RAPTURE AND REGRETMusic of Daron Hagen
ARIANA WYATT, soprano
BRIAN THORSETT, tenor
TRACY COWDEN, piano
BENJAMIN WYATT, cello
World Premiere Recordings
"Five of Hagen's vocal works performed skillfully..."
Pan Pipes (SAI) [Winter 2022]
"[Hagen's music is] lyrical and mostly tonal, with dissonant and polytonal diversions; no trends are followed. His vocal writing is nuanced and richly detailed, though it feels completely natural... This is satisfying and endlessly rewarding music from one of America’s leading composers of vocal music. I’ll be returning to this again and again."
Faro, American Record Guide [January/February 2022]
"The combination of soprano, cello, and piano is a most effective one in Rapture and Regret... The passages for soprano and pizzicato cello are particularly touching at the end of the first song... Hagen captures the essence of these emotions beautifully. It helps that the performance is so on point: Ariana Wyatt’s laser-focused and expressive soprano, Benjamin Wyatt’s superb cello (a vocalist in itself), and Cowden’s simply beautiful piano playing (there is real sensitivity here). It would be remiss of me not to mention Wyatt’s supreme control at the very close in his high, sustained note—superb... All the pieces are billed as world premiere recordings, adding substantial musical value to this disc... This is a great introduction to the vocal and pianistic output of Daron Hagen, brilliantly produced and recorded."
Colin Clarke, Fanfare [January/February 2022]
"this is a lovely collection of music that is well performed and recorded with excellent balances between the performers. MSR’s inclusion of texts is another asset. Strongly recommended."
Henry Fogel, Fanfare [January/February 2022]
"A seductive rabbit hole of otherworldly music has been created within “Rapture and Regret,” a recording featuring a compilation of the music of composer Daron Hagen... More than a usual listening experience, the recording results in an extraordinary adventure in music and song, inviting us to explore the “over the top” genius of Daron Hagen.”
Joel C. Thompson, Cherry Grove Music Review [October 2021]
PROGRAM NOTESRapture and Regret was commissioned by the William Douglas Dancers as the ballet score And the Air, and was premiered under that title in December 1987 at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio at the Westbeth Center for the Arts in New York. Soprano Karen Hale, cellist Robert La Rue and pianist Eric Sawyer gave the performance under the direction of the composer. Hagen revised the score during the summer of 2005, excising linking material and music conceived purely for the dance, creating the version we hear in these recordings. Hagen’s concert diptych explores and celebrates the sensuality and intelligence of Virginia Woolf (from The Waves) and Isak Dinesen (from Out of Africa). In the first panel of the diptych, Woolf captures the protagonist at the dawning awareness of one’s nascent sexuality; in the second, Dinesen’s protagonist views sensuality from the valedictory, sunset standpoint of maturity.
The Suite for Piano, a winner of the Cliburn Invitation Composition Competition, served as a required contemporary work for the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition that took place at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas. “I am a pianist,” Hagen writes, “so I set myself specific challenges for each movement: the first highlights touch and velocity, the second voicing, the third a long singing line and pedaling, and the last dramatic shifts in color, tempo, and dynamics.”
The Vegetable Verselets song cycle was commissioned by Tracy Cowden with support from the Niles Faculty Research Award through the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. Cowden and soprano Caroline Worra gave the premiere of the cycle on 27 April 2011 in the Virginia Tech Recital Salon. Hagen writes, “I admire the subversive nature of poet Margaret G. Hayes’ bagatelles. On the surface, her poems are arch and a little silly, the writing verging on doggerel. However, Hayes’ often tart observations about her fellow man and their foibles ring with a beguilingly prim, fierce dignity that pre-date Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle. There was room, I felt, for the addition of music to heighten the characterizations and create a context in which the listener is encouraged (or not) to empathize with the humanity underlying Hayes’ observations.”
Dedicated to Iarlaith Carter and premiered on 22 November 2012 by Teo Gheorghiu at the Louvre in Paris, the Five Nocturnes tell the story of a family settling down for the night in their sprawling old Victorian home, somewhere in Dutchess County, New York. The music comes from the point of view of the father – in this case, Hagen himself. In the first Nocturne, he memorializes his recently-deceased brother, Kevin; in the second, he settles his six-year-old son, Atticus, down for bed; in the third, he has an end-of-the-day chat with his partner, Gilda; in the fourth, he rises to field a request from his three-year-old son, Seamus, for a glass of water; and, finally, as Hagen writes about the final movement in memory of his mother, Gwen, “Everyone but the father asleep, he listens to the breathing of the old house, his sons, and his wife, remembers a fleeting image or two of domestic tranquility from his own childhood, connects it tenuously to the present, and turns out the light.”
