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He is a giant of a man whose physical presence and magnificent bass-baritone voice leave classical music audiences in awe, and now in his latest solo album, ARIA-winning Teddy Tahu Rhodes gets serious.
Featuring the Australian debut recording of contemporary German composer Detlev Glanert’s amazing ‘recomposition’ of Brahms’ Four Serious Songs, and including powerhouse interpretations of Schubert’s Erl King and Samuel Barber’s Dover Beach, the music on this all-new recording is as imposing as the striking cover image by Melbourne rock music photographer Marty Philbey.
‘It’s quite daunting,’ says the American-based, New Zealand-born Rhodes of Glanert’s Four Preludes and Serious Songs – the centrepiece of the album and a modern masterpiece that has now been performed more than 35 times in the six years since its composition. ‘95% of it sits right in the heart of the voice and the other 5% takes you to the extreme. It’s not that they’re more difficult notes than you ever sing. It’s more the gravity of the music.’
According to Martin Buzacott, Manager of ABC Classics, which has released all of Teddy’s previous albums including the chart-topping You’ll Never Walk Alone (with David Hobson), the label was initially reluctant to record such a contemporary reworking of the songs Brahms wrote in the final years of his life. ‘Somehow it seemed almost sacrilegious, but when we heard the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra playing the first orchestral interlude, we realised that this was a work of the highest inspiration, and utterly true to the spirit of Brahms. Everyone involved was energised by the experience and we knew from that moment on that we had a major artistic statement and a phenomenal new album on our hands.’
Conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing, who is a personal friend of fellow-German Glanert, agrees: ‘It’s the reflection of a modern composer on Brahms. If Brahms had lived another 50 years, I think his interludes would sound like this!’
‘It all seems so melded that you don’t really distinguish the different time periods,’ Teddy says. ‘They could just have been part of the whole initially.’
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra under Lang-Lessing also accompanies Teddy in the stirring orchestral setting by Max Reger of Schubert’s famous Erl King. ‘It’s such a dramatic piece that it’s more like an opera scene than a song,’ says the TSO’s Chief Conductor.
As a special bonus, Erl King in its original piano arrangement is one of four Schubert songs recorded lived at the Huntington Festival that also appear on the new album. With Teddy in scintillating vocal form, the live performance – fortuitously captured on tape by Classic FM engineers – also features pianist Kristian Chong.
And to conclude, Samuel Barber’s setting of Matthew Arnold’s great poem Dover Beach – a work which Teddy performed around Australia in 2010 during his tour with the Australian String Quartet, who accompany him again here.
Altogether a seriously important album of serious songs.
FRANZ SCHUBERT 1797-1828 orch. MAX REGER 1873-1916
Erlkönig (The Erl-King)
DETLEV GLANERT b. 1960, after JOHANNES BRAHMS 1833-1897
Four Preludes and Serious Songs
Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem)
III. Herr, lehre doch mich (Lord, make me to know mine end)
VI. Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt (For here we have no lasting home)
An die Musik (To Music)
Erlkönig (The Erl-King
Die Forelle (The Trout)
Die Taubenpost (Pigeon Post), from Schwanengesang (Swansong)
SAMUEL BARBER 1910-1981
Watch the mini-documentary about the making of this album on YouTube:
(direct link) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmGR7zran0g