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17 January 2020
After the success of their debut disc, ‘Voyages’, Mary Bevan and Joseph Middleton present their second recital disc exploring Lieder in German and Italian by Schubert, Haydn and Wolf. The programme is woven around songs inspired by the ‘muses’ of the day, both mythological and divine. It begins with Schubert’s dramatic and reverential settings of sacred German poetry, set alongside his lush emotional portrayals of female characters in the Italian settings. The central section of the disc is then devoted to Haydn’s epic ‘scena’ depicting the famously cruel abandonment of Arianna by her lover Teseo, ‘Arianna a Naxos’. Haydn’s beautiful prayer ‘Geistliches Lied’ takes us back into the world of German poetry and the religious fervour that arose from the collective belief in Christianity which pervaded most art forms of the age. The disc then moves into works by Hugo Wolf, whose stunning settings of devotional texts take the listener right to the heart of the characters; a few of these songs were in fact inspired by paintings. The early moments of Jesus Christ’s life are vividly portrayed here, particularly in songs such as ‘Die ihr Schwebet’, ‘Auf ein Altes Bild’ and ‘Schlafendes Jesuskind’, while the haunting ‘Gesang Weylas’ invites the listener into the world of the mysterious goddes Weyla who wistfully dreams of the shores of her distant homeland. From Ganymed to Christ, Dido to the Virgin Mary, Arianna to St Peter, this recital disc richly illustrates the lives and events surrounding the ‘divine muses’ who inspired these composers.
Mary Bevan (soprano) read Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Trinity College, Cambridge, before training at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She became an Associate Artist of Classical Opera in 2010, and is a winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist award and the UK Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent in Music.
Her opera roles include Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro), Despina (Così fan tutte), Papagena (The Magic Flute), Yum-Yum (The Mikado), Second Niece (Peter Grimes) and Rebecca (in the world première of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys) for English National Opera, where she is a Harewood Artist, Gerechtigkeit (Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots), Tamiri (Il re pastore), Servilia (La clemenza di Tito) and Emma (Thomas Arne’s Alfred) for Classical Opera, Zerlina (Don Giovanni) for Garsington Opera, Belinda (Dido and Aeneas) for The English Concert, and – for The Royal Opera – Music/ Euridice (Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo) at the Roundhouse and the title role in Luigi Rossi’s Orpheus at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Her extensive concert engagements have included Bellezza (Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno) with the Dunedin Consort, a Handel residency with Emanuelle Haïm at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and Handel’s Messiah with The English Concert and the English Chamber Orchestra, and she has appeared at the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, Spitalfields Festival and Oxford Lieder Festival. Her recordings include ‘Handel in Italy’ with London Early Opera for Signum Classics, Handel’s The Triumph of Time and Truth and Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day with Ludus Baroque for Delphian Records, and Ludwig Thuille songs with Joseph Middleton and Mendelssohn songs with Malcolm Martineau, both for Champs Hill Records.
Pianist Joseph Middleton specialises in the art of song accompaniment and chamber music and has been highly acclaimed within this field. Described in the BBC Music Magazineas ‘one of the brightest stars in the world of song and Lieder’, he has also been labeled ‘the cream of the new generation’ by The Times and ‘a perfect accompanist’ by Opera Now. He performs and records with many of the world’s finest singers in major music centres across Europe, the Americas and Far East. Joseph is Director of Leeds Lieder, a Professor at his alma mater the Royal Academy of Music, and holds the position of Musician in Residence at Pembroke College Cambridge, where he curates an imaginative song recital series as well as directing the University’s Lieder Scheme. In 2016 he became the first accompanist to win the Young Artist Award at the Royal Philharmonic Awards – the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the United Kingdom and had the title Fellow conferred upon him by the Royal Academy of Music.
Joseph enjoys recitals with internationally established singers including Sir Thomas Allen, Louise Alder, Ian Bostridge, Dame Sarah Connolly, Lucy Crowe, Iestyn Davies, Fatma Said, Samuel Hasselhorn, Wolfgang Holzmair, Christiane Karg, Katarina Karnéus, Angelika Kirchschlager, Dame Felicity Lott, Christopher Maltman, John Mark Ainsley, Ann Murray, James Newby, Mark Padmore, Miah Persson, Ashley Riches, Amanda Roocroft, Kate Royal, Matthew Rose, Carolyn Sampson, Nicky Spence and Roderick Williams. He regularly collaborates with rising stars from the younger generation and in 2012 he formed the Myrthen Ensemble to further explore lesser-known song repertoire with regular duo partners Mary Bevan, Clara Mouriz, Allan Clayton and Marcus Farnsworth. Signum Records released their début CD ‘Songs to the Moon‘.
Recent seasons have taken him to London’s Wigmore Hall, Royal Opera House and Royal Festival Hall, the Vienna Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Muziekgebouw, Köln Philharmonie, Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Lille and Gothenburg Opera Houses, Paris Musée d’Orsay, Zürich Tonhalle, deSingel Antwerp, Luxembourg Philharmonie, Bozar Brussels and Tokyo’s Oji Hall. He made his New York debut at the Alice Tully Hall accompanying Dame Sarah Connolly in a recital described in the New York Times as ‘superlative…everything a song recital should be’. Elsewhere in the Americas he has appeared at New York’s Park Avenue Armoury, Toronto’s Koerner Hall, Vancouver’s Chan Centre, San Francisco’s Nourse and Herbst Theatres and Chicago’s Ravinia Festival. He is a regular guest at Festivals in Aix-en-Provence, Aldeburgh, the BBC Proms, Barcelona, Brighton, Cheltenham, Schloss Elmau, Edinburgh, Munich, Oxford Lieder, Stuttgart and West Cork.
His critically acclaimed discography includes a particularly fruitful collaboration with Carolyn Sampson on the BIS label. Their five releases have won an Edison Award, received nominations for Gramophone and BBC Music Magazines Awards, been Radio France’s Disc of the Month and been shortlisted for an International Classical Music Award. Further recording projects include an English Song recital with Dame Sarah Connolly for Chandos which included world premiere recordings of songs by Britten (Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Sunday Times Disc of the Week, top of the official classical charts); ‘Strauss Lieder’ with Louise Alder for Orchid Classics (Sunday Times Top CDs of the Year, Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice, nominated for an International Classical Music Award); ‘Voyages’ with Mary Bevan for Signum Records (nominated for a BBC Music Magazine Award) and, for Champs Hill Records: ‘Nocturnal Variations’ with Ruby Hughes (Recording of the Month – BBC Music Magazine), ‘Elgar in Sussex’ with Dame Felicity Lott, ‘Tell me the Truth about Love’ with Amanda Roocroft, ‘This other Eden’ with Kitty Whately (Shortlisted for Best Disc of 2015 – American Record Guide), the Lieder of Ludwig Thuille with Sophie Bevan and Jennifer Johnston and the complete Purcell/Britten realizations with Ruby Hughes, Allan Clayton and Matthew Rose. Joseph has a special relationship with the BBC through his work with their New Generation Artists Scheme and as such has made numerous live broadcasts of solo, chamber and song repertoire for BBC Radio 3, including frequently being invited to curate his own weeklong series of lunchtime concerts.
Born in Gloucestershire, Joseph graduated with an MPhil from the University of Birmingham, studied piano on an EMI Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music and went on to win the accompanist prizes at the Wigmore Hall International Song, Kathleen Ferrier, Richard Tauber, Royal Over-Seas League and Geoffrey Parsons Awards. He lives near London with his family.