Nicholas Isherwood - Aria: Nicholas Isherwood Performs John Cage (2015)

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Nicholas Isherwood - Aria: Nicholas Isherwood Performs John Cage (2015)

Nicholas Isherwood - Aria: Nicholas Isherwood Performs John Cage (2015)
EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 159 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 104 Mb | Scans included
Classical, Avant-Garde, Vocal | Label: BIS | # BIS-SACD-2149 | Time: 00:44:53

Nicholas Isherwood made his début as Lucifer in Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht at Covent Garden, at the age of 25, and has since collaborated closely with composers such as George Crumb, Hans Werner Henze, György Kurtág and Iannis Xenakis. His relationship with John Cage soon developed into what he in his liner notes to the disc calls ‘a love affair’. The composer Sylvano Bussotti has remarked that ‘since the passing of Cathy Berberian, Nicholas Isherwood is the singer who best understands the spirit of the music of John Cage’. On ARIA, Isherwood presents most of Cage’s music for solo voice that is not included in the composer’s Song Books, and most pieces are here recorded for the first time by a male singer. The programme covers 43 years, from A Chant with Claps from the early 1940s to Ryoanji and Sonnekus2 of the 1980s, and includes the celebrated Aria, here performed with a new multi-channel tape realization of Cage’s Fontana Mix, by the Italian composer Gianluca Verlingieri. In three of the songs (A Flower, The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs and Nowth Upon Nacht) Isherwood accompanies himself on a closed piano, tapping on the lid in the first two, and slamming it down on the keys in the third. Ryoanji – named after the famous rock garden in Kyoto and described by Cage as ‘a garden of sounds’ – is a central work in Cage’s production, and exists in several versions. Here it is heard for voice and percussion, performed by Isherwood with the use of a crystal wine glass.

American bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood says it took him a long time to appreciate the music of John Cage, but you’d never guess. Spanning 43 years of Cage vocal works not included in his Song Books, this collection is affectionate and forthright, meticulous when it matters and generally great fun. Isherwood’s voice is rich, clear and lyrical; the same delivery would suit a disc of American folk ballads. Recorded up close to catch all its fragile edges, the set opens with the slip-sliding Aria, written for the fearless circus that was Cathy Berberian’s voice and here accompanied by Gianluca Verlingieri’s 2009 reconstruction of the bonkers tape-piece Fontana Mix, cow moos and all. The unpublished A Chant with Claps is daft, catchy and joyful. Isherwood accompanies himself on Joyce settings The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs and a violent, claustrophobic little work called Nowth Upon Nacht. Wordplay abounds in the spry Sonnekus and Eight Whiskus, but his treatment is amusingly dry. The longest work is Ryoanji (1985), named after a Zen garden. Isherwood’s performance is intense and serene, potently atmospheric and never studious.

Review by Kate Molleson, The Guardian

In her magnificent recent biography of Charlotte Moorman – the New York cellist who moulded modern composition towards sexualised performance art, nudity coming as standard – Joan Rothfuss describes how the only feeling the cellist ever aroused in John Cage was one of disdain. Moorman was ‘performing’ Cage’s music too self-consciously; sound had become subservient to the performance act remade as spectacle.

And here you’ll notice that the bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood is billed as ‘performing’ rather than ‘singing’ Cage. Isherwood’s reverberant voice, rich like steamed lobster flesh, lends a wholly unexpected flavour to early-period Cage songs: existing performances of ‘The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs’ (1942) and ‘A Flower’ (1950) from Joëlle Léandre, Joan La Barbara and Arline Carmen (with Cage on piano) have no point of connection with operatic pomp.

But if you suspect this disc is about to suffer a critical drubbing on the grounds of stylistic impurity, fear not: Isherwood is far too wise and sensitive to misrepresent Cage. His new disc is an eloquent and persuasive contribution to the Cageian cause precisely because he approaches the music from an alternative vantage point, and Cage’s material proves itself robust enough to cope.

And thrive too. Isherwood’s realisation of Ryoanji, Cage’s mid-’80s self-assembly score for voice and variable ensemble, purées the instrumental accompaniment down to fingers divining pure-toned pitches from the rim of a water-filled crystal wine glass. A glorious three-part invention ensues: the resonant harmonics of the wine glass cut through real-time Isherwood dubbed over his own pre-recorded voice, the overlapping lines at times smudging towards randomised sonic smog. Cage would surely have approved.

Isherwood’s vocal acrobatics take us far deeper inside melodic nuance than any other performance; tiptoeing gradations of microtonal pitch, glissandos suspended mid-freefall, errant notes grabbed from nowhere made to find their context. The disc launches with a hybrid performance of the vocal Aria combined with the electronic Fontana Mix (both 1958), which Isherwood stages as vivid living theatre. ‘Nowth Upon Nacht’ (1984) represents Cage at his most expressionistic: a shriek of falsetto despair in memory of Cathy Berberian.

Review by Philip Clark, Gramophone

Nicholas Isherwood - Aria: Nicholas Isherwood Performs John Cage (2015)

Nicholas Isherwood - Aria: Nicholas Isherwood Performs John Cage (2015)


01. Aria (1958) with Fontana Mix (1958) (05:19)
02. A Chant with Claps (01:16)
03. Sonnekus (03:51)
04. Eight Whiskus (03:58)
05. A Flower (03:08)
06. The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs (03:14)
07. Nowth Upon Nacht (01:08)
08. Experiences No. 2 (02:46)
09. Ryoanji (20:09)

Exact Audio Copy V1.1 from 23. June 2015

EAC extraction logfile from 10. October 2015, 18:23

Nicholas Isherwood / John Cage - Aria

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foobar2000 1.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2016-07-16 13:30:44

Analyzed: Nicholas Isherwood / John Cage - Aria

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
DR13 -6.47 dB -23.12 dB 5:20 01-Aria (1958) with Fontana Mix (1958)
DR19 -0.08 dB -22.04 dB 1:17 02-A Chant with Claps
DR15 -4.38 dB -25.43 dB 3:52 03-Sonnekus
DR18 -2.14 dB -25.68 dB 3:58 04-Eight Whiskus
DR15 -7.18 dB -26.73 dB 3:08 05-A Flower
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DR15 -0.25 dB -18.80 dB 1:08 07-Nowth Upon Nacht
DR13 -7.57 dB -25.45 dB 2:47 08-Experiences No. 2
DR13 -6.18 dB -27.47 dB 20:10 09-Ryoanji

Number of tracks: 9
Official DR value: DR15

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 490 kbps
Codec: FLAC

Nicholas Isherwood - Aria: Nicholas Isherwood Performs John Cage (2015)

All thanks to original releaser - A-Z

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