New York Times reviews “From a Book of Hours” at Juilliard
“Why so little Rilke-music?” a critic from The New York Times asked over 20 years ago, noting how many composers have kept a respectful distance from this great poet. Among those who have heeded the challenge of setting his texts is the composer James Primosch, who has turned to Rilke’s religious poetry for a number of songs that elegantly combine personal fervor and worldly sophistication.
On Tuesday at the Juilliard School’s Paul Hall, the New Juilliard Ensemble presented the New York premiere of Mr. Primosch’s “From a Book of Hours,” set to devotional texts Rilke first published in 1905. With one evoking “the calm between two notes” that get along with difficulty, yet “are reconciled, with trembling, in the dark rest,” it’s the sort of poetry that’s aching to be sung.
Alexandra Razskazoff gave a beautiful performance of this captivating work, which benefited as much from her richly faceted, slinky soprano as from the expressive clarity she brought to the German text. Art song requires a singer to lavish as much thoughtfulness and art on diction as on musical phrasing, and Ms. Razskazoff appears to have the makings of a great recitalist.
The ensemble, under the assured direction of Joel Sachs, sounded most comfortable in this work, with its late-Romantic language laced with idiosyncratic colorings.
– Corinna da Fonsecca-Wollheim, New York Times, November 18, 2015
New York Times reviews “Dark the Star” at Tanglewood
“In addition to Mr. Wuorinen’s piece, there were liturgical elements to other works I heard while in attendance from Thursday to Saturday (the festival ended on Sunday), including James Primosch’s gorgeous “Dark the Star.” Set to texts by Rainer Maria Rilke, Susan Stewart and the Book of Psalms and sung with dramatic nuance by the baritone Dimitri Katotakis and the bass-baritone Davone Tines, it featured a brooding opening section, soaring and expressive vocal lines and creatively scored, beautiful instrumental writing.”
-Vivien Schweizer, New York Times, July 27, 2015
Recent CD from Bridge Records
A new CD devoted to music for voice and ensemble has been released by Bridge Records. Susan Narucki and William Sharp are the soloists; Christopher Kendall conducts the 21st Century Consort. It’s available at Amazon and at Arkiv Music.
“balm for the soul and food for thought” – Christian B. Carey, Musical America
“he cares very deeply about the words… airy, thoughtful, and challenging, as any real sacred endeavor should be” – Stephen Ritter, Audiophile Audition
“Primosch’s text-setting instincts are seemingly unerring: his vocal lines always convey the words authentically and honestly, while the instrumental accompaniment provides added depth and drama…”
“Soprano Susan Narucki, who sings three out of the four cycles, has musical intelligence to spare, as well as a clear, ingratiating delivery and sure intonation…”
“Baritone William Sharp uses his resonant, authoritative voice to provide a gripping, inexorable build…”
“Corde Natus Ex Parentis” from the cycle Four Sacred Songs, has a straightforward, attractively contoured, plainchant-style melody, but the composer adorns it with imaginatively layered instrumental counterpoint in subsequent verses. “Christus Factus Est” has another clearly tonal melody, but the subtly dissonant leanings of the accompaniment form a painfully apt depiction of Christ on the cross. Narucki’s performance of this quietly devastating number is a delicate marvel…”
“These songs are unfailingly compelling, whether the musical language is complex or seemingly simple… Christopher Kendall skillfully and sensitively leads the 21st Century Consort, which provides superb accompaniment.” – Joshua Rosenblum Opera News
“fabulous new CD of vocal music” – Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay (blog)
“…the music is eclectic, as there are many influences: plainchant, expressionism and folk songs are a few. Yet this is an integrated eclecticism, where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts, and all is formed into a widely (this is important) expressive language, one that has a basis in tonal relationships, but that can be abundantly clear or mysterious. It is hard for some composers to know when to stop or be quiet, but Primosch gauges that well in these works. The pacing is elegant, movements are never too long or over stay their material, and the balancing of movements is delicate and done with assurance. The music… doesn’t strive always to be in a holy space, but instead to describe it and give it a human response. In this way Primosch is able to take us to, be in the presence of, and then take us out of, sacred time and space, an attribute which is at the center of the Western musical art form. For example, Dark the Star, on beguiling texts by Susan Stewart, is a bit of an askew palindrome, and at 22 minutes passes swiftly but with the sense of a journey taken that is of note and meaning, finding sacred space and then retreating from it. The other works are similarly well judged in their pacing and emotive reach.” – Daniel Asia, Huffington Post