is a noble recording, but only if you take it in several doses,
otherwise you might succumb to the melancholy which was Brahms's regular
state, or even the more desperate con- dition into which Wolf
descended. They were contemporaries, but their allegiances were
diametrically opposed: Wolf a passionate Wagnerian, Brahms a self-
conscious member of the Classical tradition. The songs on this disc show
them as close as they ever got, settings of poems and texts of almost
unrelieved earnestness and gravity. Alastair Miles launches his recital
with Wolf's titanic Prometheus, sounding like Wotan at the end of his tether. The next song, The Limits Of Mankind,
also Wolf, takes us to the opposite pole: ' a small ring is the limit
of our life'. This pair makes an ideal coupling, and with the Three Poems Of Michelangelo, Wolf's last and profoundest utterances, show him in his darkest light.
The first set of Brahms is, by contrast, peaceful and even con- tented.
The CD finishes with the Four Serious Songs, from the end of his life,
ranging from the anguish of Oh Death, how bitter you are
to the exalted setting of Corinthians I, v1-13. To my mind Brahms's
music fails to rise to the sublimity of Paul's text, but Miles, here as
throughout, uses his powerful, truly bass voice to magnificent effect.
And the accompaniments of Marie-Noëlle Kendall provide the perfect
support for what is a most impressive and elevating sombre disc.
Performance: five stars.
Michael Tanner, BBC Music Magazine
The album title Lieder by Wolf and Brahms
doesn’t suggest any thematic rationale for the choice of songs, but
everything in this well planned program is about life’s limits and
struggles—death, sorrow, solitude, revenge, longing for love,
world-weariness, and the afterlife—presented in alternating groups of
songs by the two composers, including three Wolf settings of
Michelangelo poems in German translation and Brahms’s Four Serious Songs.
It’s a somber and sober program and Miles has an ideal basso cantabile
voice for low voice songs. His strong bottom notes and his rich tonal
color emphasize the darkness, bleakness, and weightiness of the songs in
a way that commands attention.
Wolf’s setting of Goethe’s Prometheus begins the recital boldly.
As Natasha Loges remarks so aptly in her excellent notes, “These
testosterone-driven 174 bars threaten to overwhelm the limits of the
genre with their tumult.?Kendall immediately establishes her mastery of
the vivid accompaniment and Miles uses just the right snarly tone to
express the protagonist’s indignant raging against the gods.
Two other substantial Goethe settings by Wolf follow. In Grenzen der Menschheit
Miles tempers his voice in resignation to life’s transience, and
Kendall’s well judged pacing of the postlude seals the message.
Everything about this recital is commendable. While his reading of Brahms’s Feldeinsamkeit
is more muscular than Fischer-Dieskau’s sublimely floated approach, it
is still a convincing reading. Whether it is through employing an
operatic approach in Prometheus or bringing a gently introspective expression to Alles Endet, Was Entstehet in the second Michelangelo song Miles always elucidates the text in a convincing manner.
There are other fine recordings of Brahms’s Four Serious Songs,
but there is none I would choose over this. After singing of life’s
sorrows, the program comes to a glowing conclusion with the final lines
of Wenn Ich mit Menschen affirming that in spite of everything
untoward in life “now are left Faith, Hope, and Love, these three: but
Love is the greatest of them.?
I’ve long admired this artist’s singing but never more than here.
Kendall’s accompaniment is everything you could hope for. With such
gifted collaboration this is extraordinarily moving music-making—and the
recorded sound is first rate.
The notes point out aspects of the personal relationship between Wolf
and Brahms and the thematic connections between their songs. Notes,
Robert Moore, American Record Guide
A nobly sung recital, confirming that the leading English operatic basso cantante is also a Lieder singer of intelligence and insight.
After the 174 bars of hectic introduction to Wolf's Prometheus,
Miles's voice bursts into the first line of the song with a vengeance.
And so it continues through the programme - a rich and resonant tone,
even throughout its easy range, excellent diction and a strong
identification with the text. Marie-Noëlle Kendall's accompaniment
matches her singer all the way and she seizes her opportunities to show
her formidable technique without unbalancing the relationship.
Francis Muzzo, OperaNow
The clashing opening chords of Wolf's Prometheus
launch this recital, powerfully pounded by pianist Marie-Noëlle
Kendall. Alastair Miles does not hold back in Prometheus's condemnation,
except that in the third verse he uses a more lyrical tone and
legato... By employing mezza voce and delivering the long lines with
good breath control, Miles gives a more human feel to Grenzen der Menschheit (nice postlude from Kendall). Being on fine form vocally for this recital he encompasses Der Sänger
clearly. Wolf's gloomy opening lines [Michelangelo Lieder] make way for
outgoing expression, to which Miles and Kendall build exultantly... in
the next song. Alles endet, was entstehet, Miles conveys an
emptiness, very effectively managed by reducing the voice and draining
much of its rich tone. In the third and final sonnet... the richness of
Miles's tone is back on show. Miles tells the story (Verrat) in
mighty voice, enjoyable to hear in itself. From the start to the finish
of this CD, Kendall works well with Miles, from the gentle to the
unrestricted, and he is in very good voice, all in a clear acoustic.
