Muhly: Stranger - Works for Tenor / Nicholas Phan, Brooklyn Rider, The Knights

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A New Yorker Notable Recording of 2022!

Twice Grammy-nominated tenor Nicholas Phan is “one of the world’s most remarkable singers” (Boston Globe). Nico Muhly is one of today’s most sought-after composers. Nick and Nico’s collaboration began with a commission when Nick curated a series for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in 2020. The resulting song cycle, Stranger, finds common ground in the musicians’ reflections on identity and immigration, themes that resonate as much today as they have through the centuries. This world-premiere recording of Stranger compliments Nico’s Lorne Ys My Liking, a setting of the 19th Chester Mystery Play, and Impossible Things, a triptych of poems by the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy. Nick has recorded with a roll call of collaborators: the adventurous string quartet Brooklyn Rider, shimmering countertenor Reginald Mobley, bold pianist Lisa Kaplan, and transformative Brooklyn-based collective The Knights led by brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen.


The heart immediately opens at the sound of Phan’s voice … Stranger is a must. I, for one, will be listening to it over and over.

--San Francisco Classical Voice album that guarantees a gripping listening experience and, first and foremost, once again shows Nicholas Phan to be an outstanding singer with clear diction and impeccable vocal delivery who excels in the song repertoire. ★★★★★


Composer Nico Muhly has been on concert bills all over the U.S. and beyond in the early 2020s, and one reason is that he has a knack for creating music for the right performer at the right time. Tenor Nicholas Phan is a rising star who here contributes an essay about his difficulties, when performing at the Singer of the World competition in Wales, in coming up with a song that reflected his "American" identity, inasmuch as he is Chinese Indonesian on one side, and Greek American on the other. He would have found the perfect solution in Muhly's seven-section Stranger, for voice and string quartet. Muhly, himself the product of a highly multi-ethnic background, sets writing about the experience of immigration from various sources, including an interview with a Sicilian woman who arrived at Ellis Island in 1911 and a letter from a Chinese American about discrimination. All are in different registers, and Muhly's sensitive handling of text adds variety even as his musical language remains consistent. Phan's commitment to these pieces is palpable, but he shifts gears effectively in the other works on the program, Lorne Ys My Likinge, a setting of the Chester Mystery Play inspired by Britten's Abraham and Isaac, and Impossible Things, which sets translated texts by poet C.P. Cavafy. Phan's duet work with countertenor Reginald Mobley in Lorne Ys My Likinge is absolutely delicious, and the accompaniment by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the New York chamber orchestra The Knights, is intimate and close. This marks a major step forward for Phan, and anyone who hasn't been following Muhly's music, which combines rigor with tremendous audience appeal (sample the ravishing "My Love" from Stranger), might do well to start here.

--AllMusic (James Manheim)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: July 01, 2022

  • Catalog Number: AV2517

  • UPC: 822252251722

  • Label: Avie

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Contemporary

  • Composer: Nico Muhly

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: The Knights, Brooklyn Rider

  • Performer: Nicholas Phan, Reginald Mobley, Lisa Kaplan, Colin Jacobsen