman, Jeanne Kirstein, Seymour Lipkin and Lee Luvisi. She was a composition major at the Yale School of Music, where she earned her Master’s degree in Composition, studying with Martin Bresnick, Leon Kirchner and Frederic Rzewski. Hall completed her formal composition studies with composer Dominick Argento in Minneapolis. In 1989, Hall was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition.
[ www.julianahall.com ]


E. C. Schirmer
O Mistress Mine [Catalog No.8576]
Propriety [Catalog No.8586]

Boosey & Hawkes
Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush: [HL 48008495 / M051933136]
12 songs for countertenor and piano on texts from plays by William Shakespeare
Lawn as white as driven snow
O happy fair!
If love make me forsworn
Who is Silvia?
O, mistress mine
If music be the food of love
Take, o take those lips away
Tell me where is Fancy bred
Come away, come away, death
This is a very scurvy tune to sing
Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Fear no more the heat o’ th’ sun

DARRYL TAYLOR countertenor

7 songs for soprano and piano on letters of Emily Dickinson
To Eudocia C. Flynt
To T. W. Higginson
To Emily Fowler (Ford)
To Samuel Bowles the younger
To Eugenia Hall
To Susan Gilbert (Dickinson) I
To Susan Gilbert (Dickinson) II

5 songs for soprano and piano on poems by Marianne Moore
Carnegie Hall: Rescued
Melchior Vulpius


MSR Classics