ALASTAIR MILES BASS
Russell Duncan






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NEWS



RECORDING

Alastair Miles Lieder 2014

Alastair's CD on Signum Classics of lieder by Wolf and Brahms has been attracting stunning critical accolades:

This 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, texts, translations.
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.
Gramophone

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

Miles 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




NEW MANAGEMENT


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!'



PERFORMANCE

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.



BERLIOZ CD



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.

- Daily Telegraph 

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 



LOOKING  BACK...


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 conductors.


He began 2011 with the role of Alfonso in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia (broadcast on Sky Arts) for English National Opera.

Alastair Miles Alfonso Lucrezia ENO 2011
Alastair Miles spits and thunders with authority
         - The Independent, Anna Picard

The English bass Alastair Miles sang with notable elegance as the creepy Mr Lucrezia Borgia (aka Duke d'Este).
       
             - The Observer, Fiona Maddocks

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, Richard Fairman

Alastair Miles is a fine, Titian-look-alike Alfonso d'Este.

  - Wall Street Journal, Paul Levy

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 .

Alastair Miles as Pogner 2011 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 should be.
        - The 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 be.

        - Musical Criticism

Alastair Miles’s Pogner was in every sense the voice of experience.

         - The Independent

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 Opera.
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 Dijon.

2010 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 another 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 for 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 his 'devilish' 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 Hamoncourt.