Michael Nyman Band, Michael Nyman String Quartet
Hilary Summers, alto; Sarah Leonard, soprano
The Celan Songs […] are more conventional than some of his more recent text-based works. Nyman chooses some of Paul Celan’s more lyrical, least despairing poems and sets them for a contralto voice (Hilary Summers on the recording). In the 2001 Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi, written to accompany an exhibition by the visual artist Mary Kelly, the soprano Sarah Leonard tells the story of a Kosovan child, found on a battlefield and thought to be a Serb, in declamatory, almost ritualistic melodic lines while the accompanying ensemble pulses beneath her. It’s compelling and eloquent, and once again Nyman’s word setting is more subtle and suggestive than it seems at first.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 7/28/2006
Although Michael Nyman’s Six Celan Songs evoke the edgy soundworld of Weill’s Weimar stage works, they leave their mark with affecting lyricism and emotional tenderness. This album, worth hearing for Hilary Summers’s towering performance alone, includes the composer’s Kosovan-inspired Ballad, a painful reminder of suffering’s eternal presence.
Andrew Stewart, Classic fm Magazine, 10/1/2006
Six Celan Songs are among the most searching of Michael Nyman's vocal works, exploring the 'impossibility' of writing poetry after Auschwitz in the words of Pomanian poet Paul Celan. The Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi is even more direct, commemorating a bleak episode in the Kosovan war via a text by American artist Mary Kelly.
Anthony Holden, The Observer, 8/27/2006
The songs are settings of poems inspired by the consequenes of genocidal conflicts. Like earlier works, [...] they demonstrate that Nyman produces his most affecting and most substantial music when his heart is engaged as much as his intellect or his curiosity. His characteristic constructional methods are embedded in a more lyrical context, and there are even echoes of Wolf and Mahler.
Barry Witherden, Gramophone Magazine, 11/1/2006