John T Hughes, International Record Review
gives us a superb combination of full voice and text. Throughout the
disc his diction is admirably vivid and it is clear that for all the
power of his voice, for Miles performing these songs is as much about
the text. The result in Prometheus is a big-boned, vibrant tour de force... Verrat...
he gives a vividly dramatic performance, bringing out the narrative of
the story as the ballad setting develops from apparent simplicity to
greater complexity... These are all richly satisfying performances, with
Miles combining a strong feeling for the text with dramatic intensity
of voice, all allied to Kendall's fine piano.
Robert Hugill, PlanetHugill.com
Alastair is pleased to announce a change of general management. He will
now be represented by Jenny Rose at AOR Management (details on the
Contact page). 'I've known Jenny for over fifteen years,' says Alastair,
'and collaborated with her for five fruitful years back in the late
nineties. I'm very excited to be part of her roster once again!'
In January 2014, Alastair Miles returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Le Comte des Grieux in Massenet's Manon. In March, he sang Raimondo in Donizetti's Lucia Di Lammermoor for Netherlands Opera. June sees him in Antwerp and Ghent as Leporello in Don Giovanni for Vlaamse Opera.
Alastair's performance on the recent CD of Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christ with
the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Robin Ticciati (Linn CKD440) -
has been garnering rave reviews in the British press:
Alastair Miles impressively encompasses both the
nervous tensions of Herod in Part 1 and the Father of the Family's
sympathetic solace in Part 3.
Véronique Gens and Alastair Miles, who sings the unenviable line: Jesus, quel nom charmant!, are very fine, and the Swedish Radio Choir is truly transcendent in the ethereal apotheosis.
- The Observer
Alastair Miles has been in
worldwide demand for
principal bass roles for over two decades. He has worked at the highest
level with all the major opera companies and with the most established
He began 2011 with the role of Alfonso in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia (broadcast on Sky
Arts) for English National Opera.
Miles spits and thunders with authority
- The Independent,
The English bass Alastair Miles sang with
notable elegance as the creepy Mr Lucrezia Borgia (aka Duke d'Este).
- The Observer,
The rest of the cast is also
strong...When they are onstage, the opera feels in safe hands, as it
does with Alastair Miles’s sturdily sung Alfonso.
- Financial Times,
Alastair Miles is a
fine, Titian-look-alike Alfonso d'Este.
- Wall Street Journal,
Followin Elgar’s Dream of
Gerontius with Edward Gardner at Salisbury Cathedral, Alastair sang his first Wagner role, Pogner, in the Glyndebourne Festival production of Die Meistersinger von
Nürnberg directed by David McVicar .
Enter the top-hatted Pogner, Alastair
Miles, and though he is no black-voiced German bass, he is still
magnificent, making one wish, as all great Pogners do, that he didn’t
have such long absences from the stage. His scene with his daughter Eva
at the start of Act II was as moving as anything in the opera, as it
Spectator, Michael Tanner
The mastersingers were
all strongly cast, pride of place going to Alastair Miles as an
immensely sympathetic Pogner, whose warm bass sound and sense of
melodic line made his passages of narration as enjoyable as they should
Alastair Miles’s Pogner
was in every sense the voice of experience.
At the 2012 BBC Proms, Alastair sang in Havergal
Brian’s epic Gothic Symphony with
the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Concert Orchestra,
conducted by Martyn Brabbins.
Other recent engagements have included Daland in Der fliegende Holländer in
Liège, St Matthew Passion
with Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Mozart's Requiem in Dresden (Thielemann), Don Carlo (Runnicles) at the
Staatsoper, Berlin, Robert le Diable
in Salerno, Medea and Timur
in Turandot at the
Bayerische Staatsoper. Munich, L’Enfance
du Christ in Milan (Ticciati) and Die Meisteresinger at Netherlands
In 2011, Alastair was
Sarastro in a semi-staged Die Zauberflöte
at the Lucerne Festival, conducted by Daniel Harding. That was followed by Claudio in Handel’s Agrippina with Opéra de
began with Alastair in Vienna for New Year concerts of
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra before he
went on to Stockholm to sing the devil roles in Schumann's Faustszenen with the Swedish Radio
Orchestra under Daniel Harding. Performances of Narbal in Berlioz's epic Les Troyens followed in April at Netherlands Opera, conducted by John Nelson, in a revival of Pierre
Audi's 2003 production. In Munich, Alastair sang in a new staging of
Johann Simon Mayr's neglected masterpiece Medea in Corinto,
produced by Hans
Neuenfels and conducted by fellow Cambridge resident Ivor Bolton.
September brought him home to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for
rediscovered rarity, Agostino Steffani's Niobe, in a production first seen
at the Schwetzingen Festival in 2007.
2009 saw Alastair making his debut at
La Scala, Milan,
singing Lord Sydney in Rossini's II
Viaggio a Reims. Concurrently, he sang the role of Melisso
in Handel's Alcina.
In May, Alastair returned
to Opera North
performances of Don Carlo (Philip
II) which was recorded by Chandos. Following his 2007 success with
Netherlands Opera in Lucia di
Lammermoor (Raimondo), he
returned to Amsterdam in 2009 for La
Juive (Cardinal Brogni).
In 2008, Alastair resumed
ways (he had appeared in Berlioz's Faust
for Welsh National Opera) singing the role of
Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress
at the Theater an der Wien, in a production conducted by Nikolaus