Daniel Okulitch: The New American Art Song
Featuring songs by Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Lowell Lieberman and Glen Roven
accompanied at the piano by the composers
Hailed by the Journal of Singing as 'the most exciting and impressive art song CD of the last decade,' Okulitch effortlessly delivers a host of intricately crafted melodies from composers Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Lowell Lieberman, and Glen Roven who also accompany Okulitch. On this aurally stimulating disc, Okulitch’s mellifluous and chameleon-like delivery makes each of the 29 tunes sparkle, and it’s difficult to imagine a more enjoyable snapshot of a new breed of American songwriters.
Cloths of Heaven (Roven)
Dead Man Walking
Okulitch as Figaro
Okulitch's recital is distinguished by having the composers collaborating with him in their songs, which is quite an advantage from the point of view of insight, and thankfully each of these composers does a splendid job at the keyboard. The participants are Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Lowell Liebermann, and of course Glen Roven (whose own GPR Records is the publisher of the disc). Mr. Okulitch has a deep bass baritone voice that is luxuriantly rich and well controlled. He sings with great sensitivity to text and musical line, and communicates great joy in his performances. I listened twice - once through on headphones, the second time on loudspeakers - before sitting down to write this. I actually preferred listening on headphones. The booklet includes a paragraph by each of the composers discussing their philosophies of song-writing, which are very different -- and yet the entire album is recognizably from a genre that seems to cut across composers. That's not to say that they blend together indistinguishably, as I actually found the transition from one to the next to be quite remarkable, but only to say that perhaps we have an "American art song school" of related work. In any event, anybody interested in this genre has to hear this disc. Contents: "Quiet Lives" by Ricky Ian Gordon; "Of Gods and Cats" by Jake Heggie; "Songs from the Underground" by Glen Roven, and "Night Songs" by Lowell Liebermann. As a brief, effective encore, Jake Heggie's "Grow Old With Me." There is plenty of variety in mood and style, but also a great unity of artistic excellence here.. Urgently recommended.
The first solo record by Canadian baritone Daniel Okulitch is an impeccable portrait of his voice’s warm and earthy elegance. Through sets of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Glen Roven and Lowell Liebermann, Mr. Okulitch’s voice comes across as richly dark, sensitive and – above all – clear. The songs themselves are very good and lovely as well, but do not necessarily display a wide swath of the landscape of contemporary American song. With this fact stated, I want to stress that each cycle has beautiful, poignant moments and are scrupulously written…they are just cut from a similar cloth in terms of their musical materials. Because the composers actually accompany Mr. Okulitch on the recording, I was particularly attentive to the interplay between the piano and vocal parts. The role of the two musical characters varied greatly between and within each group of songs, providing – along with the transient moods of the texts – the listener with welcome volatility and contrast against the stylistic consistently of the works and Mr. Okulitch’s undeviatingly sterling performance.
Dr. Garrett Schumann, Sequenza
Gregory Berg, Journal of Singing
This release may be the most exciting and impressive art song recording of the last decade, thanks to the superlative calibre of songs it contains and the marvelous singer who brings them thrillingly to life. Baritone Daniel Okulitch is among the most highly regarded artists of his generation, with an impressive resumé that includes the role of Schaunard in Baz Luhrmann's groundbreaking Broadway production of La bohème from a decade ago. Although the charismatic Okulitch has won great acclaim in such mainstream roles as Don Giovanni and Figaro, his greatest headlines thus far came as the star of Howard Shore's science fiction opera The Fly, in which he appeared completely naked in one critical scene. The baring of his powerful physique may have attracted some extra attention to the L.A. Opera's production, but what garnered the most meaningful praise for Okulitch was his heart-rending portrayal of the tragic scientist Seth Brundle, while contending with a difficult and largely ungrateful musical score. It was the kind of accomplishment that an ordinary artist could not have hoped to achieve, and one can only hope-and, if there is any justice in this world, expect-that many more such opportunities will be his.
In The Beginning (Heggie, Dillard)
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