Countertenor David Daniels Performs Bach and Handel on Five-City North American Tour
Program Includes Music by Handel, Alongside Sacred Arias and Cantatas by Bach as Featured on Daniels’s Recent Recording for Virgin Classics
“The most electrifying singer of the present day … . A voice of matchless beauty at the service of the finest musical sensibility.” – BBC Music magazine
Following his recorded excursions into repertoire rarely sung by countertenors (Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, also available on Virgin Classics), superstar countertenor David Daniels has been heard most recently on a stunning all-Bach recital with the English Concert and conductor Harry Bicket that features the composer’s incomparably sublime sacred arias and cantatas. The album was released in the fall at the time Daniels and the English Concert began a highly successful European tour. Now, Daniels and his disc-mates come to North America for a five-city tour that will feature works by the composer with whom Daniels is most closely associated – George Frideric Handel – alongside the music by Bach that is showcased on his Virgin Classics album. Concerts will take place at the Chan Centre in Vancouver (Mar 22), Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. (Mar 24), Herbst Theatre in San Francisco (Mar 26), Harris Theater in Chicago (Mar 29), and New York’s Carnegie Hall (Apr 1).
After a performance by the artists in London in October, the Guardian reported:
“In the ever-deepening countertenor pond, David Daniels remains the biggest fish. This Bach and Handel program with the English Concert was a relatively subdued one for a singer who has even batted his lashes at Broadway. But on this occasion, it was when the music was least razzle-dazzle that he captivated most. Gymnastic ability has never really been the point of Daniels’s voice; instead, it’s his sound that is unmistakable, vibrant and vibrato-rich when many of his colleagues offer cleaner, duller tones.”
MusicWeb International added:
“Last night’s concert by David Daniels and the English Concert under the direction of Harry Bicket at London ’s Queen Elizabeth Hall … was an object lesson in matching music to vocal resources at the peak of their powers. Anyone who has followed the American countertenor’s illustrious career over the past 15 years or so would not have been surprised by either the apparent effortlessness of execution or sheer musicality of expression throughout the evening. However, what might have taken them aback is the fact that this is the first time Daniels has essayed seriously the world of J. S. Bach in both concert form and with his recently released CD of Bach Arias and Cantatas on EMI/Virgin. Some might also quite reasonably have questioned if this was the right repertoire for him, particularly those only acquainted with his work in opera.
“Renowned for his interpretations of Handel’s great alto castrato roles, the countertenor has taken the voice type to new heights on the opera stage and, inevitably, has swept a whole new generation of young singers up in his wake – to both follow and inevitably challenge. With this new repertoire, he answers those young pretenders in no uncertain style … . It was Daniels’s night, and if it’s taken him a while to bring us his Bach as well as his Handel, the waiting was worth it.”
In the conversation that follows, David Daniels discusses his long association with Bach’s music and looks ahead to some of his upcoming engagements, including his debut at Milan ’s La Scala.
How has your season been going thus far?
Doing Handel’s Partenope recently in Vienna was wonderful. It’s my favorite role and it was great to finally sing it in Europe . The Bach tour that I did with Harry Bicket and the English Concert in Europe was also very successful and I’m looking forward to continuing it in five really wonderful cities in North America .
Tell us about the tour program.
I sing more on this program than I’ve ever sung in a concert. I begin with four Bach arias from the disc, and then sing four Handel arias in the second half of the program – arias that I’ve not performed in the U.S. So this is all new repertoire, both for me and for the audience.
Why did you decide to sing both Bach and Handel on this program?
Although I think the Bach arias out of context work well as a CD, I wasn’t convinced it would make an entire program. So I thought it was best to combine the two and add more variety for a concert tour.
How do the demands each composer makes on the performer differ in the case of Bach and Handel?
Stylistically it’s very different, but technically and vocally and interpretatively I think it’s much the same.
So, after these concerts, have people been asking you which of these two composers you prefer to sing?
I certainly wouldn’t ever pick a favorite – they are very different types of geniuses. And I’m never going to choose anybody over Handel – that composer has been very good to me!
Does it make you proud to think that your performances of Handel’s music have really helped to revitalize his reputation on stage?
If I sit down and think about it, I know I played a part in bringing this music to people’s attention, especially in the U.S. , but I don’t concern myself with that kind of thing. It’s great to know that I am part of how this has evolved – it’s certainly a nice reward for all the hard work.
What’s it like working with Harry Bicket and the English Concert?
I know many of the players from other orchestras, but what’s exciting for me is that Harry deservedly got this position a year or so ago and it’s nice to collaborate with his new orchestra so quickly and for them to be a part of this new disc and of the two tours. People really seem to love the disc!
Tell us more about the recording.
What’s great about this disc – and especially rewarding – is that all of it is music I’ve performed in concert in the complete works. I think you can tell that this music has been performed and lived with for years.
What’s up for you music-wise in the near future?
I’m making my La Scala debut in June in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. It will be my very first time in the building! I’ll be working with Sir Andrew Davis. I’m really looking forward to the summer too – I’ll have three months off! In September I’m doing a project called “Handel Revisited” at the Barbican [in London ]. September 18 is the opening of the season there and I’ll be singing with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields . The first half features Handel arias, and the second half features six composers alive today [including John Tavener, Nico Muhly, Jocelyn Pook, and Craig Armstrong], each doing their own twist on other Handel arias. I think it’s going to be great fun and I’m looking forward to it.
David Daniels with the English Concert / Harry Bicket – North American tour dates
March 22 Chan Centre ( Vancouver , Canada )
March 24 Walt Disney Concert Hall ( Los Angeles , CA )
March 26 Herbst Theatre ( Pittsburgh , PA )
March 29 Harris Theater ( Chicago , IL )
April 1 Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall ( New York , NY )