The Muldoon Songs were commissioned by famed tenor, pedagogue and new music advocate, Paul Sperry, who gave the premiere performances of them with Hagen on 12 February 1992 in a Friends and Enemies of Music concert in New York. The most frequently performed of Hagen’s 24 song cycles, Muldoon Songs marks the beginning of a two-decade long collaboration with the Irish poet, Paul Muldoon, that resulted in four major operas among other works. [Tracy Cowden, May 2021]
Daron Hagen is an artist of extraordinary range, active as a composer, conductor, pianist, stage director, librettist and lyricist, filmmaker and author. He is one of America’s most prolific song composers, with more than 300 of his in print. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1961, Hagen trained at the Curtis Institute of Music and at The Juilliard School, and made his debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra at age 19. Commissions from the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Opera, Curtis Institute and other major musical institutions both here and abroad highlight a catalogue that includes 12 operas, five symphonies, 12 concertos, a large body of chamber music, four ballets, six film scores and more than 400 art songs. He has conducted the cast recordings of his operas, recorded his songs
as a collaborative pianist, directed staged and filmed versions of his operas, written librettos and has recently published a memoir, Duet with the Past (McFarland, 2019). Hagen’s music is performed worldwide, and his debut as a filmmaker, Orson Rehearsed, is scheduled for screenings in a dozen countries. The winner of prizes from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller Institute, National Endowment for the Arts and the Kennedy Center, Hagen is a Lifetime Member of the Corporation of Yaddo, Co-chair of the Wintergreen Composers Retreat and Artistic Director of the New Mercury Collective. After holding faculty positions at Bard College and Curtis Institute, Hagen left Academia in the 1990s to compose full-time. He joined the artist faculty of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of the Performing Arts in 2017 in an appointment created especially for him that enables him to tutor composers, singers, actors and instrumentalists as they shadow him and collaborate in the development and staging of a different Hagen opera each year. [ www.daronhagen.com ]
Pianist Tracy Cowden maintains a diverse career of making music, performing across the country as a soloist, in duos, and in chamber music and orchestral settings. Cowden is also active in the mentoring of student pianists, and in commissioning and performing 21st century chamber music, premiering works in concert both in the United States and abroad. Her interest in poetry and art song has led her to commission two song cycles, including Vegetable Verselets, featured in this recording. A highly regarded clinician and lecturer, Cowden has presented master classes and workshops on a wide range of topics, including collaborative performance and creative programming. Recent activity includes performing in the health care setting, both in person and virtually, and facilitating interdisciplinary research regarding music and health; she is a member of the Brain Health Consortium at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Currently the Roland K. Blumberg Endowed Professor in Music and Chair of the Department of Music at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Cowden holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Western Michigan University. [ www.tracycowden.com ]
A gifted tenor with an active international career, Brian Thorsett excels in opera, oratorio and recital repertoire. Since taking to the stage, Brian has been seen and heard in more than 100 operatic roles, ranging from Monteverdi and Rameau to Britten, and beyond to works composed specifically for him. On the concert stage, Thorsett sings a diverse repertoire of more than 300 works in venue across the United States and in Europe. Also an avid recitalist, he is closely associated with the expanding vocal-chamber genre, being involved in premieres and commissions of Ian Venables, Hilary Tann, David Conte, Gordon Getty, Christopher Stark and Shinji Eshima, and others. His dedication to this project has resulted in nearly 200 works, most of which have been published and widely performed. Active as a recording artist, Thorsett can be heard in recordings, commercials and movies, including Everyone Sang featuring song cycles by David Conte, Scott Gendel’s Barbara Allen, a Christmas album with New Trinity Baroque and in SoundIron’s Voice of Rapture: Tenor library. He is a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artist program, American Bach Soloists’ Academy, Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme at Aldeburgh, and spent two summers at the Music Academy of the West. Thorsett is currently Associate Professor of Voice at the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech, where he has seen his students go on to graduate and training programs, premiere performances of important new repertoire, off-Broadway productions, award winning audio production and work at the White House. [ www.brianthorsett.com ]
A particularly expressive artist, Ariana Wyatt has appeared in important venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Jerusalem Synagogue and Martinů Hall. She has performed numerous large-scale works, including Haydn’s Creation, Brahms’ German Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana and James Whitbourn’s Annelies. Wyatt’s recent opera engagements include appearances with Gotham Chamber Opera, Opera on the James, Opera Omaha, Opera Roanoke, Glimmerglass Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Juilliard Opera Center and Aspen Opera Theater. An enthusiastic advocate of contemporary art song and opera, she has premiered and championed chamber works by Daron Hagen, Gregory Hutter, Lori Laitman and Alan Louis Smith. Wyatt’s recording Let Evening Come: American Songs Old and New was named one of the best classical recordings of 2020 by the Chicago Tribune. A graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center and the University of Southern California, she is an associate professor of voice at Virginia Tech. [ www.arianawyatt.com ]
Cellist Benjamin Wyatt enjoys an active career as a performer and teacher. Wyatt is the cellist of the Avanti Ensemble, and as a Baroque cello specialist is on the faculty of the Renaissance Music Academy in Blacksburg, Virginia. He has performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, and is a regular guest with various ensembles. Wyatt has collaborated with numerous leading artists in recent years, including members of the Guarneri, Vermeer, Pacifica, Vanbrugh, Brentano, Ridge, Meliora, Mendelssohn, Amernet, Chicago and Dover String Quartets. He has also performed with the Eroica Trio, Manhattan Piano Trio, and with pianists Elizabeth Jeanne Schumann, Sivan Silver, Gil Garburg, Peter Laul and Milana Strezeva. Wyatt’s undergraduate studies were at the Cleveland Institute of Music, which were followed by doctoral studies at the University of Southern California, where he was honored as an Outstanding Doctoral Graduate.
RAPTURE AND REGRET for Soprano, Cello and Piano
SUITE FOR PIANO
VEGETABLE VERSELETS for Soprano and Piano
I. Narcissus Cucumber
II. The Regiment
IV. The Elopement
V. Boston Bean
VI. The Opera
VII. Practical Peg
VIII. Nautical Language
FIVE NOCTURNES for Piano
I. First Nocturne: Kevin Alanson Hagen - In Memoriam
II. Second Nocturne: Atticus Alemán Hagen – Age 6
III. Third Nocturne: Gilda Marie Lyons
IV. Fourth Nocturne: Seamus Alejándro Hagen – Age 3
V. Fifth Nocturne: Gwen Leone Hagen, in memoriam
MULDOON SONGS for Tenor and Piano
I. The Waking Father
VII. Holy Thursday