Juliana Hall album earns Fanfare, Voix Des Arts, and Gramophone reviews

Three major recording magazines praised Juliana Hall’s newest album Love’s Signatures for its sensitivity, power, beauty, and inspiration.

Juliana Hall‘s album “Love’s Signatures: Songs for Countertenor and Soprano” features the stunning voices of Darryl Taylor and Susan Narucki. Since its release, the album has garnered positive critical acclaim from critics. The album highlights three art song collections.

O Mistress Mine (2016) is a set of 12 songs for countertenor and piano based on William Shakespeare texts.

Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush (1989) is a collection of seven songs soprano and piano on letters of Emily Dickinson.

Propriety (1992) is a set of five songs for soprano and piano on poems by Marianne Moore.

Fanfare, review excerpt

Written by Colin Clarke

Love’s Signature is the title of this release: how characters reveal human experiences of love in the poetry and writing of Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Marianne Moore. Juliana Hall specializes in art song, and has composed over 40 song cycles. 

…the first song-cycle, the 41-minute O Mistress Mine (2016), boasts the composer at the piano…Hall sets 12 texts from 10 Shakespeare plays…the cycle has a trajectory, from first flush of youthful love, journeying through to Love’s deeper qualities….Hall’s own piano playing is exemplary and, where appropriate, powerful, but it is the obvious connection between her and Taylor that defines the success of this performance.

The final offering, Propriety (1992), came about as the result of a search for poetry about music. The contents of the poems often have a personal element for Hall, referring to episodes in her own history. The result of this seems to be the tenderness of the setting. It is from these poems that the disc’s title, “Love’s Signature” (that is, music itself) comes. Donald Berman confirms his status as a superbly equipped pianist as well as a sensitive accompanist by tackling the taxing piano part to “Carnegie Hall Rescued” with swagger and aplomb (listen, too, to his superbly characterful staccato in “Dream” or his carefully considered use of pedal in “Propriety”). The poem “Carnegie Hall Rescued” tells of the part Isaac Stern played in that hall’s history. Hall’s music is narrational here, certainly: She reacts to each passing nuance of the text, and for this sort of detail, Narucki is surely the perfect interpreter. Narucki’s way with the lines of “Propriety” is superbly varied and, on occasion, verges on the magical.

To read the review in its entirety, click here. 

Gramophone, review excerpt

Written by Donald Rosenberg

The American composer Juliana Hall has devoted herself to the art song for nearly three decades. Her sensitivity to words is on impressive display on Love’s Signature, which features settings of texts by Shakespeare, letters by Emily Dickinson and poems by Marianne Moore. In their first recordings, these songs show Hall to be a composer who savours lyrical lines and harmonies peppered with gentle spices…Dickinson’s words come across with crystalline clarity in Hall’s tender incarnations, which capture both the genial and witty sides of this most versatile of American poets.”

To read the review in its entirety, click here. 

Voix des Arts, review excerpt

Written by Joseph Newsome

… When joining words with music, gifted American composer Juliana Hall perhaps does not consciously set out to create songs that close the circuits via which
emotional currents flow from the individual to the universal, but the three song cycles recorded for MSR Classics’ new disc Love’s Signature reveal her extraordinary talent for crafting music that translates the meanings of texts into sounds that can be felt as well as heard. Whether handling the words of William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, or Marianne Moore, Hall exhibits an uncanny faculty for
amplifying the innate musicality of poets’ diction. Placed by MSR Classics’ engineering within an aural ambiance that recalls a small recital hall, the sound both intimate and ideally spacious, the performances that inscribe Love’s Signature upon the listener’s conscience restore faith in music’s still-potent force for positive change even in troubling times.

O Mistress Mine is that rarest of achievements in Art Song: a true cycle of songs that both convey a cumulative narrative and are individually effective. Settings of texts by William Shakespeare, the twelve songs guide the listener along an emotional journey in which gentle humor and pathos thrive in one another’s company…Hearing all of the songs on this disc, it is apparent that Hall does not compose with the goal of steeping her music in a purposefully-concocted brew of modernity: rather, she follows the texts, responding to the inherent music of the words and conjuring sound worlds appropriate to each passage from an economy of means. Each of Hall’s notes has a purpose as clearly defined as that of each of Shakespeare’s words. The songs’ novelty is wholly organic, never contrived, and the composer perpetuates the American Art Song tradition of Beach, Barber, and Bolcom with music of integrity.

…Like Taylor, Narucki is not a songbird for whom beautiful but emotionally blank sounds are the ultimate goal—and neither, for that matter, is Hall. These are artists—and these are performances—that
aim for the heart and the mind at once, and they do not hide behind polite façades when the truths of which they sing are ugly. Art in any of its forms is never further than a single generation from extinction. Man’s nature is to fear, ridicule, and reject the unknown, all of which actions are seemingly far less strenuous than seeking to understand, accept, and embrace new concepts, cultures, and individuals….Stasis is fatal to the survival of art, making the work of an artist like Juliana Hall crucial not only for the continued freshness of serious music but for its very life. Love’s Signature is a breath of life that fills the lungs with the air of song and the soul with the joy of recognizing a compositional voice of acuity and ingenuity. Insecurity, instability, and indecision abound, but the common sense of good music performed well still prevails. These are times to try men’s souls, but Juliana Hall has invented sounds that silence the din of discord.

To read the review in its entirety, click here.

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